out on the town, December 31st dinner, 2019 (just before Covid hit)

Exactly two years ago, we were complaining about the transportation strike in this city. Little did we know that a viral tsunami was about to hit us in less than two months. I feel nostalgic looking at the photos at the bottom of this post: people kissing and hugging … no facemasks! How blissfully innocent we were back then.

It was a cold, clear night when I left my place at 8 pm and jumped on the metro. To my surprise, the train speeded across town in record time. Why? For reasons of crowd control, they had closed six stations along the Champs-Elysées starting from Argentine all the way to Tuileries. As the driverless, automated train sailed straight through the closed stations and hurtled across the city, the cars lurched alarmingly from side to side. Grabbing a pole for support, I felt like I was in that Sandra Bullock runaway bus movie.

Here’s the restaurant where I spent December 31st with my friend and his mother. Yes, it’s Paul Bert again, but this time its the sister restaurant up the road called 6 Paul Bert.

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This place is warm, welcoming and spotlessly clean; I love it. A few years ago, I spent another December 31st sitting at this bar with a fellow Canadian blogger. In France, most restaurants serve a prix fixe menu on December 31st. This one, without wine, was 80 euros.

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The first small dish was underwhelming. The foie gras was cold and the celery purée warm. What followed was, in my opinion, the best dish of all: plump scallops in a garlic buttery herby sauce. Delicious!

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Then came the fish dish which was a crispy lotte (monkfish) tempura served with shiitake mushrooms in an interesting sauce.

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This was the main dish, a sort of beef wellington idea, except that it was duck instead of beef. Assembled with liver pate then wrapped in puff pastry and served with a porto-based sauce, it was very good but a bit on the rich side.

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The dessert was a disappointment. When you think of all the marvellous concoctions in the dessert repertoire that could have been offered, this was totally banal (and tasteless.) A cheese tray to follow would have been nice.

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As for the wine, we chose a Minervois from the Languedoc region. It was nicely structured and had a lovely bouquet and color. When I celebrated New Year’s Eve in this same place a few years ago, we drank a stellar Saint-Joseph 2012 from the Côtes-du-Rhône region.

No one was aware that midnight had arrived until the two groups to the left of us leapt up and cried “Bonne Année!! Bonne Année!!

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Edouard, the charming manager, walked through the small restaurant and shook hands with every patron. It was fun. Here’s Edouard here standing in the middle in the blue shirt.

It was nice to see goodwill and a burst of happiness after all the stress and inconvenience we Parisians have endured due to the transportation strikes.

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We left the restaurant at around 12:30 am, it was freezing cold and damp outside. We walked briskly to the metro station and then separated. I jumped on the number one line which was surprisingly quiet. A half hour earlier there had been 300,000 revellers on the Champs-Elysées watching the fireworks. Where had they all gone? The train sped cross-town and within twenty minutes I was at my station. I headed to the escalator, but it was still shut down. Thanks, union strikers!  I trudged up 45 steps at 1 a.m., then walked home and went to bed.

Here’s the link to the New Year’s Eve dinner I enjoyed at the exact same restaurant on December 31, 2014. Was it that long ago?

2 gals out on the town – New Year’s Eve

dinner at Paul Bert bistro

Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 068Three ladies made their way to the 11th arrondissement in Paris last night to meet, eat and swap stories at the much-loved bustling bistro, Paul Bert.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 028The third lady is behind the camera.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 031Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 032My friend Rosemary from London had steak entrecote with bearnaise sauce and the bistro’s signature crispy fries.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 036Beth from Toronto and I shared a stew of slowly-braised beef cheeks in red wine served with sea shell pasta called conchiglie.  It was deliciously satisfying.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 037Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 039Rosemary tactfully dissuaded me from ordering Chinon again (I’m always ordering Chinon. I’m a Chinon buff.)  We all agreed that a nice Crozes-Hermitage would fit the bill nicely.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 040Towards the end of the meal, Rosemary saw a soufflé go by and said she simply had to have one.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 044I saw a crème caramel go by and the sight of it gave me a fillip. I used to make crème caramels – in a bain marie – when I was a teenager. I thought I was being terribly sophisticated.  Not having tasted one in over a decade, I put in my order.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 045And I was so glad I did!  This was the mother of all crème caramels. Light and silky and doused in a sweet caramel sauce.  I swooned with each spoonful.  Beth went for the cheese plate and a wooden plateau arrived laden with different fromages.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 049The service was impeccable; the skilled waitstaff patient and charming.  The convivial atmosphere of Paul Bert has you striking up conversation with the diners beside you.  It helps when they are Americans: friendly and sociable. This couple hails from New Orleans. He’s writing a novel, he told us.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 064And these young people are from Brooklyn.Paul Bert bistro Paris avril 2014 059I think we were all making a lot of noise towards the end of the evening. I’ll bet the French were thinking “Those loud Anglo-Saxons with their cameras….and snapping pictures of a common crème caramel. Grands dieux !”  (that’s the equivalent of “good grief!”)  Oh well.  A good time was had by all.