parisien we took this weekend was magical in only the way Paris can be. Armed with several maps, pieces of paper and recommendations of places that simply had to be visited, we took the crazy traffic on with Velib bikes (I’ll take my own bike next time though…) Not being the most organised two people, we got lost a million times, and I’m sure I properly irked the chef at Le Timbre with my poor pleas, in French, that we were quite lost in Montparnasse.
First night in, was Le Boeuf Couronne, a restaurant in La Villette thats been there for ages, and no aspect of it – aged servers, Art Deco interior or menu, seems to have changed. Since an article in the New York Times stated that this was one of the best places in Paris to try steak-frites, and they could acommodate us after a Eurostar trip that only reached the capital at 10.30 pm, it was perfect.
Foie gras pate and brioche for Simon and Fines Claires oysters for me, all terribly classically presented and pretty much standard as could be expected. The restaurant however focuses on beef (Charolais) and these are served in the classic way too – rump with bearnaise for him, onglet with caramelised shallots for the lady. I love the pommes soufflees served on the side here – can’t say I’ve seen those anywhere else recently. A good Pomerol and some ripe cheese with Port finished the meal…
Next up was Le Timbre. Most dining venues, indeed most living spaces in Paris are tight, but this place redefines the term ‘intimate dining’. As big as a double bedroom I’d say, with only one server, and the chef who acts as the host, takes bookings, washes the dishes…oh and does about 50 covers of splendid food a night. Our starters were so phenomenal that I think they stole the mains’ thunder, and whilst my millefeuille le timbre was something I’d love to replicate, Simon’s poached pear was just a little too plain for the price. The chef does so much and the place is so busy for its size that you leave feeling like your job is positively a walk in the park. The menu and wine list are clearly reflections of the his personal taste, so is’nt entirely balanced, but if its your place you can do what you want, right? Judging by the string of patrons waiting outside in the cold (no space indoors) for a bunch of tables to clear, enough people agree with the chef’s recommendation anyway. I’d certainly go back if I found myself in Paris again…
Last up was Willi’s Wine Bar (preceded by a quick nibble and drink at Juveniles around the corner) which was, as we were jokingly warned by the server at Juveniles, awfully serious and packed with Americans. Well, we took our Southern Hemisphere accents and braved it, although for a place that’s been around for two decades I was expecting more atmosphere. Too much light, or something. Perhaps we were supposed to concentrate on the wines more, or judging by the rest of the customers, we were perhaps too young to appreciate the space. The list is superb (that’s why we went in the first place) and so was the food, although next time I’d only go for a drink, and eat at a more moderately priced place.
Sunday morning saw us at Le Baron Rouge – certainly only a bar du vin that one would find by recommendation (thanks Brett)! I tried to get a hold of as many Arcachon oysters outside as I could, whilst Simon quietly stared the crowd out of the way at the bar, returning with some ice cold white. Can’t say I’ve spent the better half of a Sunday morning leaning against a wall, working my way through dozens of oysters and chilled white – in deep-autumnal Paris- before, but I didn’t want to leave, and we mucked about for such a long time that we pretty much just made our Eurostar back. By about 1 minute.