Le train bleu was the unofficial designation of a scheduled service provided by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-lits, who also operated the infamous Orient Express, that ran from Calais to the Côte d’Azur from 1922 on. The train got its name from its carriages’ blue livery.
Le Train Bleu was eventually terminated when travel became more affordable and demand for luxury travel gave way to mass tourism. What remains, is an excellent restaurant within the Gare de Lyon in Paris. And today, I am going there for lunch.
Le Train Bleu restaurant opened back in 1901 on the occasion of the inauguration of the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Originally, it went simply by the name of Buffet de la Gare de Lyon. However, in 1963 it was renamed to take its current name.
The restaurant’s interior is spectacular in the opulent fin-de-siècle style and really unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It looks more like a cathedral than a restaurant.
Access to the restaurant is via the grand staircase in the middle of Hall 1 of the main concourse of the Gare de Lyon.
The menu offers a wide selection of seasonal dishes that nicely showcase French cuisine.
The waiting staff
The staff at the restaurant are all very friendly and helpful. I think what impresses me most though, is a) just how many waiting staff are active in the restaurant at the same time, and b) just how nicely paced the meal is.
We begin with an amuse bouche of lightly smoked white fish on cream cheese.
For the starter I go for the lightly smoked salmon with seasonal pickled vegetables and blinis. The presentation of the dish is lovely, and the taste is excellent, with a nice variety of subtle flavours.
For the main course I have the quenelles à la Lyonaise. Quenelles are a kind of fish dumpling. They are served in a rich bisque infused with cognac and a side dish of grilled basmati rice. And lovely, crunchy French bread.
The main course is absolutely divine, and mopping up the bisque with the bread when I’m done has me making the most obscene moaning noises.
My travel companion has the grilled scallops, which are nicely presented and apparently taste very good. The scallops are served on a bed of chickpeas.
For dessert, I really just can’t resist and go for the crêpes Suzette. What a classic! At le Train Bleu the dish is prepared at your table, including the bit where they set the whole thing on fire with a healthy dose of Grand Manier. And this is just heaven. I shove a fork of the sweet goodness in my mouth and all the frustrations of the last two years are just washed clean off me. And all that remains is the zesty flavour of the orange juice combined with the creamy, buttery richness of the crêpes.
My travel companion has the chocolate fondant, served with creamy vanilla ice cream and an elegant hint of licorice.
Once I’m done, I do for a moment consider a cup of mint tea to round off the meal. But I’m running out of time. I have an appointment at the Louvre at 15h00 to see La Gioconda, otherwise also known as Mona Lisa, and I don’t want to be late. Luckily, I’ll be back in Paris next week, and already have another reservation at Le Train Blue, so perhaps I can try all the things I missed out on this time…
And tomorrow? I’m in Paris, and tomorrow is the start of the IATA winter time table. With that you can probably figure out what I’m up to next…