Tuesday 15 July 2008

Toilets at Montparnasse 1900 Evoke Classic Spirit of Art Nouveau Era

Montparnasse 1900
59 Boulevard du Montparnasse
Paris, France

Where is it?

This is a long, slightly slender place, with the kitchen in the very back, a bar and greeting area/coat-check area up front and a dining room in the center. (Supposedly, there's also a banquet hall and cigar bar, though I didn't see them.)

To get to the toilets, head through the bar and dining room, towards the back of the place. In between the kitchen and dining room is a small enclave containing a sitting area, some displayed art (both paintings and a few items held in a glass case) and the toilets, which are behind some darkly stained wooden doors. The men's room has a little bronze boy hanging on the door; the women's has a little bronze girl on it.

What's it like?

This unassuming eatery is located just a block or so away from Tour Montparnasse, Paris' tallest skyscraper building. While walking the streets here, you may have trouble locating the place because its facade and awning are very modest and from the outside it looks very similar to the other eateries around it. (To find, just look for the awning with "Montparnasse 1900" written on it.")

Still, this is definitely a place to seek out, as it provided me with the best dining experience I've ever had in Paris, at least for a bistro-type experience. The affordable menu comes filled with classic French dishes, like steake frites, endive and Roquefort salad, freshly shucked Normandy-caught oysters and much more, and each dish I had was expertly prepared and outrageously delicious. (The price fixed menu offered three courses, plus dessert and cheese and white for about 35 euro, which isn't that bad, really.) The big surprise here was the use of rump steak for the steak frites -- I thought it would be chewy, considering the cut, but it ended up being moist, tender and very flavorful -- one of the best I've ever had, to be honest.

The decor here is decidedly art nouveau in spirit. The place is covered in stain glass and metalworks, along with fanciful sculptures and paintings. The high point is the ceiling, which is a sprawling single glass mural portraying a view of autumn trees and leaves.

The toilets appropriately extend the art nouveau feel of the dining room. The room has two sections. The main area contains the urinals and sinks, both white porcelain. The walls here are dark mahogany wood, the mirrors and fixtures made of bronze, the lighting dim but not too dim. It's a lot like stepping into a turn-of-the-century boudoir, only without the seedy undertones. Similar in look and feel to La Cave, but without the modernist touches.

The back half of the bathroom has two toilet stalls, each one a single chamber that -- thanks to a full-sized door -- is separated completely from the rest of the place, which in turn means lots of privacy to the user. Those stalls are covered floor to ceiling with shiny white tiles and feature a classy white porcelain toilet in them with a dark wooden seat. The only ornamentation found inside is the stainless steel toilet paper roll holder hanging (albeit a bit too high) on the wall.

Marks out of 10:

8. Very classy art nouveau setting in a fantastic art-nouveau-inspired restaurant.

Comments to the Management:

Not much to suggest here. It's a great place, from the dining room on back. If anything, I would suggest adding a little more light in the bathroom stalls, which weren't dim but weren't that bright either. Also, if possible, lower the toilet paper holders a little to accommodate us shorter people some.

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