Georgie and I had a lunch date today, of all places at the Gare de Lyon train station, Paris.
Big international train stations can be exciting, hectic and sometimes dodgy places. People are rushing to catch their train, travellers with backpacks or suitcases, businessmen on mobile phones, checking their watches.
They can also attract, the homeless, pick-pocketers, observing the newly arrived, scammers, ready to pounce on the vulnerable. All in all it can be fascinating and overwhelming. So why would you eat at a train station, unless you were famished and had no other option to grab something quickly before your departure.
As a general rule, you can only find overpriced, mediocre and more often than not, fast food. Unless you are eating at Le Train Bleu.
Le Train Bleu, is a famous brasserie situated at Gare de Lyon railway station.
Initially called “Buffet de la Gare de Lyon”, it was renamed “Le Train Bleu” in 1963, after the famous train of the same name, which offered luxury travel for the wheel heeled from Calais all the way through to the French Riviera stopping along the way at such places as Paris, Dijon, Lyon.
Famous people traveled on the train and the bookcase in my apartment has a French version of Agatha Christies, The Mystery of the Blue Train.
Whilst I was waiting for Georgie to arrive fashionably French late, it gave me an opportunity to snap some photos and observe the crowd rushing about, while waiting for her.
In the book, Shannon Bennett’ s Paris, he does mention that the food is not as good as you would expect, given the surrounds and prices and he is right. However, for as cheap as 38 euros, you can dine on a three course menu with a half bottle of wine included. To top it off you are able to soak in a magnificently opulent, bustling and exciting train station restaurant, with all the charm of a bygone era.
The service is fabulous and to observe the activity, for me was part of the fun and the experience.
Watching waiter after waiter scurry by with trays laden with food, plates, or as we witnessed, a precariously fully packed giant tray of wine glasses, is simply fabulous. Food, promptly but not too quickly served, in case the diner, needs to rush to their departing train. Coats and suitcases are whisked away into a cloakroom.
The Sarah Bernhardt menu, is what I had. An entree, of scrambled eggs with truffles and small toasts, roast lamb for the main and a giant profiterole, to finish off with – where the waiter seductively poured hot chocolate on the top.
I highly recommend it. If only it is to witness the pure theatrics of the place. You may end up sitting there, as Georgie and I did with grins from ear to ear, feeling like we were part of a movie set or in the next episode of Dr Who, pulled back in time.
If this isn’t for you and you would prefer a burger and chips, they can satisfy this need also.
At the other end of the restaurant, you can eat a simpler fare but still observe the wonderful interior and the waiters going about their busy day.
A wonderful experience, how many more famous institutions can I go to, in a city that is crammed packed with them, even at railway stations!