Point is, however much you subscribe to the have-good-food-will-travel school of thought at dinner, lunch, pragmatically - if you're deep in the throes of therapy in the 1st/8th arrondissements - is a let's-see-what's-closest (ie.walking distance)-by-but-still worth-eating affair. I won't bother talking about the prix fixe menus you already know and are familiar with at joints like Les Ambassadeurs, Le Bristol, Le Cinq, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire, Ledoyen, and Taillevent (PS: Where this particular ilk in the hood is concerned, and in appropriate company with the appropriate leisurely frame of mind, we tend to spring for Carré Des Feuillants, Le Grand Vefour and Le Meurice).
In such time's a wastin' circumstance, I tend not to want to linger over a long lunch in some grand setting. I just want some place fun and informal. Gratifying without being too overwhelming (this is lunch afterall), conveniently located but not too much of a scene (Aside: If however in the mood for that sorta thing, the mid-day people-watching at Pinxo, Hôtel Costes and the basement in Colette are hard to beat).
So where to find this spot of fortifying yet fast sustenance, a tasty lil' respite to tide you over a potentially cardiovascular afternoon till a probable big and proper dinner? The obvious answer would be the countless excellent brasseries and bistros dotting the area - I am especially fond of Chez George, Aux Lyonnais, Le Mesturet, La Tour de Montlhéry (also known as Chez Denis), and Le Vaudeville. However, given my utter lack of self-control, I am apt to make a beeline for exactly the kind of hearty, robust, rib-sticking standbys on these menus that make one soporific as opposed to energized for the flurry of brisk activity that is shopping on these streets. Which is why I do my best to stay clear of them at lunch, obvious (and tempting) as the option may be.
So where on earth does one go then? I find myself turning time and again to the wine bar. I love Les Fines Gueles. No ordinary wine bar, you'll find they insist on using nothing but the very very very finest - from the Jean-Yves Bordier butter to the Joël Thiébault veg to the Hugo Desnoyer beef, the concept of compromise does not exist here. Me? I cannot get enough of the steak tartare made from exquisitely beefy Salers beef. To. Die. For. And in my books the perfect light-yet-reviving lunch. Equally charming, but with a greater New World wine focus, is Tim Johnston's Juvéniles. In contrast (in terms of scale and modernity), there's Lavinia, every wine geek's idea of a crazily-well-stocked perfectly-microclimate-controlled heaven. Head upstairs; whatever you've decided is worth imbibing at the cheery nook of a restaurant, it'll happily wash down the surprisingly satisfactory (and satisfying) menu options.
But to be really honest, if I'm feeling (a) extravagant and/or (b) virtuous (read: didn't swipe the plastic as often as anticipated that particular morning), I treat myself to Cafe Prunier. What better locale (at Place de la Madeleine) at which to celebrate with a flute of gorgeous vintage bubbly, a quenelle of whatever/whichever Aquitaine caviar Pierre Bergé deems fit (like this Yves covetable?) or the ever-reliably-excellent Tradition Prunier, and a plat of delectable Balik smoked salmon thinghies a recent score just up and off rue Boissy d'Anglais here or here warrants? (PS: If gallery-trawling in the Left Bank, I head for Petrossian instead for an equally astounding piscean experience).* Salmon Rillettes, a luxurious potted fish pâté made of smoked salmon and poached fresh salmon, is divine with a hearty, rustic bread like soda bread. It's all part of the menu for The Ultimate Afternoon Tea Party, a demo class, on 24 April 2010 and 25 April 2010. For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or 6479 8414, or email firstname.lastname@example.org