After last weekend’s disastrous visit to Tate Modern in London, it was reassuring to discover that La Musee Rodin in Paris is as wonderful as ever. The house on Rue de Varenne, lived in by the sculptor Auguste Rodin until his death, is wearily beautiful, like an aging French film star. It’s not so much ‘eyes and teeth’ as creaking joints and wrinkles – and I adore it.
There’s so much to love about Paris but I’m still perturbed by the city’s restaurants. They take dull, predictable and snooty to a whole new level – the ghastly Brasserie Lipp has all those qualities and more.
We had a perfectly good dinner at Bouillon Racine, but the service bordered on the comical. We ordered snails and a crab salad followed by scallops and sea bass. Moments later the waiter came back to say that he had ‘absolutely no memory’ of what we had asked for.
At La Coupole on Boulevard du Montparnasse we had already started eating our filet de boeuf when the waiter returned to the table, snatched our plates away and swept into the kitchen without a word. We were left holding our cutlery in mid-air, helpless victims of a cartoon food robbery.
What a relief then to find that La Grande Epicerie is as glorious as ever. The wonderful food store offers the best alternative to the erratic restaurants in France’s capital city; simply buy a picnic and eat it in the park. And if you can, buy a box of white chocolate teaspoons to take home with you, serve them with mini madeleines and eat with an espresso while you remember all that’s great about Paris.
Makes around 15 mini cakes
60g unsalted butter
1 large egg
50g caster sugar
50g plain white flour
Finely grated zest of an orange
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees c. Melt the butter and, using a pastry brush, lightly grease the moulds. Allow the remaining butter to cool. Whisk the eggs and caster sugar vigorously until the mixture is thick, pale and foamy. Sift the flour into the egg and sugar. Fold it in, along with the orange zest and the cool melted butter. Fill each mould and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.