Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Grand Véfour

Le Grand Véfour by Guy Martin is large, flashy, and overwhelming cookbook that documents the current state of a historic restaurant: Le Grand Véfour. The restaurant is located in the Palais Royal in Paris, and preserves its historic interior, while serving a very modern style of food. 

For the photo above, I placed a paper clip on the upper left-hand corner to give you an idea of the massive size of this book. It looks expensive, but in fact was one of those bargains that appear on from time to time, and I went for it -- $20! I love to read about Paris and its restaurants of distinction, though I definitely could not afford to eat at this one.

A historic drawing of the gardens of the Palais Royal, which was built in the 18th century, and has housed famous
restaurants ever since. The Grand Véfour is close to 200 years old, though there have been interruptions in its existence.
This large and dramatically illustrated book begins with a history of the restaurant, including photos and drawings of the exterior (that is, the gardens of the Palais Royal) and the grand and historic interiors of the restaurant. It includes sketches by Jean Cocteau, Picasso, and other famous artists who ate there, and reminiscences of writers and other famous patrons.

The first scene of Woody Allen's film Midnight in Paris takes place in
the Grand Véfour! This image is not in the book.
Following this colorful history, author Guy Martin offers an impressive collection of recipes. Martin has been chef of this Michelin 3-star restaurant for a number of years, and he's known for his culinary ability as well as for the historic and decorative features of the restaurant. Although the preparations are complex and require quite specific, expensive, and hard-to-find ingredients, I think it would be possible to follow them -- with a lot of patience! 

A photo illustrating one of the unbelievable recipes: "Barbary duckling breast,
crispy skin, fig confit, red kuri squash gnocchi, beet-blackcurrant jus." Five separate
preparations plus a spice mix are given. Time estimate: 2 hours. I suspect that's unrealistic!
Maybe this would be almost possible for a home cook: for one thing, it doesn't include fois gras.
A more modest -- and much more useful cookbook:
La Cuisine by Raymon Oliver, who was the chef
of the Grand Véfour in the mid-20th century.

Collette on her balcony at the Palais Royal, 1941. Raymond Oliver
often brought her favorite foods to her, and stopped by to reminisce.
This month is almost over, and many bloggers are wrapping up a very amusing blog event called Paris in July, hosted by the blog Thyme for Tea. I'm happy to offer this post about the Palais Royal: a favorite spot for a Paris aficionado. I've visited there often.

The book I reviewed yesterday, Paris à Table 1846 mentioned the restaurants then in the Palais Royal often, including Le Grand Véfour and an earlier restaurant called simply Véfour. Many films have been made in the gardens and interiors of this monument -- my favorite of them is Charade with Audrey Hepburn, with Midnight in Paris coming in second, maybe.

I hope to do a wrap-up post on Paris by the end of July.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Big, beautiful cookbooks with lots of impossible recipes are one of the things I love about this world. Why? It reminds me that there are many things I know nothing about yet. I like that.

I'll look for your wrap-up post.

Debra Eliotseats said...

Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite quirky films. I had no idea that scene was filmed there. Great information and history as always, Mae.

Pam said...

Oh, I loved Paris, with the exception that I thought it was kind of a dirty city, but so much history, great architecture and food. So now I have to look for this nice book. I'm going to have to start counting all the books I've read/bought because of your reviews. :-)
I do remember the restaurant from the movie that I've watched more than once.
Great photo of Collette, and a great movie made from her novella! Interesting post as ever!
I'm back to blogging, couldn't stay away, but had a nice break! :-)

French Ethereal said...

Okay, since moving into this big 41' fifth-wheel travel trailer I've bought about 20 books... I wish I had room for more cookbooks! Will try and pin your books to bring some other French cookbook readers over. :) It has been a pleasure to be part of the Paris in July posts with you!

Thanks for all the recommendations,
Barb :)

Tamara said...

Mae, I didn't know there was a restaurant in the Palais Royal open to public. One fancy restaurant I have been to was le train bleu at le gare de lyon. Thanks for introducing this chef and his place to us.

Jeanie said...

That's a seriously huge book. And a gorgeous one, I must say. How elegant it would be to eat there. Somehow I don't see it in my cards... sigh...

France said...

Hello Mae! I found your blog when researching Le Grand Vefour. I am looking to purchase the cookbook. Do you know where I can request it? It doesn’t seem to be available. I’d like to browse the recipes as well. Do you know where I can find them? My sister was recently in Paris and stopped into the Le Grand Vefour but they didn’t have the cookbook.

Thank you.

~~France Normandeau
Phone-631-949-3012. Also, available on WhatsApp

Mae Travels said...

Although still has a page for this book, there seem to be no copies available anywhere but eBay. I guess they sold the last ones in 2018.