Archive for January, 2009

l’Ami Louis, Paris

l'Ami Louis

l‘Ami Louis opened in 1924. It has not changed since.

The original owner was maître rôtisseur, Antoine Magnin. Easily identifiable by the red bandana that was always tied around his neck, he ran the restaurant up until 1986, when at the age of eighty-five, he sold the business to Thierry de la Brosse and Louis Gadby, the latter previously a waiter there. Under the terms of the sale, Magnin remained in the kitchen after the exchange, to be assisted by the sous chef who had been at his side for eighteen years already. However, a year on, in November 1987, he was obliged to check into a Paris clinic for health reasons; a week later he passed away. De la Brosse, who is also co-owner of Aux Lyonnais with Alain Ducasse and who has been a regular at l’Ami Louis since he was seventeen years old, later said that ‘it took me about three years to convince him that I would be a good candidate to carry on his tradition’. He also let slip that the late, great roaster had two real loves in his life, ‘cooking and women, especially American women’.
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Le Pré Catelan, Paris

Le Pré Catelan - l'Enseigne

As of 1976, Le Pré Catelan has been part of Lenôtre, the eponymous and celebrated catering company founded by one of France’s foremost pâtissiers, Gaston Lenôtre. This former dairy farm, however, was first opened by a respected Parisian restaurateur as du Pré Catelan in 1906. To attract customers, he charged what he advertised as bourgeois prices. To his own cost though, locals did not agree with his interpretation of bourgeois whilst the moneyed Americans that pervaded Paris turned their noses up unanimously at any thing that even smelt of cheap. Therefore, he was forced to quickly sell out to the eminent Monsieur Mouriez, who already included the Café de Paris, restaurant d’Armenonville and the Abbay Thélème in his stable of iconic dining/drinking institutions. He made immediate changes, namely raising prices, which actually worked wonderfully well at attracting hordes of American tourists, but he also kept some of the restaurant’s old customs like bringing cows into the dining room to be milked by the more adventurous clientele.
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Michel Rostang, Paris

Michel Rostang - l'Enseigne

A meal at Michel Rostang was on, then off, then on again and off again – but such are the vagaries of life. Although it was already late on Friday evening, I decided that I did not want to waste an opportunity. As it was such short notice, I decided to call on a local friend, who secured me a table. Thus, with Julot’s recommendation and help, I made my way to rue Rennequin.
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Le Meurice, Paris

le Meurice 

Le Meurice in question was one Charles-Augustin Meurice, the entrepreneurial postmaster of Calais – the Continent’s first port of call for British aristocracy visiting Paris or setting off on their Grand Tours. Here in 1771, he started greeting these tourists and providing them with accommodation at his coaching inn within the town whilst also arranging their transport to the capital or elsewhere aboard his coach service. Business was good and in 1817, he expanded, building a second inn in Paris. After his deathin 1835, the hotel named after him moved to its present, sublime site on the rue de Rivoli, where it also earned another label, the ‘City of London’. This was on account of it being the abode of choice amongst well-to-do British travellers. Even author, William M. Thackeray recommended it: ‘If you don’t speak a word of French, if you like English comfort, clean rooms, breakfast and maîtres d’hôtel; if in a foreign land, you want your fellow countrymen around you, your brown beer, your friend and your cognac – and your water – do not listen to any of the messengers but with your best British accent cry heartily: ‘Meurice!’ and immediately, someone will come forward to drive you straight [there].’ Even Queen Victoria stayed here during her 1855 state visit.
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