Monday 7 July 2008

Le Roi du Pot au Feu Toilet Features Soap on a Stick, Crusty Rag

Le Roi du Pot au Feu
34, Rue Vignon
Paris, France

Where is it?

This is a small place.

Just head to the very back, passing through the cozy dining room and keeping the bar to your right. You'll see a doorway at the very back, leading to a small hallway. Enter that hallway and the toilet will be on your right.

What's it like?

From the outside, this humble eatery looks like your standard Parisian restaurant, with its nondescript front awning and barely noticeable facade.

Inside, it feels much like a neighborhood brasserie, nothing more. The dining room is filled with cafe tables, many jammed together to make the most of the space allowed, and a small wooden bar takes up the right side of the area (with your back to the entrance).

That humble setting provides the backdrop for a truly stunning dining experience. The specialty here is Pot au Feu, a traditional French dish that involves the slow simmering of beef with various aromatic and root vegetables in a savory broth. In less capable hands, the dish becomes a one-dimensional boiled dinner, nothing more. In the skilled kitchen of this wonderful place, the dish takes on complexities and succulence you never thought possible in such a dish.

The dinner begins with a bowl of beef consomme, which comes straight from the pot where the rest of your dinner is being cooked. It's rich and delicate at the same time and it primes your palate for what's to come.

The main dish comes in a sprawling platter-sized bowl: On it, you get several hunks of perfectly stewed meat and plenty of veggies, like cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and more. Again, it sounds like a bland meal, but the stock is so rich and flavorful it manages to work both as a soup and as a sauce that enhances the flavors of the veggies and meat. This is the ultimate beef dinner, if you think about it. I've never had it better.

The place also offers some outstanding desserts, including one of the best Tart Tatins I've ever had and an outstanding chocolate mousse. Free bottles of house wine are offered, and it's a wine that compliments the meal (food like this deserves to be coupled with wine) though at the same time it's nothing exceptional. (Upon leaving, I noticed that the house wine comes from boxes, not bottles, which are placed in faux wine barrels behind the bar to make it look like you're getting wine right from the cask. Very sneaky.) On the whole, this is a stupendous dining experience and one not to be missed while in Paris (unless you're a vegetarian, that is).

The bathroom experience here doesn't t equal the quality of the food (and I guess it shouldn't), but they certainly extend the old-fashioned vibe found in the dining room. Perhaps a little too much, that is.

This is a single chamber bathroom, suiting both sexes. It's a small place, nearing such tiny spaces as the Petro Palace lobby or the SkyBar in St. Petersburg, or even Monsoon in London. The room itself is thin and has an odd shape -- like a narrow trapezoid instead of a square or rectangular space. The toilet is in the thinner area, the sink sits opposite it, in the fatter area.

The toilet itself is clean enough, though nothing remarkable, and I didn't see much wear and tear here, though there was a slight foul air to it. The walls are covered in a beige-white tile pattern, and the floors are covered in a blander beige tile. The toilet has a beige tank and bowl and a white plastic seat cover. The sink is also made of beige porcelain. A soap dispenser hangs above the sink to the right. A hand drier hands to the immediate left of the sink (it's a narrow place). A piece of Flemish-inspired art - very well worn -- hangs above the toilet. In all, the toilet reminded me a lot of the one visited at Monsoon, in that its compact, small and nothing flashy but clean and humble enough. Only this didn't have the pink toilet paper.

There were two unique oddities here. The first is a bar of soap that hangs out of the wall near the sink via a metal spoke, which has been rammed through its center of it to support it and fix it to the wall. Not really sure why it's there, since a soft soap dispenser is just a few inches away, yet it's unique. I'm thinking that you wet your hands and then rub your wetted palms over the soap to lather up. Definitely unique, though I'm not quite sure how practical it is.

The second is a very old, crusty-looking gray rag hanging on a coat hanger just above the hand drier. I'm guessing this is here so people who don't like hand driers can dry their hands on it. But it looks like it hasn't been washed in ages, and as a result I'm not sure it's the most sanitary of options. Again, very peculiar.

Marks out of 10:

6. It's a tight fit and clean, but nothing luxurious, that's for sure. Plus, the soap on a stick and the crusty rag add some mystery to the experience, but not exactly in a good way.

Comments to the Management:

To be honest, the food is so good here, it almost forgives the misgivings of the bathroom. On the other hand, making the place a little roomier (if possible) would be nice, and perhaps include some visual instructions on how to use the soap on a stick properly, because I'm still a little confused over it. Also -- and this is an obvious point -- put a clean rag in there.

No comments: