Wednesday, December 07, 2016

W Hotel Opera Breakfast Buffet, Paris

On my first trip to Paris, I stayed at the W Hotel in Paris for two weeks.  As part of my stay, I had breakfast included in my room rate, which was a buffet at the Coquette restaurant.

I was warned by friends who stayed there previously that the breakfast wasn't good, but, I do love buffets, and tend to like different things than they do (namely, baked goods), so I went into it still optimistic.

I should have listened.  The buffet really wasn't good, and I can't imagine paying the full price of 38€ for it.

The experience as a guest was a bit scattered.  On some days, I had to sign a bill with my room number.  On others, I didn't.  I was never sure when it was appropriate to leave.

Setting

Bar Area.
The restaurant has a nice vibe and decor, very modern, full of art, it matches the rest of the W nicely.  The bar area was unused at breakfast, but perhaps it becomes occupied in the evening?  I never visited then.
Tables.
Most tables have benches along one wall, and a chair on the other side.  Simple place settings with silverware were laid out.

The restaurant was always nearly empty.  There were never more than two other tables occupied the entire time I was there.  I can tell why, it certainly wasn't worth sticking around for.

Drinks

The buffet included juices, water, and coffee/tea in the price.
Self-Serve Drinks.
Juice (orange and grapefruit) were self-service at the bar, as were water and sparkling water.  Well, most of the time.  On most days, there was an ice bucket with self-serve water and sparkling water bottles in it.  However, on some days it was not set out.  On those days, when I asked for sparkling water, sometimes I was given a single glass of water.  On others, I was asked if I wanted a small or large bottle, and I was then later billed for the bottles.

Such inconsistencies in the experience.
Decaf coffee.
You could order any type of coffee drink (capp, etc) from the servers.  I opted for decaf.  The decaf was served in a tiny cup, and quickly ran out.  I felt bad, but I needed to ask for refills over and over. If you order regular coffee, you get a whole mini-pot, but since I was getting decaf, it was always an Americano, so they came cup at a time.

After the first day, the server remembered my order.  Such wonderful service!

The coffee was shockingly good.  The first day, I worried that perhaps I wasn't actually getting decaf, but, it remained consistently awesome.  It really was the best coffee I had in Paris.

The roobios tea was actually quite nice too, again, a bit of a surprise.  Someone here cared about the experience of those who don't go for caffeine.

Food

Continental Buffet!
The main buffet was set up along one side of the room, all cold items.  The arrangement of the buffet was different every single day.  Items were never in the same location.  Sometimes similar items would be placed together, other days they wouldn't.  So some days the 3 tarts were laid out next to each other, other days they were randomly distributed throughout the buffet.  So strange that they don't have a common setup ... doesn't this make re-stocking it hard?

Speaking of re-stocking, on many days, they ran out of plates, and patrons had to regularly ask for them.  It wasn't like it was busy.
Hot Foods.
In a tiny corner was the hot food selection and toaster.

The hot food selection had:
  • scrambled eggs
  • veal sausages
  • roasted tomatoes
  • roasted mushrooms
  • potatoes
The selection never changed in the entire two weeks that I was there.  I also never saw it get replenished, I don't think many people choose this stuff, and the quality looked so poor that even I didn't bother try it.

Alongside the toaster was was two types of sliced bread.
Cereals, Milk.
The cereal station had three types of cereals: corn flakes, wheat bran, and muesli.  I tried the muesli, and enjoyed it.  Loaded up with assorted flakes, grains, and bits of dried fruit including raisins and banana chips.

There was only a single type of (unlabelled) milk, likely full cream, pretty great with the muesli.
Croissants, Breads.
The bakery section included croissants (plain and chocolate), baguettes (on most days), and brioche.

I had a slice of brioche the first morning.  I threw it in the toaster, I have no idea if that was a faux pas or not.  The brioche wasn't great, and I never tried it again.  I was amused that only about half the days included a bread knife, other days patrons used their bare, unsanitary, hands to rip off chunks.

The most exciting aspect of the breads to me was the crazy pyramid of assorted jams.  They weren't labelled most days, so it took some guesswork (and many tastings).  One day, finally, they were labelled, so it was amusing to see how far off my guesses were.  I'll include the real answer and my guess in my reviews below, in the format Real Answer (Julie's guess), along with my notes before I knew the real answers:
  • Honey (honey): This was just honey, not much to say here. 
  • Apple Sauce (pear butter): basically like applesauce, but, well, pear flavored.  Fine if you are into that sorta thing.  (Yes, I thought it was pear butter, even compared it to applesauce, but, well, I guess it was applesauce.  Maybe the apples taste like pears in France?)
  • Rhubarb Jam ... or Apricot Jam (some kind of caramel): My favorite.  I honestly have no idea what it was, but it was thick like a caramel or dulce de leche, and quite sweet.  Good slathered on just about anything.  It wasn't labelled the first day, was labelled rhubarb the second, and apricot the third.  This one really amused me.  I hate rhubarb!  It also wasn't bitter at all.  It was thick, and I can see how you'd get that from rhubarb, but, it was like candy.  So strange.  I didn't detect any rhubarb flavor, even when I tried.  I think it must have been apricot?
  • Raspberry Jam (raspberry jam): my second favorite.  Just a nice basic raspberry jam.  I really fell in love with this, seeds and all (I don't like seeds generally), and opted for slathering it on just about everything.  It was sweet, fruity, and delicious.  Wish I knew what flavor it was.
  • Apricot Jam ... or rhubarb? (bitter ... something jam):  Again, not labelled the first day, labelled as apricot the second, and rhubarb the third.  This tasted sorta like a bitter orange marmalade, except it clearly wasn't.  No visible orange or anything.  I'm guessing it was the rhubarb?
I was let down by the pastry selection.  I thought there would be more options.  Where were all the danishes?

Still, I was in Paris, and if the random hotel I stayed at in Buffalo, NY could impress me with croissants, clearly this hotel would at least do a decent job, right?

Wrong.

Yes, the outside was flaky, and yes it was light and airy, but, it just wasn't buttery.  It wasn't ... anything.  As generic as can be.  Even slathering it in the tasty spreads didn't really help.

So I tried the chocolate croissant.  If at first you don't succeed, add ... chocolate, right?  Well, it was slightly better?  A bit flaky at least, but perhaps just because it was older and more stale.  The chocolate inside was decent, but still, just not a good croissant.
Cookies and Muffins.
The final pastry selection was little sweets.  Two types of hard style cookies, and two types of cake (labelled muffins).

The first day I opted for the white cake.  I thought there would be something interesting about it, but alas, there was not.  Just a plain little cake.  Slightly sugary, but no real flavor.  The top was a tiny bit crispy.  But really, not interesting at all.

The next day I tried the chocolate.  Again, really boring.  No deep chocolate flavor.  No chocolate chips.  Nothing interesting.  Kinda spongy.  And while labelled a "muffin", there was nothing muffin-like about it besides the shape.

I was disappointed that there weren't any other sweets.  Isn't this what Paris is known for?
Madelines.
One day, there was a random addition to the lineup.  They looked like madelines, and in fact were still inside the madeline baking pan.

But ... they didn't taste like madelines.  They weren't exactly sweet cakes, were more like eggy popovers.  Slightly more breakfast appropriate I suppose?

They weren't great, but when you covered them in butter and the raspberry jam, they, like anything, became edible.  That butter and jam were really, really great.
Fruit - fresh and stewed.
The fruit selection was rather comical.

On one platter, fresh sliced fruit.  Since the platter contained watermelon, I had to skip it entirely, but it didn't look that appealing.

The three containers had assorted stewed fruit.

One was a fruit salad mix, with melons, so again, I had to skip.

Another was ... whole oranges, just sans their peel.  I've never seen such a thing before, and was fascinated.   It went on the list of things to try if I ran out of other interesting options.

The final was poached pears one day, poached peaches another.  The peaches were actually quite good, sweet, soft, but whole.  I cut some up in yogurt, but it was still a bit hard to deal with a whole peach.
Yogurt, Cheese, Butter.
 Next was an assortment of yogurts.

Most were Ferme des Peupliers brand, available as nonfat plain, full fat plain, vanilla, or strawberry.  One other was a soy yogurt and the final was an athletic probiotic shot.

A single type of sliced cheese (unlabeled) was available, another curious selection.  Weren't the french known for their cheeses?  Another day it was at least a triple cream, but, rather unremarkable.

I did appreciate the large, quality, pats of butter.  It turned out to be some of the best butter I had on the trip (my office actually had totally amazing butter.  As in, so good that I'd literally just eat it by the spoonful.  Don't judge).
Ferme des Peupliers Yogurt: Strawberry.
The presentation of the yogurt was nice, in a glass pot, layered with strawberry puree in the bottom.   I was thrilled with the first spoonful actually, right from the top.  But then the yogurt got more runny, more generic.  Turns out, they top them with a cream top, no wonder I liked that part!

The cream top was nice, the rest of it was fine, not particularly interesting, just yogurt.  The strawberry puree on the bottom was sweet.

Overall fine, but pretty generic, fairly runny, yogurt.
Smoked Salmon, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Hardboiled Eggs.
I never tried anything from the smoked salmon and sides station, as they didn't look very fresh.
Cold Cuts.
Nor did I try the very generic looking cold cuts.
Quiches, Tart.
The final selection was a trio of unlabeled quiche (labels did appear later on in the week).

The first was salmon.  I eagerly took a slice, but ... well, hated it.  It was really fishy.  The second day this was replaced by ham and cheese.

But the next was a winner, "vegetable quiche".  Mushroom and some sort of green chile.  While the crust wasn't that buttery or flaky (again, disappointing, come on, Paris!), the layer of egg was thin (bonus for me, I don't actually like quiche generally because I'm not an egg girl), and the flavor of the mushrooms and green chiles was great.

The vegetable quiche changed daily however, most days I didn't like it.  The final day it was loaded with chunks of broccoli, green beans, other veggies, and cheese, and it was decent, but nothing compared to that first green chili quiche.

The final one was a sweet seasonal fruit tart.  The crust was again lackluster, but the filling was assorted stone fruits, nicely cooked down, sweet.  It was fine, but not great, and really would be better with some whipped or clotted cream.  If only we were in England!
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