With royal wedding fever taking over England, Mr Lemur and I have bailed on the whole unpleasant spectacle and taken the Eurostar to Paris for the long weekend. I like living in England, I really do, but there are times when it is imperative for a self-respecting Scot to get the hell out of Dodge and, along with the World Cup, this is one of those times. We’re staying in the 8th arrondissement by Parc Monceau, which I think might be the Parisian equivalent of the Upper East Side in New York. Right on the edge of the 17th, it’s leafy and quiet with the grand gates of the park enclosing some really beautiful apartment buildings. Longstanding Lemur friends J and D are lucky enough to live here with their kids, and are kindly allowing us to take refuge in this bastion of republicanism from the onslaught of royal media.
We wandered out into the neighbourhood for something to eat last night, and, at our hosts’ recommendation, stopped off at Rimal Lebanese restaurant. This is probably going to be something of a theme, I’ll warn you: I like French food just fine and I’m sure we’ll eat some of it while we’re here but honestly I often find it to be too heavy, meaty, and a teensy bit dull. I know, I know, this is a terrible thing for a foodie to say, but one of the things I like best about eating in Paris is the non-French food. (Note: this does not apply to the world of baked goods, in which, I think it’s clear, French have got it entirely right.) anyway, our ears perked up when J and D mentioned a Lebanese place, and they weren’t wrong. Rimal is a popular local joint with a cafe/takeout on one side of the road and a slightly more formal restaurant on the other. Both were crowded but we opted for the restaurant as we wanted to try the mezze.
Rejecting the house selection of mezze, we opted to choose our own, as there were a few dishes I knew I had to have. Since the house selection was ten plates, we went for eight, as we figured we weren’t hugely hungry, and it’s just as well we did as the portions were generous. Fattouche was exactly as you’d want it to be, a light and tasty salad full of fresh vegetables and crispy pita bread.
Foul moudamas were probably the most dramatic ratio of looks to taste – an unassuming bowl of beans, it fairly sparked with garlic and spices.
Probably my favourite Lebanese dish is mouhammara. I first ate this amazing spread at the a little hole in the wall Middle Eastern takeout called Waterfall Cafe in Brooklyn that a friend lived upstairs from. We used to call it ‘red stuff’ and ate it by the bucketload. It’s made of walnuts, pomegranate molasses, chilies and some spices I can never quite identify and it’s utterly addictive. I’ve made my own based on a recipe from the New York Times that’s very nice but not quite right. This version was just perfect, warm and spicy.
There were also some delicious meat dishes, including these cooked lamb kibbe, which were perfectly juicy, with none of the dryness that often mars these little morsels. The square pastries at the top are safiha, filled with lamb, tomatoes and pine nuts, and there were also arayess, leaves of grilled flatbread stuffed with ground lamb, which Mr Lemur was mildly obsessed by.
Today, it’s out into Paris to find some more deliciousness – and to keep as far as possible from any mention of bloody Wills and Kate.