Seven don’t-miss Paris bistros for a romantic rendezvous

Where to be seduced by cuisine à l’ancienne

L’Assiette was once a charcuterie
L’Assiette was once a charcuterie

L’Assiette This is not a place for fancy amuse-bouches or saucers of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. L’Assiette was once a charcuterie: homage comes in the form of a basket of country bread, excellent butter and generous, hand-carved slices of ham. The cassoulet, bubbling in an earthenware cocotte, is a thing of beauty: six kinds of meat, among them lamb neck, duck confit and Toulouse sausage, lend a sublime texture to thin-skinned mogette beans. In my humble opinion, it is the finest cassoulet I have ever eaten. BILL KNOTT. 181 Rue du Château, 75014 Paris (+331-4322 6486; restaurant-lassiette.com).

Desserts such as crème brûlée lentille are a highlight at Anicia Bistrot
Desserts such as crème brûlée lentille are a highlight at Anicia Bistrot | Image: Géraldine Martens

Anicia Bistrot François Gagnaire was born in Puy, in the heart of France’s Auvergne region, famed for its lentil production, and his cooking is born of the surrounding Haute-Loire terroir. He has several establishments around France, but even here, in the heart of Saint-Germain, he just has to close his eyes and he can smell the earth, the hills and the alpine fennel-flavoured Foin du Mézenc (hay), which he orders from an Auvergne farmer and uses to make everything from bread to bouillon, ice cream and tarts. The house signature is Le Caviar du Velay, which is made not from sturgeon eggs but vitamin-packed green Puy lentils set in a fine gelée of crustaceans – and is delicious, particularly with the sommelier’s recommendation of dry fruity white Condrieu de Chapoutier 2015. The desserts are another highlight; the Chocolat Grand Cru is a decadent mousse-ice cream mix, and those lentils even make their way into the crème brûlée… MARGARET KEMP. 97 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris (+331-4335 4150; anicia-bistrot.com).

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Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain Yves Camdeborde’s seminal Left Bank bistro serves high-class food in a buzzy, intimate setting. Lunch started with a complimentary board of fine saucisson sec, pickles, mustard and good bread. Then boudin noir, daringly matched not just with green apple, pimientos de Padrón and a beef shinbone, but a dollop of herring caviar; then thyme-roasted rack of lamb with Tarbais beans, peppers and shallots, sharpened with a splash of sherry vinegar. Wines are excellent too: I had a brisk bottle of bourgueil from Catherine and Pierre Breton, which went jolly well with a generous plate of Pyrenean cheeses. BILL KNOTT. 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris (+331-4427 0797; hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com).

Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain serves high-class food in a buzzy, intimate setting on the Left Bank
Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain serves high-class food in a buzzy, intimate setting on the Left Bank

Le Bistroy Les Papilles Bertrand Bluy’s buzzy little bistro in the Latin Quarter boasts inspired food in a traditional setting: a velvet‑smooth pumpkin soup ladled over a tangle of herbs, chorizo and vegetable crisps, then slow-cooked lamb with a fine ratatouille. A cheese course and pudding are included in the no-choice menu; it is, in true bistro fashion, a cheek-by‑jowl experience. BILL KNOTT. 30 Rue Gay-Lussac (+331-4325 2079; lespapillesparis.fr).

Le Bistroy Les Papilles is located in the Latin Quarter
Le Bistroy Les Papilles is located in the Latin Quarter

Bistro Paradis This is a tasty partnership between Yohann Dhin, a former banker turned mâitre d’hôtel from Toulouse, and Brazilian chef Alexandre Furtado, formerly of Alain Ducasse’s team at The Dorchester. Their bijou space seats just 20 and owes its minimal style to Kristian Gavoille (ex-Philippe Starck): original hexagonal floor tiles paired with a “zinc-style” bar and a tiny semi-open kitchen, where Furtado creates his “cuisine bistronomique” – neoclassic French style but with “a touch of Brazil” in every dish. The result is five starters, five mains and five desserts, using ingredients such as coconut, guava, mango, açaí berries and exotic flowers, as well as farofa – a flour made from the starchy South American root vegetable manioc. The wines are French – perhaps a Mâcon Viré-Clessé white burgundy 2014 from Domaine Guillemot-Michel (€59) or a red Crozes Hermitage Domaine Yann Chave 2014 (€42; €8 per glass) – while the delicious bread comes from Monsieur Fernand’s bakery on Rue d’Hauteville around the corner. MARGARET KEMP. 55 Rue de Paradis, Paris 75010 (bistroparadis.fr).

There is a choice of five desserts at Bistro Paradis
There is a choice of five desserts at Bistro Paradis | Image: A Schachmes

Bistrot La Renaissance At this more-shabby-than-chic, belle époque dining room, just north of Montmartre, the menu is a love letter to classic French cookery. The runny yolks of oeufs en cocotte bleed slowly into rich, grill-blistered cream, and the entrecôte steak is almost as bloody as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which used the bistrot as a location; as did Claude Chabrol, 25 years earlier, for Le Sang des Autres. BILL KNOTT. 112 Rue Championnet, 75018 Paris (+331-4606 0176; bistrotlarenaissance.fr).

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Les 110 de Taillevent Les 110 de Taillevent, one of two bistro offshoots of Taillevent, the grand old Paris restaurant, is sleekly decked out in blond wood and black lacquer, and its state-of-the-art wine cabinets will provoke a Pavlovian response in any oenophile. Each dish is paired with wines at various price points and the food is excellent: refined versions of bistro classics, such as a perfect pâté en croûte, pigeon breast and foie gras with sparkling golden jelly in fragile pastry, and featherlight quenelles of pike with crayfish sauce. BILL KNOTT. 195 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris 75008 (+331-4074 2020; les-110‑taillevent-paris.com).

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