ItÕs got an air of glamorous doom, said my companion, looking around the Parisienne Chop house as though he expected the dark reaper to leap and hand him his exit visa. I could see what he meant. Like other Marco Pierre White ventures the restaurant has all the culinary clout and slick design features you would expect from one of his must-see and be-seen-in destinations, but some of the glossy sheen rubs off when the place is yawningly empty. The restaurant looks like a beautifully appointed stateroom in a time-warp ocean liner; but due to the lack of other diners, when you arrive for a late supper at nine-thirty and walk through an eerily deserted bar, itÕs like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone. All you need is Jane McDonald doing dinner theatre to complete the horror. Welcome to Monday night in the world of restaurants! On the plus side, my companion was told to take his pick of the numerous available tables in the restaurant. Naturally he chose one of the little booths, complete with wobbly pedestal, and matching wobbly cafˇ-style lamp, hooked over the table at eye level.
Service was brisk and efficiently attentive, maybe even too attentive: When asking the waiters advice on wine (he recommended the cheapest on the menu Š either he took us for the non discerning sort or he knew we were bargain hunters), he interrupted our skittish questions with a brisk Ōif you will just let me finishÕ. Man, said my companion Š itÕs like restaurant boot camp. But we knew our place, and our place was to sit firmly on our backsides, eat, drink and enjoy ourselves.
As the name suggests the Parisienne Chop House is an upmarket steak house with few fishy frills for the carnophobe. You can have a salmon fishcake with sauce gribiche, goujons of sole, grilled tuna (if youÕre not yet blisteringly sick of it) but otherwise, itÕs that, or a piece of haddock, and youÕve more or less had your chips. The rest of the menu is either spit roasted Š chicken, duck, rib of pork or game in season, or Aberdeen Angus in various guises. ThereÕs Scottish Cow goes to Paris Š Ribeye of Aberdeen Angus Parisienne (topped with chicken and duck livers); Scottish Cow with libido problems Šaux huitres (oysters): Scottish Cow goes on Tyrolean walking tour Š Forestiere (with wild mushrooms) andÉ well you get the picture. There also a trio of bullsÕ heads mounted on the wall should you feel the desire to actually meet your dinner before you eat it.
Starters include French toast with wild mushrooms, boudin noir aux pommes, frogÕs legs and snails, and rillettes of pork. I chose a huge favourite - Jambon Persille Š a jolly fine terrine with shards of ham in aspic, loaded with the sharp grassy bit of parsley with tasted poilane Š so good I wanted to beg the kitchen for leftovers to take home with me. Tim had tartare of salad nicoise with Melba toast, which was sweet, salty and deliciously piquant.
Next, of course, we had the Aberdeen Angus. I chose Forestiere, my companion, steak au poivre. The meat cut like butter that has been sitting around the kitchen for a while. Mine was so compliant, I could almost have spread it with a knife. Absolutely no complaints. My companion did find the peppercorns too assertive for his taste, but he was being a bit of a woose, so we donÕt need to pay any attention to him.
Side dishes Š crisp haricots verts, McDonaldized fries, spinach in cream, which tasted like invalid food for people with dentures who are surely not going to be ordering rib eye beef, no matter how tender it is, and a sweet tomato salad marbled with balsamic vinegar.
Pudding was a sharp lemon tart and tarte sablee au chocolate, that was dark, sweet and one dimensional, a bit like the companion, really. All in all, great grub, gloomy atmosphere. So, donÕt pick a time when theyÕre only doing 44 covers, or alternatively make a pact to go along in droves on Monday nights so you donÕt feel quite as isolated as we did. By 11pm, we were the only diners left and tables were being cleared. I was longing for a cup of coffee but couldnÕt face sitting at our lonely little table a moment longer. It was all too On The Beach, last man alive for me. Ah, someone else has just come in, said my companion looking over my shoulder towards the bar with some relief. After further scrutiny, he added that he thought the newcomer looked very familiar. ŅIsnÕt he someone?Õ he asked as though the rest of us, not being instantly recognisable, were mere ectoplasm. I think it might be Marco himself, he enthused. I turned and looked.
In fact it was Tv chef Anthony Worral Thompson. Of the two, I donÕt know who will be the most flattered at the comparison.