July 24, 2004
I Know What Will Smith Had For Lunch Today


Fried chicken. And how do I know? Well today's brush with fame for us was lunching at the table next to the Smith family at Percy's Place in the Auteuil area of the 16th in Paris.

Percy's place is a charming American restaurant which used to be just around the corner from us before we moved to the 17th. It is still a charming little restaurant, but now we have to make an effort to go there. As I was in the neighborhood today on a fruitless search for my favourite honey supplier (more on that later) the Critic and I met up for lunch. It has long been our contention that Percy makes the best cheesecake in Paris and you really have to check up on these claims from time to time to make sure they are still true, right?

When we arrived, there was already a large party filling the entire right side of the restaurant, and two small tables filled on the left. We took the one remaining table. (This should give you a measure of what I meant by small: 15 people make Percy's feel like it's really hopping!) The party on the right was a lively one, with lots of laughter and chatter. The first sign we had that something special was happening today was when the server brought out Percy's daughter and wife to meet someone at the big table next to us. Clue number two was when I noticed that the guy with his back to us looked suspiciously like Will Smith.

Being a discreet person, I texted the Critic. "Oh." He raised his eyebrows and looked again at the table next to us. "You might be right!"

In the meantime, we had our menus are were making our choices. It's not a very long menu, with just four or five starters and the same number of main dishes. The Critic chose well; he went for the crab cakes, which were very savoury and not at all greasy, served with a kind of cheese and herb sauce. Myself, I was less happy with the starter, which was chicken wings. I guess since I wrote about buffalo wings recently I was really expecting something greasy, gooey and spicy, preferably with blue cheese on the side. What I was served was a salad with little chicken wing bones, each with a bite-sized piece of meat on the end, fried to a crispness. It was very nice and probably a greater testament to Percy's culinary skills, but I wished I had asked in advance what they were like.

For main dishes, the Critic again beat me to the better dish by ordering a jumbalaya, which was moist and full of flavour. I didn't get a taste of the sausage (he eats fast) but they looked very good. I went for a much less exotic choice: meatloaf with mashed potatoes. The meatloaf was very tasty, with pepper flakes and a rich gravy. The potatoes were delicious. In France one doesn't usually get real mashed potatoes. At best, you get a soupy purée of potatoes (often made with olive oil instead of butter) and at worst you get something from a package. These were lovely potatoes. I'm glad they didn't serve more as I would have eaten it all regardless!

And now we come to the part where Percy's really shines: dessert. When we lived around the corner from Percy's we would sometimes order an entire cheesecake to take away if we had dinner guests. It was not cheap (40 euros) but worth every cent. And it still is. Absolutely delicious. It's light without being gelatinous, rich without being cloying and always served with a fruit coulis that sets off the sweet/tart ratio perfectly. From time to time, they do a seasonal variation on the cheesecake. The Critic tried the Tropical Fruit one today and although he said it was very good I must note that he made an unsuccessful attempt to switch with me halfway through them. I tried his and took mine back. Rumour has it the key lime pie and brownies are also very very good, but unfortunately we are slaves to good cheesecake and will never know.

The atmosphere and service are lovely at Percy's too - Percy himself often comes out to chat when things are quiet in the kitchen and the waiter is friendly and always happy to explain the items on the menu. Today, of course, all three staff members were more than happy to chat about the Smith party and the time that Will came for lunch two years ago when in Paris to promote Men in Black II. This time around, he was promoting I, Robot, which comes out in Paris next Wednesday.

And the Smiths themselves? They seemed a charming group: happy, relaxed and enjoying their time in Paris. Which is partly why we refrained from asking if we could take their picture. (The other part is that we are too shy.) But we know they were there and if you don't believe us you can ask Percy!

Percy's Place
15, rue d'Auteuil 75016 PARIS
01 42 88 53 02
Cost: lunch for two, including starters, mains and dessert and bottled water came to 87 euros. Not cheap, but the food was very good and the cheesecake sublime...

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 24, 2004 8:20 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Of course Mrs. Smith is Jada Pinkett, last seen in the Matrix movies as Niobe and according to IMDB, soon appearing in Collateral with Tom Cruise.

My big brush with fame was sitting a table away from Matt Dillon and one of the Lakers at a tiny Italian restaurant in Beverley Hills just after Dillon had broken up with Cameron Diaz.

Posted by barrett on July 24, 2004 at 1:02 PM

Percy asked about her and Will said she was in Australia for some reason. He had a few kids with him though, who were pretty cute. And a big bouncer type who paid the bill...

I think the Critic would be more impressed if you could say you sat next to Cameron Diaz the day after she broke up with him. Now THAT would be an opportunity...!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 24, 2004 at 5:01 PM

How fun! Will Smith and cheesecake too. :)

Posted by ladygoat on July 25, 2004 at 6:14 AM

OK, I admit it -- I've been in love with Will Smith since "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" was on... I am so jealous! But fried chicken in Paris? Yikes. Disappointing.

Two years ago, my boyfriend and I saw Rachael Ray at the Raspail Market taping an episode of "$40 a Day." The show, BTW, was not very good.

Posted by Kelli on July 26, 2004 at 5:59 AM

Well, in his defense he was travelling with a couple of kids and it's not easy to feed US kids in typical French restaurants. Also, the restaurant was not your basic KFC - it was much more of a gourmet fried chicken!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 26, 2004 at 8:13 AM

Yeah, yeah... blame the kids! =) Good point, though. I wouldn't have appreciated Paris and all its great food when I was a kid, either. I'm glad I never went there 'til I was an adult!

Posted by Kelli on July 26, 2004 at 10:33 AM

Yeah, I have a fair amount of experience with English and American kids finding French food too weird (nieces and stepdaughter). When my niece Haley came over at the age of eight about halfway through the trip she complained, "Grandma and Aunt Meg, can I PLEASE have one meal with nothing NEW in it today??" Oops.

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 28, 2004 at 9:29 AM

Well seeing as I'm lucky enough to STILL live in the 16th, I'll certainly give Percy's a try. I just wanted to mention though, that "Les Philosophes" in the Marais (28 rue Vielle de Temple, Paris 4) does a fabulous cheesecake which makes it worth a visit! To be frank the food is otherwise only so-so, but the cheesecake really makes up for it! Now I need to compare... damn, and I'm on a diet!

Posted by Owen on July 29, 2004 at 8:52 AM

I will have to try les Philosophes the next time I visit BHV - thanks for the tip, Owen!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 29, 2004 at 9:21 AM

Percy's cheesecake is truly amazing. I

Posted by Vikki on February 6, 2005 at 10:49 PM

cheese kake sucks
all you tastes is chees

Posted by nanny on May 14, 2005 at 11:34 PM

i like will smtih im doing a biograpghy on himm!!!!

Posted by chelsea on November 30, 2006 at 2:31 PM
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