A feel-good evening and a tough next day

Drinks with L. at Harry’s Bar yesterday. Hadn’t been there in six years, with L. that time too. You got to hand it to Harry’s, it never changes. It’s a Paris slice of Pax Americana, eternally 1950s but never outdated, a businessman’s “finally out of the foreign city, bartender give me a…” kind of place. The bartender executes: efficient, nonchalant, with or without a sense of humor, it’s hard to tell.

L. took the open stool; she ran Paris’s 20K race the day before. We ordered mojitos, possibly because that’s what we had the last time we came. We watched the bartender mash the mint. The current numbers of their ongoing straw poll was drawn on the mirror: Obama-Biden 69, McCain-Palin 40. (Harry’s poll picked Kerry in 2004 but Bush in 2000.) They sell hotdogs here.

Harry’s Bar is like an opium den but with stiff, pricey drinks. It’s saloon doors and wood, mirror, framed portrait, bottle-and-glass décor exude both community and loneliness. You can make bar friends at Harry’s, an evening’s worth, possibly more. You can while away a few hours. If I were a business traveler staying in the area I would come here then tell people back home that I don’t really get much time to see Paris when I travel. And it would be true.

Do ask, do tell, that’s the policy of my relationship with L., but since is a blog not a diary mums the word. We were in no rush to leave our stools (after 30 minutes I’d snagged one, too) yet decided that having a second mojito wasn’t a good idea.

We went to Gallopin for dinner. Gallopin is behind the stock market, and there’s no problem getting a table at a handsome restaurant by the stock market these days. Gallopin, which opened in 1876, is one of the few historical brasseries that remains in private, non-group hands. The waiter treated us with slow, gentle consideration as though either he or we were in an asylum. L. had a delicious, tender lamb served with potato-something-or-other. I had a thick filet of beef—satisfying and done just as I’d ordered, but less tasty than the lamb—served with string beans, fries, and a béarnaise sauce. I’m not into béarnaise, but L. took a spoonful. A bit of wine: Saint Estephe, a merlot-heavy blend from the northern end of the Bordeaux region’s Médoc vineyards. For dessert in this classic, comfortable, well-heeled, very Parisian brasserie, L. couldn’t resist ordering the classic French baba, a rum-soaked sponge cake. For me, a sablé (a sweet and buttery biscuit) topped with un-seasonal strawberries and whipped cream. Polished fine brasserie fare.

L. isn’t feeling well today. She says it had something to do with her baba and my béarnaise yesterday, but I think it was because she was already sick and had nevertheless run Paris’s 20K race the day before.

Harry’s New York Bar, aka Harry’s Bar, 5 rue Daunou, 2nd arrondissement. Metro: Opera. Open daily 10am-4am.

Gallopin. 40 rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 2nd arrondissement. Metro: Bourse. Open daily noon to midnight.

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