It’s not every mealtime you get to splash gravy over Carla Bruni’s signature, or indeed analyse the autographs of those in the midst of an international sex scandal (we’re talking DSK and Anne Sinclair). But at Les Gourmets des Ternes the signature-covered tablecloths are an ode to every celebrity who has ever dined here (regardless of political tendencies, rumours, convictions or acquittals). The toilets too are decorated in photos showing restaurant owner, Francis Marie, in toothy stances alongside stars like Sharon Stone and chef Alain Ducasse; and on the website, you’ll even find a letter from Nicolas Sarkozy, thanking Marie for the wine he sent. You’ve got it - you’re in an establishment that loves to feed power (give yourself an air of authority and they might even take your picture). But what does it feed it with?
Crammed onto our table like sardines (next to a large group of ‘city’ boys from London), our meal began with an excellent selection of patés that we chopped out of giant pots ourselves, before the nonchalant waitress (we weren’t famous enough for a smile) whisked them onto the next table. Next came a succulent steak, peppered with hunks of moelle (marrowbone) with chunky crystals of salt; and a perfectly cooked grenadin (chunky medallion) of veal – pink and tender in a creamy mushroom sauce. Dessert wise, the classic bistro apple tart was buttery with just enough crunch left in the apples to contrast with the soft pastry. And the rum baba was wonderfully light and fluffy before we doused it ourselves in too much sugar syrup, rum and crème fraiche.
Finally, coffee came with something even cheesier than Les Gourmet’s runny camembert (which incidentally we’d had no room for) - a little square of chocolate wrapped in a photo of Francis Marie, his smile as white as his shirt - a reminder that no matter how famous you are, the only enduring star in the restaurant is him!