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Under Glass On The Champs-Elysées

One can get awfully lazy living in the Marais. We get so used to having so much at our doorsteps that sometimes we forget that there are other parts of the city to explore and enjoy. That’s why when Al Stewart (How to Earn a Living in France guru of Business Mentors, Inc.) said, “You know, we don’t have to stay in the neighborhood for a Sunday lunch,” I jumped at the chance to head up to the Champs-Elysées in spite of the cold and rain (where they are preparing for Wednesday’s Bastille Day parade) to check out the latest important addition — Le Drugstore Publicis.

I remember as a tourist many years ago, Le Drugstore was the “brassiest” brasserie on the Champs-Elysées with two sister locations; one further down at Rond-Point and the other on boulevard Saint-Germain next to Brasserie Lipp. When it first opened in 1958 by founder Marcel Bleunstein-Blanchet, the revolutionary concept included assembling a variety of boutiques and restaurants under one roof. It was always an entertaining place to go — perusing the gourmet goodies in the Hediard boutique, checking the latest gossipy headlines on Paris Match at the magazine stand, fantasizing about purchasing an elegant Montbanc fountain pen (like all the French businessmen use) and having a café crème at a table next to the window so you could watch the strollers along the Champs-Elysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.

Then a few years ago it closed for renovation. An architect friend from Los Angeles had won the contract with his partner to design the new facility and hearing the inside scoop on how the French team of designers and American teams culturally clashed was fascinating… design vs. function, esthetics vs. practicality. Hmm? Sound familiar?

After two years of “travaux,” the spanking new very contemporary glass version opened in February of this year. There was much hullabaloo in the press (why not? Publicis is the fourth largest communications firm in the world, the largest in Europe and third in the United States!), and probably for that reason, I didn’t run to be the first visitor.

Yesterday’s findings were fascinating. While the architecture is clearly drastically different and quite stunning, the concept remains the same. The boutiques are lovely, but less inviting than I remember them being, and I can’t say they were teeming with shoppers. A seat on the “terrasse” under the glass roof with a perfect view of the Champs-Elysées was delightful. The menu, although very trendy in design and type style, is still a basic brasserie menu with the usual ‘omelette,’ ‘steack tartare’ and ‘croque monsieur.’ Prices are amazingly reasonable considering (an omelet is 6 euros) and the food is excellent.

It was very surprising that we were surrounded not by tourists, but by the French themselves and we questioned if perhaps the architecture wasn’t just a tad bit too daunting and out of the traditional image of a Paris brasserie for the average tourist.

One hitch on the new design is evident at the toilets (users beware). If you don’t lock the door, it won’t become ‘opaque’ and everyone else in the room will be able to see everything you’re doing, as I did of the woman and her young child who entered before me (unknowing, of course!). You can see out from within the cubicle as well, so the whole experience is unnerving.

Personally, I prefer to take my ‘business’ elsewhere.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. We are pleased to welcome to the Living and Investing in France Conference this coming September 10 – 12 in Washington, DC, the Director of the Alliance Française of Washington, DC (http://www.francedc.org/), Laurent Mellier, who will speak at the opening on Learning the Language.

P.P.S. See you tomorrow afternoon at Parler Paris Après Midi when we have a chance to chat and exchange experiences…3 p.m. at La Pierre de Marais. For details, visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for all the details.

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