Posted by: Chris Wright | April 9, 2008

Le Rosbif

Billeted in le Mercure hotel in Paris la Defence, I arrived late and hungry on Sunday evening, bitterly regretting not taking the Eurostar after suffering a journey of hallucinatory severity – the dark forces of Easy Jet, French immigration and apocolyptic weather combining to change my normally gentle disposition to something altogether darker and more forbidding.

Electing to eat in the hotel, my expectations were low – and duly met. But lower still was the experience of the waitress at the hands of five english women seated at a neighbouring table. At least one of these women would have been called Ivy, another Hilda – they hailed from Lancashire by accent and a byegone age by demeanour.

Food was treated as if a plate of poison had been produced – frenzied whispering broke out at the completion of the order before one seized a fork and gave a glass an almighty clout – horrified at the prospect of an outbreak of the famous english hooliganism the waitress hurried over – “Ketchup! Vinegar! Whoever heard of chips without vinegar?”

“Oui Madame”

“Don’t ‘we’ me – fetch the bloody vinegar and look sharp…’

Vinegar was duly produced – horror of horrors in a dainty bowl with a spoon. Passed around the group, each one breathing in the acrid fumes with porcine snout – vinegar was in the end declared to be vinegar and not mercury or worse, it was applied unsparingly and with relish to the chips.

The coup de grace was the coffee “Cafe Olay” was produced to universal approval – until they spied on my table a superlative cappuccino, accompanied by lavish amounts of meringue and biscuits, topped with an almighty tower of whipped cream, sprinkled with chocolate. Ogreish fingers were pointed, waitress summonsed – explanations offered and loudly rejected, eventually in appeasement a plate of biscuits was produced and devoured.

At last the bill – as one notebooks and pencils were produced, complex calculations that made my head spin were debated and proofs proven – finally they announced themselves satisfied – waitress summoned, as one they chorused “Tray Bon” and left.

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