During a recent trip to France, we were at one of our factories for meetings and some refresher trainings. For lunch one day, they took us to a place that looked promising from the outside - a place called Le Grand Buffet du 1810. It's part of another more upscale restaurant by the name of Les Vieilles Pierres - the "old building" in French - a dance club by the name of Club 1810, and a wine bar simply called The Cave. As the name of the buffet implies, the building dates back to 1810, over 200 years ago.
A couple of our guys had been there before for lunch on previous visits to the factory. We were told that the restaurants changed hands in 2015 keeping everything pretty much the same as it's been for a number of years. It was a favorite place for our factory to take people - as in "a good value". It was €22 euros - or $25 dollars - a person for wine, lunch and a dessert. Not quite a cheap lunch as compared to the U.S., but not too bad for French standards. The lunch buffet is served Monday through Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m and ends at 3 p.m. - or 15:00 as the French call 3:00 p.m.
The interior of the place was a mix of old world brick walls and modern lighting and decor. The low-slung ceiling gave it sort of a cozy feeling to the place. My seven colleagues were joined by a number of people from our factory's office staff. There's a bar in the room and a number of bottles of wine were ordered for our lunch.
(As you can probably tell, I'm really trying to put my best face toward this place. I'm not big on buffets and I know it was quick and inexpensive - to our hosts standards. I tried my best to go along with the flow.)
The menu at Le Grand Buffet du 1810 changes on a daily basis. They have one side that is basically cheese, breads, veggies and salads. It was pretty picked over by the time we had gotten there and they didn't appear to be bringing out a lot of things to replenish that part of the buffet.
Now, I've gotten sick on nearly all of my previous visits to France - some sort of a stomach thing. I made sure that I wouldn't get sick this time by getting a prescription for Xifaxin. So far on this trip, the Xifaxin had done its job, but I was careful. I tried to stay away from dairy - especially milk, which I love. And I tried to stay away from rich foods - like duck that got me sick last time - and seafood - which got me sick a few years ago. (I've had trouble with salmon ever since.) So, my diet in France was pretty bland.
I had some bread - French baked bread is the best in the world - and I took some of the lasagna, and I took some of the veal stroganoff. Both were, well, not good. At least I didn't think so. Some of my colleagues thought their lunch was fine, but I guess it's just my aversion to most buffets that put me in the mood to not like much - if anything - of what they had out that day. I did enjoy the bread, though. And the wine. Immensely...
So, OK - I've had a number of meals in France over the years. A number of those have been some of the most memorable meals I've had in my life. But this meal at Le Grand Buffet du 1810 was nowhere close to the level of any good meal I've had in France. To me, it just wasn't all that great. It may have been the worst meal I've ever had in all my visits to France. Given the number of good to great bistros in any city in the country, I don't know why anyone would want to visit a buffet.