Lunch at Le Grand Vefour

After a weekend of great food and great wine, I somehow found more room for foie gras at lunch Monday. We ate at Le Grand Vefour, a posh lunch spot just off the Palais Royal, where the Parisian power hitters come to eat and talk business.

The restaurant is more than 200 years old. It’s decorated in 18th century style, with red velvet couches around the walls of the small room. The tables form a rectangle around two waiter stations in the center of the room. The service is impeccable. Several waiters dressed in tuxedos attend to each table. There’s constantly a flurry of black and white, waiters making sure no water glass ever is less than half full, bread plates are never empty, and finished plates are cleared right away.

Lunch was four courses, including a cheese course. Add on all the extras, like amuse-bouches and petit fours, and you’ve got quite a meal. Before we ordered, we were offered a small bite prepared by the chef. The chilled avocado soup and fresh orange was a delicious introduction to the flavor combinations yet to come.

For the first course I ordered “pressé de foie gras de canard et petits pois au naturel,” which had a generous portion of foie gras and fresh vegetables seasoned with vinegar and rolled together to look like flowers. For the entre I ordered “dos de cabillaud cuit meunière, courgettes jaunes et vertes apprêtées aux graines de moutarde et curry.” It was delicately prepared cod, served on a bed of zucchini and yellow squash, served with an olive oil foam.

Next came the cheese course. Le Grand Vefour has one of the most impressive spreads of cheese I’ve seen in a restaurant. I counted at least 30 different kinds. It was hard to pick only three, but harder still to eat all three because I was already so full. I selected two different chevres and a fairly strong camembert. After we were served a palate cleanser – a light lemon gelatin with raspberries and candied ginger. Then came the petit fours – macarons, chocolate tarts, madeleines, and orange and grape jelly candies. After all that our dessert arrived. I ordered the “palet noisette et chocolat au lait, glace au caramel brun et prise de sel de Guérande.” It’s one of the more spectacular chocolate desserts I’ve ever seen. It had two parts – first, a round chocolate cake with layers of rich chocolate fudge and covered with chocolate sauce. Next to it was a tube made out of chocolate, plated vertically, filled with chocolate cream and fudge, and topped with butterscotch ice cream. It was so delicious and decadent but I could only manage a few bites since I had already eaten so much.

Finally came the end to any great meal in France – le café. And it was served with even more food! The waiter cut a slice of a cake called gateau de savoie. It tastes like sponge cake but is a bit more dry. It’s made without milk or butter, and baked in a bundt-style pan to give it a neat texture on the outside. The waiter then brought around an offering of caramel candies and fresh lemon-flavored marshmallows. I tried a marshmallow but didn’t have room for anything else.

After two and a half delicious hours we ordered the check. I spent the rest of the day walking around Paris, trying to work off all the food.