LE COMTE DRACULA is a café
(in the Parisian sense - a place where coffee and unexceptional beers are served) which sets
out to celebrate the origins
both historical and folkloric of the original Dracula, Vlad Tepes.
(apparently a real Rumanian) has attempted to pay hommage to his glorious ancestor by modifying
the interior of what was obviously once a pretty undistinguished neighborhood watering-hole. A
friendly, welcoming type, he must have spent long months scouring junk shops and jumble sales to
amass the collection of objects, some more kitsch than others, which he displays, rather
haphazardly, in every nook and cranny of his café.
Here may be found, among other
oddments, large plasticky paintings representing Transylvania, masks with intriguingly long noses,
a statue of the Count (?) immortalised in plaster, a whole regiment of cheap resin statuettes
and several strategically-placed fake spider's webs, as well as photos of Bela Lugosi and
some small posters recalling the heyday of Hammer Films. When I suggested to our host that
he might display one or two photos of the great Barbara (Steele), he retorted:"Yes...but
where would I put them?" And indeed, there isn't a scrap of space for anything new.
The inside is lit by several colored projectors, augmented by small candles
inside little orange plastic containers on each table. On a Saturday night the
clientele consisted of myself, my friend Michel, four people trying out the
'Dracula house wine' (actually red wine from the Bordeaux region of France),and a couple of local whores in their declining years.
And so on to the menu. For
75 frances one is offered the choice of an entrée and a main course, or a main course and a
dessert. It is also possible to taste the 'Dracula cocktail', a Bloody Mary enlivened by a
splash of gin. Quite a generous splash at that. And not bad at all.
As an entrée
we recommend Tarama, Rumanian-style. A dish more usually associated with Greek restaurants,
the creamy mashed fish eggs came with slices of tomato and onion served on a bed of crisp
green lettuce. Verdict: fresh and excellent. It is also possible to order various fish
dishes considerably more attractively priced than in equivalent Russian restaurants in
Paris, which are notorious for their exaggerated prices.
The only dish of authentic
Rumanian origin on the menu is Mittei Sauce Dracula. This turned out to be a mixture
of chopped beef and pork, rolled into sausage shapes and heavily spiced while cooking. A
portion consists of three pieces of rolled meat served with sauce and French fries. Let's
be honest, this is not an elegant dish or an example of haute cusine. It is however
tasty, plentiful and filling. In other words, an example of a fairly ordinary oriental cuisine.
The desserts was unsurprising and of the kind found in supermarkets: tarts, chocolate
mousse, commercial ice-cream. I am difficult to please where food is concerned it is true, but
then after all I am French!
To sum up: one can eat here fairly cheaply,
everything is of an acceptable standard and the atmosphere is pleasingly folkloric. The owner
has made a stab at turning a very ordinary café into something a little more original - with
some success - with the meagre means at his disposal. The result is interesting and maybe more.
Even if you are a High Goth, or even a High Society Goth (if there is such a thing!), it's still worth
your time to pay a visit. (A word of caution: this is in the 12eme arrondissement, an
area with some cut-throat potential, so watch your step and don't wander off the main streets.)
(Lord Heathcliff, translated by Michel Parry.)
LE GOUT DU NOIR
'The Taste of Darkness' is Paris restaurant where you eat your meal in total darkness. On arrival the waiters (some blind!) guide you to a communal table where you eat a set meal. Once the meal has started, no one else is allowed in so that no light enters the room. Owner Michel Reilhac says: "It gives people a chance to really taste their food. When there is nothing to look at, you concentrate much more on the flavors. Many find it easier to push food onto their fork with a chunk of bread than use their knife. Either way, most customers leave with food all over them." Just food?
ELSWHERE IN FRANCE
Halloween Restaurant, Lille. Apparently nothing to do with
the one in Brussels.