The Train Bleu restaurant is a Paris icon. It’s visually phenomenal, the dining experience is off the charts, and it makes for a fantastic special occasion in Paris. And I finally can confirm all this because, after seven years of wanting to visit, I finally ate there.
We booked a table for lunch as part of our 24-hour exploration of the 12th arrondissement. And, sensing that you readers might want to see it too, we brought our photographer Augusta Sagnelli who took all the photos you’re about to see. Here comes the full story of our visit.
But first… A Brief History of Le Train Bleu
The restaurant, which is located in the Gare de Lyon station, was designed by French architect Marius Toudoire and opened in 1901. The Belle Époque eatery played host to the elite and wealthy for a buffet meal before their train ride to the French Riviera. It was first known as the Gare de Lyon buffet, but was renamed Le Train Bleu in 1963, in tribute to the legendary train from the old “Paris-Ventimiglia” line.
Nowadays, the restaurant says it’s a place where you can “forget the hustle and bustle of the modern world”. This was certainly the case for us; we ended up spending almost three hours for lunch.
Arriving at Le Train Bleu
Reservations are essential at this restaurant. We were lucky to snag a lunch spot, at the last minute, via the official Train Bleu website. After we passed through the bustling Gare de Lyon station, our entrance to the restaurant was a little marred by the renovation work on the front steps, meaning we missed the grand entrance enjoyed by visitors for the past 120 years.
But once we stepped inside, all that was forgotten. The interior was astonishing. Gold, gold everywhere. Grand chandeliers, intricate panelling, statuettes on the ceiling. I felt like I had been shot back in time to a French palace. If Louis the 16th had brushed past me I wouldn’t have thought twice.
The walls featured romantic paintings of sun-drenched riviera scenes, almost like windows to the destination that diners were set to explore.
A waiter seated us in a booth with a view over the modern world outside, which offered an incredible contrast to our temporary gilded reality. You can imagine which way I preferred to look.
I learned that you need to make a lunch or dinner reservation to get these seats, if you’re only there for a drink, you’ll be seated in a much simpler hallway room and you’ll miss the best bits.
We ordered a glass of pinot noir and then it was full steam ahead to the food!
What’s on the menu: Entrées
The waiters served complimentary hors-d’œuvre and bread as a prelude to the entrées, which, as you can imagine, stopped us in our tracks. Special shoutout to the green asparagus from Provence with herb vinaigrette, Nyons olives and lemon confit, and a baby leaf salad that the menu said was ‘dressed to our taste’.
What’s on the menu: Main Courses
For the main course, all four in our group got meals that could only be described as first class.
This included Chef Michel Rostang’s lobster macaroni gratin and a Normandy beef sirloin steak with baked potatoes à la boulangère and girolle mushroom jus.
I had a tunnel vision for the regional French roast leg of lamb, served at the table from the carving trolley, together with the chef’s special potato gratin dauphinois.
You can hear more of our thoughts on the experience during this week’s podcast episode (we recorded part of it at the table). But in short: every dish was a runaway success.
What’s on the menu: Desserts
We were all aboard for the the Crepes Suzette for dessert, which was flambéed with Grand Marnier. The waiter prepared it by the table (see below) in a spectacular eyebrow-singe of a show.
We also tried the dessert of the day, which was an elegantly prepared chocolate profiterole.
This is a fancy place, so save it for a special occasion. Starters range from €24-€35, main courses €35-€49. Desserts are all €18 each The restaurant offers the same menu for lunch and dinner, at the same price. You can order a la carte or from one of the two set menus that cost 45 and 69 euros respectively, drinks not included. Take a look at the menu on the official site here.
One last look around
Before we left we made sure to stroll the corridors to truly soak up everything on offer. Be careful if you’re standing in the middle of the room taking photos, as waiters zoom back and forth and this is the last place you want to collide with a tray of flaming crepes.
After our mini tour, we were back on track for the addition, s’il vous plait.
Practical details: How to get to Le Train Bleu?
Le Train Bleu is located within the Gare de Lyon station. There are signs in the station leading to the restaurant, or you can simply search for the gilded staircase (which might be covered for renovations). Address: Pl. Louis-Armand, 75012. If you want the full experience, book a lunch, followed by a one-way train ticket to the French Riviera.
Metro: Line 1 & 14, RER A: Gare de Lyon
Bus: 24, 29, 87, 77, 72, 91
The Earful Tower podcast episode
Here’s the podcast episode on the 12th district of Paris, featuring me and my wife Lina discussing our findings, and including a table talk at Le Train Bleu. At the end we share our final ranking on the district out of 100.
Video guide to the 12th arrondissement
Here’s our visit, in video format, from our YouTube channel, and featuring the Train Bleu restaurant. We’ll be making one of these travel vlogs every week, so be sure to subscribe (you can do it in one click via this link).
Bonus: Le Train Bleu on the big screen
Of course, a famous place like Le Train Bleu hasn’t escaped the attention of the big screen. Here are a few scenes you may recognize. And warning: The second clip, from the French film Nikita, features a very violent scene (which is pivotal to the plot).
That will do for now! A big thanks to Augusta Sagnelli for the photos, Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting, and to the Patreon members who make all this possible (including this restaurant visit!). Join them here or check this out: a member’s only page on this very website. Watch this space, membership is about to get even better.
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