Walking down Lexington Avenue, I catch a glimpse of Paris; namely, the Brasserie Orsay at 75th Street. With summer hanging on in New York, every last table on the terrace is occupied. Am I disappointed? Not in the least, as I'm no fan of sidewalk dining, at least not here in New York where one has to contend with horns honking, sirens shrieking, and that grimy NYC sanitation truck blocking the street.
No, when dining outdoors, I prefer secluded gardens, like that at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, a hotel situated in "the Golden Triangle," a neighborhood home to many of the finest boutiques in the world.
The last time I visited Paris, I nursed a café au lait for an hour in a vertical garden -- more like a sculptural installation-- quite unlike any I had ever seen. Of course, there is le Musée Quai Branley, but that's a public museum with a hanging garden, whereas the space at the George V is sublimely private. Sitting there, with no one around, I felt like a goddess. There's something both sexy and chic in the air in Paris, something--je ne sais pas-- that makes me feel more sexy and chic than I would in New York. But Paris -- Paris is a woman's' town with flowers in her hair, wrote the poet Henry Van Dyke in "America for Me"-- has always had that effect on me.
And if the garden wasn't enough, throughout the lobby and in the award-winning restaurant, Le Cinq, there were seven or eight equally exquisite floral arrangements. The magician who creates these displays is Jeff Leatham, an American from Ogden, Utah, the artistic director at the Four Seasons who imports 12,000 blooms weekly from Holland. It's a dream job sure to please all the senses.
All of which I mention so you will understand why I'm happy to forego the terrace at Orsay, pretty as it is, I'm happy to turn back the clock and go inside a turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau brasserie, with gleaming dark woods, high ceilings, and a towering floral display. What year is it? 1900.
To complete the illusion, at front of the house is a trim maître d’ in a well-tailored business suit, with a pale pink shirt and patterned tie. Nothing is more appealing, more reassuring, than a man who knows how to dress. The current fascination with California casual-wear is unnerving. But not so, that pot of French butter with the homemade bread -- bread so fresh it appears to be breathing.
At my request, I'm seated at banquette topped with frosted glass that offers a full view of the restaurant, including a bird's eye glimpse of the terrace and another of a handsome bar off to one side where a lone patron nurses a glass of vin rouge.
Tempting as it is, a glass of wine midday leaves me so relaxed I wouldn't get any work done this afternoon. So, in a restaurant with an award-winning wine list and thousands of bottles down in the wine cellar, I order an ice-tea along with the Salade tiéde de Poulet (freshly cooked, slightly warm chicken breast) with seasonal greens, roasted peppers and Israeli couscous. Seeing the mound of garden-fresh greens surrounded by slices of chicken, I can’t resist taking a picture. Do you see the slices peeking from under the greens?
By the time I finish, there’s not a green leaf left on my plate. Is this the best-ever chicken salad? Maybe so, and the service is unobtrusively lovely, with a gentle genie refilling my glass at every turn.
By one o’clock the room is buzzing, the patrons engaging and engaged, the conversations animated. Moreover, thanks in part to the high ceilings and good spacing between the tables, I can hear myself think. And, as if not wanting me to feel alone, the staff comes by often to be sure everything is all right. Bien sûr! Why not? It’s not every day one gets to dine in Paris.
Then, too, at the top of the stairs is a party room with a bar and a fireplace than might be perfect for hosting a book party, n'est-ce pas?
Once back downstairs, I take a long look around.
Now, can I ask a favor? If you liked this post, and I hope you did, will you be sure to "like" it by using the social media buttons -- Facebook, Google+, Twitter -- and take a second to leave your email address. My mailbox is lonesome. Of course, it goes without saying, that your comments light my days! Until next Sunday...au revoirmes amis.