After eating at Roseval last week, I felt the need for an antidote to bobo restaurants with small servings and overpriced no-choice menus. The perfect opportunity presented itself when I was enlisted at the last minute to find a restaurant in the 20th arrondissement. Our first choice, Quedubon, being closed, I did something I never do, purely out of desperation: follow the suggestions on TripAdvisor to find a restaurant for that evening.
After a champagne celebration of a friend’s new apartment, four of us – all American women, as it happens – showed up at Le Laumière and were ushered by the courtly mustachioed owner to a table in the back of the huge brasserie, with its white-linen-covered tables.
Readers, it was like taking a trip back to the 1970s.
Our leatherette “booth” was flanked by plastic potted hedges in perfect ball shapes. To my left, on the other side of a glass wall a in a tiny courtyard, was an elaborately kitschy garden with colored lights and plashing fountains. At the tables on either side of us were groups of people who seemed to be from another time and place: all the men wore checked short-sleeved shirts that cried out 1970s computer nerd, and I even spotted a mullet among them.
Enough Parisian snobbery. What about the food? It was somewhat better than I expected. We started by sharing two dishes: bulots (sea snails) with a very garlicky rouille, and a millefeuille of grilled eggplant, goat cheese and tapenade, which was not as delicious as it should have been, given the ingredients. The eggplant was undercooked. On the side, in a fancy-looking but soggy ribbon of filo pastry, was a basil sorbet, a superflous, oversweet addition.
That was a bit pretentious, but the height of pretention was my main course: “les fameuses Quenelles de brochet de Louis XIV,” billed as the “authentic recipe of the restaurant Le Louis XIV, whose international reputation was founded on this dish, passed on by the former sous-chef of the famous establishment, which the chef brings to you for your very great pleasure.” This humble dish, served with a mound of unappetizing dry rice, even came with a numbered postcard (with a tiny portrait of Louis in the corner) as a souvenir for the lucky diner, me, just like the numbered duck served at the Tour d’Argent. Mine was the 28,720th serving.
The quenelles were light and tasty, but they came in an overwrought sauce that contained, among other things, overcooked spinach and what appeared to be canned mushrooms. This is when the trouble began. One of our group, let’s call her “Mary,” brought it to the attention of our cheerful, flirty waiter in a rather stern fashion. He didn’t take offense but swore that it wasn’t true and that he had personally seen the chef chopping them. We weren’t convinced.
And that’s when we formed a dining club called “Les Emmerdeuses” (translated, after much deep thought, as “The Hellions”), a kind of posse to keep errant chefs on their toes.
The vegetarian Hellion among us thoughtfully wrote her own review of her penne with morels, parmesan and foie gras (it just occurred to me that a vegetarian shouldn’t be eating foie gras – isn’t that just typical of an emmerdeuse?). Here are a few highlights from her review: the pasta was “mushy”; the morels were “pretty tasty and spongy”; the foie gras, buried at the bottom of the dish, was an “unappealing, congealed-looking pinkish substance.” Her final comment: “The dish cost €19.50, which was exorbitant for what it was. I could do it better at home. But I won’t.”
The other two claimed to enjoy, respectively, a dish of scampi with spelt risotto, and salmon tartare with basil served with lentils.
I was the only one who ordered dessert, a lemon sorbet with vodka, which I was happy to share with the other Hellions. It was delicious, but then you can’t really go wrong with something so simple. It was served in a glass fitted into a doughnut-shaped block of red (food coloring) ice, another nice kitschy touch.
Let me just say that we had a great time, but I’m not sure whether that was thanks to the restaurant or to the pre-dinner champagne. In any case, we swore we would return.
Le Laumière belongs to an organization called the Association Française des Maîtres Restaurateurs, which guarantees that all its members make their food on-site from fresh ingredients. Should I report them for those mushrooms?Favorite