27 March 2012
The classic Parisian defense of chaotic or miserable or under-exploited establishments insists that such places should be cherished for their flaws, since they represent the Paris of bygone age. And there are indeed more than a few restaurants - Le Petit Vendôme ! Le Rubis ! etc. - that truly merit such sentimentalism. But in my experience the Time Capsule Defense is in most cases a strange psychological sleight-of-hand by which restaurant patrons excuse, in addition to the unmistakeable avarice or viciousness or laziness in a restaurant's service, also themselves, for failing to voice any protest.
Eyes wander up from hideous plates to rest more comfortably on ancient vermouth ads and rustic farm equipment adorning the wall. A guest in this sort of restaurant abandons the idea of deriving culinary-aesthetic satisfaction or even sustenance from a meal, and instead considers the whole experience a sort of living museum, of chiefly historical or sociological interest.
"I've been to this museum before!" is what I usually shout in such situations, and skedaddle. If after a concert recently it was actually me who led a few friends to wine bar throwback Aux Tonneaux des Halles, it was only because it was a thronged Saturday night and we had no other choice, and because Aux Tonneaux remains distinguished, among weird Time Capsule Restaurants, for its superb natural wine list.