Wednesday 9 July 2008

La Cave Toilets Offer Modern-looking Art Nouveu Touches, Numbered Toilet Paper Rolls

La Cave
Boulevard Pereire Sud
Paris, France

Where is it?

From the front entrance, head towards the bar, which is located in the center of the restaurant.

Once there, go left, keeping the bar on your right. Just past the bar, you'll see a twisting staircase going downwards. The bathrooms are down there, behind some very ornate dark and heavy wooden doors.

What's it like?

This neighborhood bistro, just a short distance from La Defense, sits on the busy intersection of Boulevard Periere and Avenue de la Grand Armee, just a stone's throw from the Galerie Commerciale L'Atrium du Palais des Congres, a mammoth convention center that also houses many shopping and entertainment options.

It's a homey place with an upscale feel -- and it very obviously seems to cater more towards the business travelers than to tourists. Lots of white table clothes. A multi-tiered dining room. Tuxedo-donned waiters. A terrific raw bar sits outside the building, on the actual street corner, complete with its own fish monger.

Given the place's fish monger, the specialty is seafood, particularly shellfish. We had an enormous platter of Normandy oysters, sea snails, mussels, clams, prawns and more -- all of it matched exquisitely with a fine bottle of house white. It was one of the best seafood experiences of my life, particularly the oysters, which bested the flavor and freshness of any American oyster I've had (including the succulent ones I've had in from the Pacific Northwest).

The seafood bisque was also quite tasty and enjoyably pungent, though the steak frites, though well-prepared, seemed a little one-dimensional compared to the other flavors we experienced.

Still, the experience was lovely. We sat out a long storm, which went from rain to snow to rain, without feeling like we were ever pressed for time. Service is wonderful here, and prices are affordable for what you get. And because of the restaurant's location, nested near several other business-minded places, speaking English here did not make us feel out of place.

The toilets are spacious for a European bathroom. Sheer black tile covers the floor and the walls near the urinals in a matter reminiscent of Sensi and Okada in Las Vegas. (It doesn't quite achieve the poetry of those places, but it's not far off.) Other spots have the walls covered with dark wood, some of it shiny and new-looking and some of it chipped and worn in a way that gives it character instead of making it look like the place is falling apart.

The walking areas offer enough room for you to squeeze by people without feeling like you're intruding or compromising anyone's privacy. The urinals are made of white porcelain, but like the toilets at Sensi and Okada they juxtapose themselves against the black tile behind them and actually brought to mind paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, of all things. A wavy gold porcelain divider slickly separates the two urinals.

Gold plays a big role in the two stalls here as well, as one of the walls in them assumes the color. When coupled with the golden lighting here, and the bronze fixtures placed on the door knobs and such, it makes the place glow in a classical sense -- like you've stepped into an old-fashioned boudoir setting that has just installed some modern touches to stay with the times. Really very impressive.

Two white porcelain sinks sit at the far end of the room, with gold-framed mirrors hanging above them. The faucets are gold-plated chrome and look art-nouveau-inspired -- which also adds to the classical boudoir sensibility here.

On top of that, it's a very clean environment and odor free. The only faulty bits of wear and tear I found were near the trashcan, where the edge of the can had banged up against the wood backdrop one too many times. (A coat of paint would solve this easily.)

Other oddities include the tin-like paper towel dispenser, which needs to be updated, and the rolls of toilet paper hanging in the stalls. They are not covered and as a result you see the itemization stamp on them. Now, I like it when my bottle of wine is stamped and itemized. But my toilet paper? Needless to say, I felt very special.

Marks out of 10:

8. A few hit or miss areas can't suppress the place's overall elegance.

Comments to the Management:

I appreciate the old-fashioned vibe created here -- really makes the experience special. If you replace the paper towel dispenser so that it looks more modern instead of like an antique that's falling apart, and if you touch up the paint here and there as needed, you'll be approaching perfection.

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