There's something quite fascinating about a foreign McDonalds. I walk past two branches, twice, almost everyday and I can't tell you the last time I went in, but give me a McLobster roll, or a Finnish Big Mac in a rye bun, or a Japanese Halloween cheeseburger complete with black bun, and it makes me strangely McExcited. At the heart of it I suppose it's all about being the same but different. The Golden Arches are familiar, but all the strange items on the menu seem weirdly exotic.
Fortuitously for a global junk food junkie (less so for her long-suffering wife), Twitter reported on a timely story the week before our recent trip to Paris. The Champs-Élysées branch of McDonalds, currently the most profitable in the world, had just been reopened after a refurbishment. What could be more romantic than a quick dinner à deux looking out onto the City of Love's most famous boulevard....
...clearly lots of things, but thankfully the Ewing does have a soft spot for a cheeseburger (never the double, though) and a chocolate milkshake, so soon agreed to accompany me. Who said romance was dead.
As it turned out, getting the wife to agree was the least of my problems. You may have noticed, the title of this blog is a homage to one of my favourite films (yes, really) Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. Featuring the titular pair of stoners who try and battle adversity to get their miniature cheeseburger fix. And this is pretty much how I felt after deciding to walk from from the Pompidou Centre to the Champs-Élysées for my dinner.
Yes, its only about five kilometres as the crow flies, but when you're hungry and have been on your feet all day and it's starting to get dark and you keep getting lost - not to mention the views en route that make the perfect photo opportunities, including one above that almost entirely eclipses the Ewing, but still make me laugh a lot - it takes longer. Much, much, much longer. Still not many pre-prandial strolls take you through the beautiful Tuileries Garden, along the banks of the Seine and past the Eiffel Tower.
While our (eventual) arrival wasn't quite as dramatic as Harold and Kumar sweeping down to White Castle on a hang glider, I have rarely been so pleased to see the glittering M - the Champs-Élysées branch sign has to be white, rather than the more familiar yellow, to fit in with the chic surroundings - coming into view.
Even better, as like many of the refurbished McDonald's branches, you don't have to make butchered attempts at the lingua franca as you can order your food on a multilingual touch screen computer.
'Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
- They don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?
- Hell no, they got the metric system. They don't know what the fuck a quarter pound is. They call it a royale with cheese.'
Despite almost being swayed by the Grand Premium, a burger with the chips inside, I went with the Quarter Pounder with Cheese - how else was I going to manage to shoehorn my Pulp Fiction impression in? A McBeer is also obligatory - although, sadly they seem to have replaced Kronenbourg 1664 with Heineken - while the pommes frites sauce was a kind of disappointing sweet mayo with dried herbs. Stick with the generic ketchup.
The Ewing had the Signature Collection with bacon and blue cheese. While you can now get the new range in the UK, complete with shiny brioche buns, sadly there are still no options with blue cheese. A shame, as the vast slice of fromage bleu was the highlight. The French signature offering also has double beef patty, making this a hefty burger.
Alongside she chose the special edition winter fries, like crispy coated waffle chips, and the Very Parfait Myrtille, or a soft serve ice cream with blueberry sauce. You can specify 'collect later' when you make your order, and with the ice cream starting to wilt into a pink soup under the neon lights as the Ewing tackled her behemoth of a burger, I can see the appeal.
The excitement wasn't over yet as we went back to order dessert; and if you were thinking that it's hard to improve on the perfection that is the McFlurry, they manage it here with the McFlurry PARTY. Yes, that's a giant tub of dairy goodness for four people to share, available with toppings including French butter biscuits, Daim pieces, mini Kit Kat balls and extra caramel and chocolate sauce.
There's also a McCafe in branch and, as it's France, you can chose macarons and canelé alongside the cookies, muffins and cheesecakes. If you go for breakfast then expect baguettes with butter and jam, and no less than three different types of croissants with your cafe au lait.
We finished the night with the customary coffee and a macaron, this one was banana and milk chocolate, which we ate al fresco in their outdoor seating area while watching the frenetic bustle of Champs-Élysées. While the macaron wan't up to Pierre Herme, not much is, and at 2.20 for both that and a drink it would be churlish to complain too much.
And anyway, how often do you get a view of this Golden Arch when you're eating your dessert...