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The Train Bleu restaurant in Paris

For the past couple of decades, we’ve been going to the Train Bleu… for the occasional drink. Despite an interior that – we think – is one of the most amazing places on earth – its hefty food prices have always put us off eating there.

Now, finally, a special occasion was the perfect excuse to spend a magical evening in a setting that’s like stepping back in time. But would we agree with what everyone on the web seems to be saying? That the setting is as amazing as the food as dull and dear?

photos : JasonW

Founded at the very beginning of the 20th century, the Train Bleu is truly a marvel of baroque, Belle Epoque Second Empire architecture. Heavily ornamented huge rooms, high ceilings, vast windows, gold leaf, lush paintings of the destinations served by the luxury train of the same name (now defunct)… There’s nowhere else like it in the world.

In the afternoon, one of our guilty pleasures is leaving the bustle of Gare de Lyon station behind us, going through the revolving doors and entering this almost surreal space for a cup of tea or a beer. It’s one of the reasons we love Paris and would never be happy living anywhere else.Traces of the old railway company la compagnie des chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (absorbed into the nationalised SNCF railway in 1938) can still be found in the décor, and you could easily imagine yourself 100 years in the past (right down to the old-school waiters and their vaguely bored looks).

And yet, if you look a little closer, it soon becomes obvious that the Train Bleu is starting to show its age, and not in a good way. Cracked paint and dulled guilding can be seen in various places, and despite being a protected national monument, unsightly wires have been run across many of the walls. The salons at one end, mostly used for the Big Ben bar, are positively rough-looking! Restoration is most definitely needed for this masterpiece…And yet, even though the interior seems to be treated with a certain disdain, any restaurant that has its own cat wandering around – looking perfectly at home – can’t be all bad.Situated in a main railway station, with two huge rooms and several salons, the Train Bleu has to attract a large number of people in order to be viable, but that doesn’t necessarily require the lack of dignity that seems to be commonplace there today

For example, when arriving we were immediately asked what language we wanted our menus in, something that I always find annoying as it implies that almost everyone’s a tourist nowadays. The question could have been asked more tactfully, and our waitress could have looked a loss less bored. A lot less.

The menus themselves are giant-sized, with nasty plastic covers, and the food on offer is up-market brasserie fare, with fixed menus at 98€, 70€ and 56€, plus a reasonably small à la carte selection. Prices are high, but this was no surprise considering the exceptional setting.

We decided to start off with smoked salmon steak, served with a crispy vegetable spring roll. Although sweetly presented, the piece of salmon was tiny for 30€ (or rather, the price was a little steep for what was on the plate).The other starter chosen was ravioli with snail and funghi porcini cooked in garlic, served in a parsley sauce. This was spectacularly green, and the snails were delicious. Well executed!Our enthusiasm was not to last much longer however. The monkfish American-style fricasee with lobster tagliatelles was very plainly presented, and had to be sent back to the kitchen as it was only warmish. Not good.

The rockfish and scallops à la plancha was served with a creamy shellfish-infused risotto and squid ink sauce, but no real effort had been made to make it look good, and we can’t say it tasted extraordinary. Also, just one scallop for a dish costing 40 euros is plain mean! These main courses were pretty shameful for a supposedly upmarket restaurant.The list of desserts is short, and we opted fort a dark chocolate creme brulée with shards of coffe bean, and a rum baba for which we were left an entire bottle of rum (dangerous!). Both were more or less what we were expecting – not bad, not good, and probably a little dear at 16 euros. For that price, you could have four servings of the amazing tiramisu at Carmen Ragosta (admittedly without the gold-plated angels and 10 metre-high ceiling).In all, our evening at the Train Bleu left us with mixed feelings. The place is magical, we were really happy to have gone, but it’s very obviously resting on its laurels.

With a different chef, the food and experience there could be absolutely amazing. We would definitely recommend the Train Bleu for a special occasion when money is no obstacle and everyone has low expectations. If you hate paying over for the odds for an amazing setting, and eating vaguely average food, there are other options in town that you might prefer.

Unfortunately, none of the other options has the Train Bleu’s interior. Personally, we’re hoping they will renovate the décor, shake up the cuisine, and once again become one of the most amazing places on the planet to have a meal. In the meantime, feel fre to drop in during the afternoon and enjoy the ambiance over a drink. You won’t regret it!

Le Train Bleu (here) is open every day for lunch and dinner

Tel. +33 (0)1 43 43 09 06

Online booking: here

Official site:

Le Train Bleu on Wikipedia : here

Facebook: here (don’t expect more than a couple of photos a month)

To check out all our photos of the Train Bleu, click the play button on the slideshow below, then click the four little arrows bottom right for fullscreen.