Saturday, 3 March 2012


Ahhhh Bistro!!
It's just the best of times really: a croissant and a snooze as the Eurostar cruises from London to Paris through the early grey dawn light, a far cry from the coach and horses that struggle along the rutted lanes to Dover at the start of Dickens' classic novel. 

Ardoise Gourmande
French bistro dining means crisp white linen, waiters in black and white with starched aprons, the quiet buzz of understated conversations and murmured appreciations of the chef's art.  Ardoise Gourmande is completely in character, and only a stone's throw from Gare du Nord.  It's resolutely French: only Parisian diners and no parallel translation of the menu. We choose from the 22 euro set menu which turns out to be fantastic value for highly imaginative cooking:  
filet de lieu noir, ravioles de crabe at creme de basilic;
millefeuille de boudin aux deux pommes;
baba limoncello;
tarte tatin;
cafe creme;
vin blanc.
Hero of the piece, the boudin aux pomme, is a tower of alternating black and gold "coins", a wonderful combination of sharply contrasting tastes, colours and textures.

After a post-prandial stroll around the Sacre Coeur and the cimetiere Montmartre to discover Zola's mausoleum, we search for some sweet cakes from the patisseries to take home - to no avail: being Feb 14th, every Parisian or Parisienne has already hoovered up all the heart-shaped confections created specially for the day.
Terminus Nord
Defeated, we retreat to another familiar haunt, Terminus Nord, a buzzing 1920s style brasserie complete with low lighting, huge mirrors and period decor. It is handily placed just across the forecourt from Gare du Nord, ideal for a glass of wine or chocolat chaud before the return journey and a great place for people-watching.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
As if by Eurostar magic, we are back in London, and it is only a short if weary step from the platform to the Booking Office Bar in The St Pancras Hotel for some late night refreshment.  There's no better place, as we have found, to recover from the rigours of the journey; and fittingly there is a special re-creation of the Charles Dickens' punch (invented by the man himself): this was a far, far better thing and a far, far better rest...
Charles Dickens' Punch