On Friday night, the parents arrived at Gare du Nord with a dinky little suitcase, a bag full of gloves (perhaps I had complained a little too loudly about the weather) and a list of things to do. Go walking, buy cheese and take pictures of Paris in its Christmas outfit. Which is how we found ourselves on the Champs Elysees on Saturday afternoon.
Unlikely place to go if you’re trying to seem like a true Parisienne, but there you have it. Speaking Dutch all day, not being singled out as a foreigner was unlikely anyway, so I embraced my inner tourist. Humming the Champs Elysees song? Peering at a map every 100m? Trawling a Christmas market? Bring it on.
The parents felt the same, and so we gleefully photographed many stalls with food, food, food, and laughed at a larger-than-life snow globe filled with kids forced to have their picture taken with Santa, mostly looking bemused.
Can’t blame them, perched on the lap of pere Noel in mid-November. After about 20 sausage or gluhwein stands and few of the promised arts and crafts, we started to feel like those kids. Plus, I couldn’t feel my toes and my stomach had started grumbling. Lunch time!
But there is only so much non-Parisianness I can stand for, and eating in the street is not included. Not even when surrounded by sausage purveyors in Santa hats. So off we trotted to the Rue du Colisee to find Le Boeuf sur le Toit. I was hoping for oysters, but instead I got a restaurant boarded up for renovation. Ah, yes. The guide is not always right. But not to worry, I had come prepared. I whipped out the lunch list again (surely it wouldn’t let me down twice) and navigated us to Olsen.
For a moment there, we thought we would have to perch in the shop window. When we walked in, though, we were greeted by the happy sight of many more bar stools in the back, for unobserved lunching. Excellent. And we could pick whichever one we liked because we were the only ones there.
It was slightly disconcerting to be the only customers in such a charming looking place. “What’s up? Why is no one here when everything looks good? Do they know something you don’t?”- the voices in my head were having a field day. I shut them up by reminding them of Clotilde’s praise for the place and we each ordered a smorrebrod menu. Mine came with a flatbread with tarama and different vegetable garnishes.
The waiter brought me a large disk of soft, fresh, bread, covered in brightly flavoured salads and dollops of smooth tarama. There were sour apples in cream, green beans with dill, crunchy cucumber, a sharp horseradish dressing. I smeared the creamy fish roe over the beautiful mix and every bite was a feast of salty, creamy, crunchy. It was quite a filling affair, but I felt cleansed and wholesome after finishing it. All the better to indulge in a warm chocolate brownie with crème anglaise for dessert.
The parents were similarly happy with their cured salmon, the waiter was kind and the coffee strong. If you ever want to play the tourist and eat well, go find this place. Humming of the Champs Elysees song completely optional.