I succumbed to a little bout of Global Fever the past few weeks what with all the drama of the World Cup. And I’m not even a fan of soccer (bloody hell, that game can go a long time and have nothing happen) but I really enjoyed the back stories of all the teams, learning about the rivalries and watching the passionate fans. Oh-some of the players were cute?? I didn’t notice that.
Also, in global celebrations this week, Monday was Bastille Day. Vive la France! Scrolling through all the seductive images of Paris on Instagram, I was reminded of the last time I dined at “Chez L’Ami Louis” in the City of Light…and Food (In the end, all roads lead to my belly )
So let’s first address that elephant in the room (despite his perfect shade of gris francais ) L’Ami Louis has its fair share of detractors. For all its fame and reputation and, for the most part, great reviews on food and dining websites, Louis’ foes come with their knives sharpened. They are vehement. They remind me of me when someone mentions the book “The Bridges of Madison County”. Just don’t go there.
Complaints include; Shabby decor-Check. Always full of Americans-Check. Crazy expensive-Check. The food doesn’t justify the prices-No, can’t get totally on board with that. And lastly, that the waiters are a surly, grumpy lot-can’t agree with that either. They just look that way and relish playing to the reputation they’ve become infamous for. How unhappy could they be, when you see the same faces year after year? L’Ami Louis has less turnover than the cast of Britain’s “Coronation Street”
The restaurant, established in 1924, is small, narrow and noisy. The ambience is definitely ‘We are French, Aloo, we don’t need to try too hard”. The walls are so thick with layers of glossy ox blood coloured paint they’ve lost all edges. Salt & pepper shakers could use a wipe and dishes & cutlery have seen better days. Hemingway might very well have scratched your plate cutting his lamb. Salmon-hued cloths cover tightly packed tables, groaning under towers of perfectly crisped pommes frites.
But behold cette foie gras. Who cares about a slightly greasy salt shaker when the servings are this big?
and feast your eyes on these tender morsels fresh from the forest floor.
The dreamiest potato dish ever. Wish I had paced myself. (my mantra)
A tiny glimpse of steak. I couldn’t in all good conscience show a close up. “Rare” means “gelatinous” at Louis’
The chicken, a dish they are famous for (along with their escargot and foie gras) still sports some bits we remove here in the U.S. Black bits and all, it’s delicious.
The best raspberries I’ve ever had.
and the fresh passion fruit was no slouch either.
So, yes, after you roll out of L’Ami Louis and back into the night with a certain Henry the 8th swagger in your step, you might well be thinking both the restaurant and your wallet are a little worse for wear. But then again, can’t the same thing be said about so many other restaurant ‘institutions’ in cities like London, Venice, and NY? Absolutely. Are they still the best? Maybe not, but in my opinion, L’Ami Louis is still worth experiencing for the very reasons it manages to stick around decade after decade…after decade (and takes 2 weeks to get a reservation). It’s good and it’s fun! Plus, once you’ve had your precious winter coat that took so much deliberation and two hand-wringing trips back to the shop, thrown into their coat pile like yesterday’s newspaper, you’ve officially received your “L’Ami Louis” badge of honour.
The “surly” crew at L’Ami
Note; As previously mentioned, you’re sure to find the restaurant packed with Brits and Americans so if you are vacationing in Paris, I suggest making a reservation, well ahead, at the end of your stay, not the beginning. By then, the snippets of English being spoken (OK, full conversations-the tables are close) will be more acceptable to you. Dare I suggest you might even be pining for it by then
This time last year; Meanwhile Back in London
All photos Slim Paley except exterior shot of restaurant via Google.