Information published on 7 October 2014 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 418.

SNCF, France: The Train Bleu, an iconic location

Just as Gare de Lyon railway station has continuously adapted to its changing environment, the time has now come for its legendary restaurant to be given a new lease of life. Stations today are destinations in their own right. Renovated, expanded, and showcasing bold architectural statements, innovative services and retail, stations are now test beds for the latest trends in urban consumption.

The Train Bleu is a unique, iconic establishment from the point of view of its history, decor and traditional haute cuisine, characterised by symbolic dishes such as the roast leg of lamb – carved in front of the customer and served on a Christofle silver-plate trolley – and the rum baba, etc. A team of 120 prepare and serve 600 covers a day under the supervision of chef Jean-Pierre Hocquet who has prepared the new menu with meticulous care.

Aside from the restaurant, the Train Bleu stands out for its dining rooms, which are particularly popular with businessmen from all over France.

The entrance to the restaurant is up a double spiral staircase. Inside, the Buffet is divided into several dining areas: the Grande Salle in the centre, 26 metres long and known as Réjane; the Salle Dorée on the right, 18.5 metres long by 11 metres high, whose name refers to the golden stucco covering the walls; and two smaller rooms favoured for business lunches: the Salon Tunisien and the Salon Algérien. The ceilings, which stand 8 metres above the polished wooden floor, together with the walls surrounding the large bay windows, are richly adorned with murals, sculptures and gilding.

A listed establishment

On 28 September 1972, at the suggestion of film-maker René Clair and former SNCF President Louis Armand, the Train Bleu – comprising the Salle Dorée, the Grande Salle, the Salon Tunisien and the Salon Algérien as well as the its decorated passageways – was listed as a Historical Monument by André Malraux, then France’s Minister for Culture. As for the Gare de Lyon, the facades and roof of the main building as well as the Salle des Fresques (Hall of Frescoes) have been included in the Supplementary Inventory of French Historic Monuments since 28 December 1984.

Renovation project

In this 21st century, the Train Bleu was still considered a prestigious venue, albeit somewhat fusty and outdated. It was therefore time to restore this fairytale setting to its full splendour, and to update it whilst creating a palette of services adapted to new consumer behaviour.

To this end, a three-point work plan was carried out to restore, harmonise and update the restaurant. The first aim was to highlight the 1900’s decor to make it stand out more to the visitor. Work was carried out on the lighting to remove any back lighting and to calibrate the influx of light marking out each room: the very bright Salon Algérien contrasts with the more subdued Salon Marocain lined with mashrabiyas and the other large rooms, which are more dazzling and flamboyant.

The furniture then had to be re-arranged to re-create the intricate, calming, geometrical lay-out of days gone by.

Thus, upon entering the Algérien, Tunisien, Marocain dining rooms or the Salon de Passage, the visitor will feel as if immersed in their atmosphere and briefly transported to a strange and distant land.

From new staff uniforms to chic and elegant tableware and a menu of new recipes, everything has been done to magnify and embellish the Train Bleu so that customers leave with the memory of having spent a magical moment in this exceptional restaurant.

(Source: SNCF)