The Café de Paris is something of a Genevois institution and warrants a visit. The salon is all tightly packed bistro tables, wood paneling, and mirrors with white-shirted, short-tempered waiters squeezing hither and thither, bubbling platters held aloft. It’s big on atmosphere.
The menu of the Café de Paris is somewhat one dimensional; in fact, it is renowned for it. To paraphrase Henry Ford, "You can have any dish you’d like just so long as its steak". Or, to be properly French about it, entrecote avec les pommes frites et la salade verte. That’s it; no argument. That’s your lot.
I exaggerate slightly; there are some choices to be had at the Café de Paris – you can choose just how bleu you want your entrecote for a start. Between the eight of us, our steaks covered the full range, from those that had had a mere nodding acquaintance with a grill (that may or may not have been lit) to the Blonde’s bien cuit (well done). Be warned, a well-done steak in the Café de Paris (and across much of France) would barely rate as medium elsewhere. The Blonde had to hold hers face down in the herb butter until it stopped kicking, with some regret. She was in the early stages of a very cautious, English-style pregnancy at the time, the sort that frowns on pretty much any foodstuff with any taste. Seeing us that evening, her doctor would have had conniptions, while pregnant French women wondered what the fuss is about, downing their medicinal red wine and tucking in to the brie.
The entrecote arrived in some style and sat to be admired while the herb-and-butter sauce bubbled around them. Plates were piled high with crisp frites and salad before the Savouring Of The Meat began in earnest. As you would hope from a restaurant that only does one dish, that dish is pretty special. The steak is as tender as tender can be while the sauce…
The butter, herb, and spiced sauce is a "secret recipe" handed down from the wonderfully named Madame Boubier to her daughter, the wife of the Café de Paris’ proprietor in the 1940s. It is artery-clogging, chin-glisteningly good.
The frites and salad keep coming just as long as you’re prepared to harass the slightly fraught waiting staff. For any diner with a shred of decency, which discounted most of the male members of our party, the initial portion is quite enough. A couple of disgraceful gluttons even ploughed on into the assorted mountainous sundaes that are available for dessert. My regret at that decision arrived with the indigestion a couple of hours later.
If you specialize in one dish and one dish alone, you’d better make damn sure it’s good. Madame Boubier’s successors continue to do her proud.