A week after I’d written the essay “Backpackers with a palate,” Sebastian Moffett published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “France’s Newfound Thrift Spells Trouble for Europe’s Economy” at the end of which he gave some shocking statistics.
He said that 82% of meals eaten out in France in 2007 are consumed in “salad-and-sandwich bars” charging less that 10 € a meal (versus 75% in 2003) which is in and of itself kind of sad; and “midrange eateries,” defined as those charging 16-30 € (for a full meal with drinks, for heaven’s sake) fell from 23% in 2003 to 14% in 2007. What Moffett doesn’t do is discuss the 4% of places charging more than 30 € for a full meal with drinks.
Now, I suspect the readers of John Talbott’s Paris do not fit the Parisian demographic; they’re Anglophonic and Francophilic, less impelled to get back to a desk in 59 minutes and in France to enjoy their hard-earned savings, not stave off the eroding pouvoir d’achat.
Nonetheless, I cringe at the thought of my paying 8 € for a bottle of Chateldon in a palace restaurant and I suspect you do too. However, there’s a group of good places to eat at in the huge gap between “salad-and-sandwich bars” and palace hotel restaurants. I gave a number of newly-opened ones in the “Backpackers with a palate” piece and here I’ll go back a bit in time and give some more from my records.
For instance, the 29 € menu at Le Clocher Periere, 42, bvd Pereire in the 17th, 01.44.40.04.15, which served up one of the most inventive meals of my last several: rare raw and cooked urchins, incredible veggie risotto, lievre with its liver, divine scallops, Ossau-Iraty cheese and an over the top moelleux of chocolate, plus coffee = 77 € for two.
Or, how about soup a volonté for 12 € and a 3-course menu (day or night) for 20 €, with a glass of wine for 6 €? (Pssst: the chef trained with Roland Durans at Passiflore and this place is "unknown" and about to go to the bigtime - trust me, the big boys will descend soon and then we're talking Benoit prices.) But for now, send your backpacking nephews and nieces immediately to L’Entêtée, 4, rue Danville in the 14th, 01.40.47.56.81, closed Sundays and Mondays.
How about this? Les Bouchons ex-Francois Clerc, now Le Restaurant de Philippe et Jean Pierre, 7, rue du Boccador in the 8th, 01.47.23.57.80, closed Saturday lunch and Sundays, serves an outstanding, while forced-choice 3 course menu for 28 Euros, which with 1 glass of wine, bottled water and coffee = 33 Euros. My Anglo-American friend and I were most impressed by the oysters, cod with puree and millefeuille and ice cream.
OK here's a new one for the back-packing relatives who show up next week - Opus Vins, 72, rue Vasco de Gama in the 15th, 01.42.50.14.91, closed Saturday lunch, Sundays and Monday nights which has a 20 € 3-course meal at lunch and with cheese at night it runs 30€; wines start at 3.80 a glass. It's quite good and has a wonderful wine list.
Try Christian Etchebest's offshoot La Cantine du Troquet, 101, rue de l'Ouest in the 14th (no telephone, sorry, just show up early) for a superb meal (with the maestro in attendance eating, mind you, not cooking) three courses a la carte were 27 E which I think in terms of price-quality, is about as good as it gets. With a half-liter of wine and coffee the bill went to 37 E, which I still think is great.
Memere Paulette, 3, rue Paul Lelong in the 2nd, 01.40.26.12.36, 2 courses for 15 and 3 for 17 € (that’s correct, it’s not a misprint), closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Huge menu, huge wine list, huge portions. With a bottle of fine red and two coffees plus two aperitifs, our bill was 73 € for two.
Au Gout Dujour, 12, rue Beaugrenelle in the 15th, 01.45.71.68.36, closed Sundays. With the 20 € menu and 7 € wine pitcher one exits at 27 €.
Firmin, le Barbier, 20, rue de Monttessuy in the 7th, 01.45.51.21.55, closed Monday and Tuesdays, lunch formulas at 18 and 23, a la carte 40-50 €, where three of us ate at Figaroscope's #1 Sunday lunch place for 34 E each with 2 bottles of wine and coffee.
Well, I think that’s enough without going even farther back in the archives to: Ripaille, Bistral, Papilles, Astier, Cerisaie, Cafe Constant, Cave est Restaurant, Les Symples de l'Os a Moelle, l’Ebauchoir, La Boulangerie, Le Pre Verre + Georgette.
This week, I’ll not give the coordinates below, since they’re integral above.