November 8, 2008

Lunch in the Loft

A little over a month ago, I received an email message from someone who identified herself only as “Miss Lunch.” Apparently she’d found out from reading this blog that we live in Paris and like good food, so she wanted to let us know about her new project Lunch in the Loft and invite us to dine there.

So I visited her Web site. The basic idea was clear enough: Miss Lunch prepares rather elaborate six-course lunches (including paired wines, naturally) in her Paris apartment three days a week, and invites up to eight people to enjoy the meal for a suggested donation of 45 euros each. So it’s more or less an underground restaurant in the same vein as Hidden Kitchen (about which see my earlier post). That’s a familiar concept, but I was surprised that neither I nor my foodie blogger friends had heard of this place before—that gave me pause. Without any first-hand recommendations and with very little biographical information to go on, I had no idea what I’d be getting myself into.

But, after all, I’m here to have interesting experiences, so I decided to take a leap of faith. Morgen and I made reservations and had lunch in the loft this past Sunday.

A couple of days beforehand, Miss Lunch sent us directions to her place and a link to a review that had just been posted at Rosa Jackson’s Edible Adventures. I was very glad for the additional context, a good recommendation, and a photo to reassure me that I hadn’t signed up for something altogether crazy. But one comment in Rosa’s post troubled me: the conversation at the table when she’d visited had been entirely in French. Well, our French is still terrible (though we’re taking lessons now!), and even in English, small talk with strangers isn’t my forte. I emailed Miss Lunch to ask if there’d be any other English speakers, and she said yes, a Canadian couple would be there. So at least we’d have someone to talk to.

We arrived at the appointed time and were welcomed by Claude (“Miss Lunch”), who speaks excellent English and French, and her partner Eric, who spoke to us only in French. Their apartment is indeed a loft (unusual here in Paris), and the spacious room was filled with Claude’s paintings—some still in progress. (You can see some examples on her Web site.) We quickly made the acquaintance of the other guests, including Philippe and Alicia from Montréal and a couple of other bilingual expats, and, drinks in hand, settled down for the meal.

The food, which was served over a leisurely period of about three hours, was fantastic—every bit as good as I’d expect at a high-end restaurant. The dishes were creative, delicious, and beautifully presented. Naturally, the menu changes with the season, all the ingredients are fresh, and everything is made from scratch. As Rosa Jackson pointed out, what’s most amazing is that Claude manages to pull this off in a small, apartment-sized kitchen with almost no counter space.

One of the desserts was a baklava, and as there was a lot left over, Claude brought the pan to the table after lunch so that we could munch while we chatted. I ate entirely too much, but it was mighty fine baklava. (Well, I drank entirely too much too, but it was mighty fine wine.)

Claude told me that she’d only been doing this for six weeks (with lunches usually served every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday) but that she plans to continue for at least a year. I’m sure we’ll be back to taste the menus of other seasons. My only disappointment is that I wasn’t able to spend more time talking to our hostess, since she was busy single-handedly making the food. Hopefully we’ll have other chances to chat in the future.

If you like good food and unusual experiences, Lunch in the Loft is well worth a visit. The food is top-notch, the atmosphere is inviting, and Claude and Eric are delightful people. The 45-euro price may seem expensive as lunches go, but it’s a bargain for what you get—not the least of which is the chance to meet interesting new people. But just one tip: unlike Hidden Kitchen, which tends to draw English-speaking people, Lunch in the Loft seems to be more oriented toward those comfortable speaking French. So your French skills (like mine) aren’t quite up to making polite random conversation for several hours, you might want to check with Claude to see if she can schedule you for a lunch when other English-speaking folk are likely to be there.

3 Responses to “Lunch in the Loft”

  1. alisa said:

    sounds wonderful. Next time we are up in Paris we will plan ahead and try and get a reservation. Very unique and creative. I would love to take cooking classes, but can’t find any down here – well that aren’t 80-100 euros for 1 day!

  2. Steve Attack said:

    It’s only been eight months, but we are concerned. Everything OK? How is life in gay Paree?

  3. Joe Kissell said:

    @Steve Yes, everything’s OK – thanks for asking! In a nutshell, we’ve been too busy living life to document it. In particular, I’ve spent most of the last 8 months writing an 800+ page book (on Mac security), rarely seeing the light of day. That’s just about done, though, thankfully, so I’m hopeful that before too many more months have passed, we’ll have a bit of free time and brain space we can use to share some of our Paris experiences!