Known as the inside-out building, the Centre Pompidou at the time it was built was hailed as both a marvel and a catastrophe (pronounced cat-a-STROF) when it first opened its doors in 1977. The dream of then President Georges Pompidou, he commissioned a “cultural institution in the heart of Paris completely focused on modern and contemporary creation, where the visual arts would rub shoulders with theatre, music, cinema, literature and the spoken word”.
Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, they literally turned the building inside out with all the pipes, heating, wiring snaking about the building in color-coded pipes (blue for water, red for heating, etc.) while stairs and escalators scaled the building in glass tubes offering unobstructed views of Paris.
The Pompidou is home to the leading collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe with approximately 6 million visitors a year and over 150 million visitors since it first opened its doors. It also boasts an enormous public reference library, cinema and performance halls, a music research institute, educational activity areas, bookshops, a restaurant (Restaurant Georges) and a cafe. Most French people claim to hate it but I think they secretly love it. Similar to their feeling about America, but you didn’t hear that from me…
As you ascend to the top floor of the Pompidou and slowly rise above the rooftops, you are greeting with some of the most spectacular panoramic scenes of Paris. Click here to check out their 3 live webcams. The enormous outdoor terrasse, open from late spring to early fall, is a tres chic (pronounced sheek), tres branchee (hip; pronounced bron-SHAY) place to hang out, sip a cosmo, see and be seen, all while taking in the splendor of Paris gracefully laid out before you. The staff is all about looking fabulous, service is simply inconsequential. It would be tres gauche to complain about the service and it is therefore not done. Hence, it remains an enigma.
The evening before my New Year’s Eve towering inferno dinner some friends were in town and at the time of the original reservation they were 4 teenagers in tow (God help us all) so I thought the Georges would be a perfect place. Hip, cool, live dj, eye candy wait staff. The hostess had legs a good 6 feet long protruding from a miniskirt that could have been lengthened a generous 8 inches and still been considered a miniskirt, teetering on spike leopard pumps. No one was thinking about service.
the DJ set up complete with Costes CDs available for purchase. sorry no pics of the hostess…
I should have guessed it immediately upon entering (see above mentioned miniskirted hostess) but I didn’t know it was a Costes-managed restaurant or I would have spun on my spike leopard pump (kidding) and hightailed it to my favorite street vendor selling crepes down at Odeon. If Costes is involved, then it’s overpriced and mediocre unless of course you are at the tres chic, tres branchee Hotel Costes (where it will really be overpriced) on Rue St Honore sipping a glass of champagne where an occasional star-sighting might compensate for a soggy legume or two.
They must run the kitchen at Le Bilboquet as well as the plates were eerily similar. See for yourself. Costes also owns Cafe Ruc which was one of my favorite Parisian restaurants in 2000 before Costes took it over and the food went dreadfully and quickly downhill. Anyways…
our table next to the molars…
My friend Kristin joined us and commented that she felt like she was inside someone’s mouth as these huge aluminum structures resembling giant molars surrounded us. One molar for the coat check, another molar for the kitchen entrance/exit, and another for God knows what. What it lacked in culinary excellence and customer service, we made up for it in company, conversation and convivialite. I’d hold off until the weather warms up and stop by for an aperitif on the tres cool terrasse. As everyone says, it’s all about the atmosphere and that it does have in abundance.
Voila le menu…
* les entrees (the appetizers)
california rolls, vegetarien (really, this is what the menu said! 15 euros)
carpaccio saint-jacques/saumon (carpaccio of scallops and salmon, 14 euros)
foie gras de canard poele, chutney de mangue (seared duck foie gras with mango chutney, 25 euros)
petites laitues du pays basque (lettuce from basque country, 10 euros)
avocat-thon cru (avocado and tuna sashimi, 18 euros)
* les plats (the main course)
noix de saint jacques simplement dorees (scallop “nut” simply seared, 35 euros)
aller-retour (literally it means go-comeback but in the case of food it means a quick searing on the both sides and in this case it was steak tartar, 22 euros)
turbot de pleine mer, grille bearnaise (grilled turbot from the sea with bearnaise sauce, 39 euros)
macaroni au homard (lobster macaroni and cheese – this was everyone’s favorite – the ultimate comfort food with lobster! 29 euros)
mandarina crispy duck (crispy duck with rice and a soy-teriyaki sauce, 27 euros)
club sandwich traditionnel pain complet (club sandwich on whole wheat bread, 17 euros, I kid you not)
* les desserts (the desserts)
gateau au chocolat costes (costes chocolate cake, 11 euros)
tarte chocolat (chocolate tart, 11 euros)
petite tarte au citron (small lemon tart, 11 euros)
tatin de basile (this tart tatin – apple tart – is named BASILE after their pastry chef but when we ordered I misread it and thought it had BASIL in it which would of course be BASILIC. duh. and you wonder why my apartment caught on fire…, 11 euros)
and the molars…..
view of the molars at night
view from a molar
the molar in the back in the coat check, don’t have a clue what this monstrous yellow tube in the front is…
view of the entrance from another molar
239 rue St. Honore at Place Vendome
Tel: +33 1 42 44 50 00
159, rue Saint-Honore
Tel: +33 1 42 60 97 54
(M) #1, #7 to Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre