It was the Strawberry Blonde’s birthday over the weekend, and we were invited to spend it in Paris with our friends who have friends who have a flat in the Marais. Basically it came down to cheap Eurostar tickets and a free place to stay…what’s not to like?
I’ve been to Paris dozens of times, yet it’s a city I have never fully got to grips with. It’s hard to understand why, in a country so enamoured with food, Paris restaurants can be so patchy. And yes, some people- particularly market stall holders- like to live up to the cliché of rudeness. Nevertheless, Paris is perpetually romantic and this trip revealed some new eating gems too…
Top of the list is Bistronomes (no, nothing to do with the finger flicking gnome above…we just saw him in a shop window and had to take a snap) The restaurant is near the Palais Royal and won Le Prix Staub-Lebey Best Paris Bistro 2012. Lunch was a set menu and great value- 26 euro for 2 courses, 35 euro for 3 courses. Chef Cyril Aveline was the sous-chef at the three-Michelin-starred Le Bristol, and the proof is definitely in the pudding…or would have been, if we had any room left for dessert.
The special starter of the day was FOIE GRAS SOUP…fois gras with cream, more cream, and topped with chantilly cream. The SB could barely speak she was so overcome with gastronomic ecstasy. I opted for beetroot cream soup with smoked haddock chantilly, followed by entrecote de race Normande, sand potatoes (the French version of Jersey royals) with red wine sauce.
Friends shared the “sot-l’y-laisse” which in French literally means “only a fool would leave it”. In translation, it’s chicken oysters- you know, the small, round tender dark meat bit near the thigh. It’s the most succulent part of the bird- elusive, mysterious and often overlooked. These were presented in a beautiful copper pan, in- you guessed it- a cider CREAM sauce, alongside a pile of toasted rice…. all washed down with a carafe of Cotes du Rhone. No room for dessert, a shocking admission I know. But it gives me a reason to return.
I won’t dwell on the disappointing meal at Glou. Their website says “you’ll want to come back”. Sorry, we don’t and we won’t. Likewise Le Petit Fer a Cheval where, to be fair, we didn’t even eat because we did that awkward thing when the waiter gives you a hard time about giving you a table, churlishly seats you…and before you even look at the menu you look at each other and mouth “shall we go?” and do a runner while the waiter’s not looking.
The surprise delight was L’Alivi, a cute Corsican restaurant. After an hour traipsing around in the rain looking for somewhere decent/non-touristy to have lunch on a Saturday afternoon in the Marais, we were enticed by the special of the day- veal chop in clementine sauce. This unusual combination led us to have an interesting meal with some lovely wine and pungent Corsican cheese.
We also managed to eat a large quantity of pastries each morning for breakfast, offset only by some figs and fresh cream cheese.
We popped into Marriage Freres, the gloriously old fashioned shop that’s been selling tea since 1854. Upstairs, they have a tea museum, basically a beautiful collection of dusty old tea chests…and these tea cups, a 19th c invention to protect men and their moustaches from getting soaked in Assam. Bring back the teacup moustache guard!
Having a birthday is all about indulging in your fave foods. The SB loves sardines, and curiously they didn’t appear on any menus we perused over the weekend. Perhaps because this call to action on the metro has been heeded- “Free the Sardines”
So, no sardines, but we did pick up some wild mushrooms and Chasselas grapes, a crottin de chevre and a small Mont d’Or in the local market. Vive l’automne et vive la France!