French cuisine with an Asian twist in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne

The hidden-away Auberge du Bonheur is a first-rate spot for al fresco dining

Auberge du Bonheur’s courtyard is perfect for al fresco dining
Auberge du Bonheur’s courtyard is perfect for al fresco dining

To the west of Paris – in the Bois de Boulogne – tucked behind a waterfall near the Hippodrome de Longchamp racecourse, is a restaurant so under the radar that even seasoned Parisians like me barely know about it. I only discovered it while out mountain biking one day, and after spotting its glorious garden immediately vowed to return when dressed more elegantly.

Thick-cut marinated Scottish salmon with black radish and grated Granny Smith is among the starters
Thick-cut marinated Scottish salmon with black radish and grated Granny Smith is among the starters | Image: Alban Couturier

Located in the bucolic grounds of a charming half-timbered carriage house that was once the stables of Napoléon II’s hunting lodge, Auberge du Bonheur does French cooking with a nod and a wink to Asia. Among the starters is thick-cut marinated Scottish salmon with black radish and grated Granny Smith (€15), while the moreish mains include chicken with coconut milk and citronelle (€22).

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On warm nights this is the perfect place for al fresco dining (wild flowers; birdsong; shaded by trees; tables sufficiently spaced for confidential conversations), while on chillier evenings the restaurant’s roaring fire creates a feeling of a cosy, chalet-style brasserie. It’s hardly surprising that I’ve become a year-round Bonheur regular, especially as the Bois de Boulogne (which Bertrand Menut, brother of Bonheur owner Georges, recently told me Napoleon II commissioned Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann to design with Hyde Park in mind) is an unrivalled setting for a pre- or post-prandial stroll, and the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton is just five minutes away by car.

Divine desserts include Coussin Coco et Fruit Rouges
Divine desserts include Coussin Coco et Fruit Rouges | Image: Margaret Kemp

Other highlights from chef Benjawan Guérin’s menu include foie gras terrine with onion jam (€11), and her spectacular spin on the avocado and crab cocktail (€15). Market-driven mains include pepper-crusted beef carpaccio topped with aged shaved parmesan (€21) and calamar à la plancha (€28), while the fish of the day could be along the lines of the cod with sweet orange sauce (€35).

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Divine desserts include the raspberry sablé shortbread with pistachio cream (€14) and the grapefruit cheesecake with lime chantilly cream (€12), while my favourite offerings on the wine list include, for summer rosés, the Côtes de Provence Le Caprice de Clementine (€32 per bottle) and, for reds, the 2011 Château Bellevue-Laforêt Fronton, which at €24 is excellent value.

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