John Lichfield: Our Man In Paris

Revealed at last: how to make the French queue

Share

The best kept secret in Paris has been unveiled. Allegedly.

We speak not of the codes to the French nuclear deterrent. Nor of the true state of the Sarkozy marriage. We speak of the recipe for a steak sauce. This is a magical recipe, a recipe capable of making Parisians do something which Parisians usually refuse to do. To form an orderly queue.

For almost half a century, Parisians and tourists, rain or shine, summer or winter, lunch or dinner, have been queuing for tables at a restaurant which offers only one choice of main dish: steak and chips.

The secret of the success of the Relais de Venise, or "L'Entrecote" as it is sometimes known, is the sauce served with the steak. This is a sauce the colour of pea soup, which is at once sharp and strangely gentle, tangy and sweet.

The recipe for this sauce is a family secret which has remained secret for 48 years.

Until now. In a piece of daring investigative journalism, the Le Monde restaurant critic, Jean-Claude Ribaut, has subjected the sauce to chemical and culinary analysis. He claims to have penetrated the secret of Le Relais de Venise (271, Boulevard Pereire, at Porte Maillot in the 17th arrondissement) at last.

What is the magic ingredient which makes people queue in the rain outside a restaurant which has only one main dish and takes no reservations? The answer he says is "Chicken livers".

The sauce at the Relais de Venise - which now has a franchise in London - is composed, he says, of chicken livers, thyme, thyme flowers, white mustard, single cream, butter, water, salt and pepper. Unlike most French sauces, there are no eggs, no flour, no vegetables. M. Ribault says the secret of the sauce lies partly in how you make it. Dexterity is needed. And practice. (Details below). I called Hélène Godillot, the owner of Le Relais de Venise. It was her father, Paul Gineste de Saurs, who started the restaurant in 1959. He took over a defunct Italian restaurant and quite liked the Gondola scenes painted on the walls. He decided to keep them. Hence the name: Le Relais de Venise (The Venice Inn).

The Gondolas are still there (replicated in the restaurant in London, which opened in 2005). The sauce introduced by Mme Godillot's father is still there (also faithfully replicated in London). Is Mme Godillot not furious that her family secret has been exposed?

"All I will say to you is 'try it'," Mme Godillot told me politely. "Just try the recipe that they give in Le Monde. I defy anyone to make our sauce with that recipe. I don't know where he gets that information. It has no relation to our sauce. Our secret remains intact."

Here, then, for what it is worth, is Le Monde's version of the Relais de Venise steak sauce. No quantities are given. You just have to guess or experiment.

"Whiten the chicken livers with fresh thyme and then let them darken slightly. On a gentle heat, reduce the single cream with white Dijon mustard and flavour with fresh thyme flowers. Put the chicken livers in a mixer and then blend them through a chinois (conical strainer) into the cream and mustard."

"When the sauce thickens, add butter and a little water and salt and pepper."

If you get it right, a queue will form outside your kitchen.

* A mysterious and disturbing incident occurred the other day at the Paris offices of the BBC (also home of The Independent).

A man in a trenchcoat was lurking on the stairs. He seemed uncertain why he was there. When the door was left ajar for a moment, he blocked it with his foot and shouted: "Vive, Gordon Brown" (pronounced in French "broon").

The French Brownite was later identified as Jean-François Probst, 58, former spin-doctor to President Jacques Chirac.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Engineer - Smart Home / IoT Devices

£32500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Electronic Engineer is requi...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Solicitor - Leicester

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: LEICESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL SOLICITOR- An o...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 1st Line

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support organisation focuses on ...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst (Windows, Active Directory) - London £26k

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Support Analyst / IT Support Analys...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Old London Bridge; how to fight UKIP; and wolves

John Rentoul
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible