There was once a time when trains were meant for luxury travel. Le Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon harks back to that time. This is not your usual modern, minimilaist restaurant. Every nook and corner is elaborately adorned. Huge chandeliers hang from eleborately painted ceilings while gold embellishments grace the walls and intricately carved windows. This is not just another restaurant at a train station. This is a piece of French history.
It was on 7 April 1901 that the French president inaugurated Le Train Bleu. American food writer M.F.K. Fisher had related her fabulous first experience at the restaurant in her book As They Were. However, when Fisher made her second trip, sometime in the late 1960s, things had changed. The building was due to be pulled down. Fisher convinced Paris correspondent for The New Yorker Janet Flanner to make a trip to the station. Flanner in turn convinced France’s minister of culture, Andre Malraux, to protrect the station and the restaurant as symbols of French heritage. Malraux rose to the occasion and Le Train Bleu is now a designated historical monument.
It is a wonderful place to visit, if only for the surrounding grandeur. The palatial building is indeed a sight for sore eyes. The food at the restaurant, however, lacks the punch. Over the years, there have been complaints about unimpressive food despite the prices. As for the service, that is no great shakes either. Where the restaurant scores is in its architecture, and it takes you back to a different era.