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.
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).
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.
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).
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.