FOOD & WINE

France - - Contents -

In­ex­pen­sive Paris bistros, plus a Paris café and a res­tau­rant re­viewed.

Of­fer­ing a re­fresh­ing blend of in­ex­pen­sive menus and his­toric set­tings, bouil­lons, named af­ter the word for cook­ing stock, are slowly re-emerg­ing onto the Paris din­ing scene

While Paris is now a by­word for so­phis­ti­cated din­ing, it hasn’t al­ways been this way. The French cap­i­tal was once full of bouil­lons, a style of cheap res­tau­rant that, in these times of aus­ter­ity, is mak­ing a come­back.

The orig­i­nal bouil­lons were cre­ated in the 1850s and were de­signed to serve hearty, sim­ple and af­ford­able food for pre­dom­i­nantly work­ing-class Parisians. The idea be­hind the con­cept came from Pierre-louis Du­val, a butcher who needed some­where to place the cuts of beef that he couldn’t sell. In or­der to make these cuts palat­able, he used plenty of sauce to cook them, in­clud­ing broth, or bouillon.

The restau­rants caught on, even prov­ing pop­u­lar among high so­ci­ety, and by 1900 there were over 250 of them across Paris. Each one was dec­o­rated in the splen­did Art Nou­veau style and con­sisted of a bar which opened into a larger din­ing room. By the Belle Époque era, how­ever, tastes changed dra­mat­i­cally and many bouil­lons were re­placed by restau­rants serv­ing more el­e­gant dishes.

To­day, there is just a hand­ful of these restau­rants in Paris. Per­haps the most iconic bouillon is Bouillon Chartier, which was founded in 1896. This leg­endary venue has been a guide­book sta­ple for many years thanks to its end­less list of de­lec­ta­ble dishes such as chicory and Ro­que­fort salad and fen­nel-smoth­ered roasted sea bass.

For Art Nou­veau at its best, you can’t beat Bouillon Racine. The set­ting is gor­geous: think bev­elled mir­rors, in­tri­cately carved wooden pan­els and glazed wall tiles. From be­hind the lime green and yel­low bar, head chef Alexan­dre Belthoise serves up dishes such as scal­lops glazed in truf­fle oil and a ma­ture beef en­trecôte with potato gratin, which you can savour while lis­ten­ing to live jazz per­for­mances ev­ery other Tues­day evening.

Bouillon Pi­galle, the lat­est ad­di­tion to this genre of restau­rants of­fers a con­tem­po­rary spin on the con­cept with retro hon­ey­comb lights, hang­ing plants and a laid-back at­mos­phere. With a ‘no book­ings’ pol­icy, the long queues out­side are a clear in­di­ca­tion of the grow­ing de­mand for restau­rants that can com­bine qual­ity food with good prices.

By din­ing at a bouillon, you’re not just tuck­ing into hearty food for less, you’re en­joy­ing a tasty meal in a set­ting burst­ing with history. And that is, ul­ti­mately, what Paris is all about.

Bouillon Racine 3 Rue Racine, 75006 Paris 6ème Bouillon Pi­galle 22 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris 18ème Bouillon Chartier 7 Rue du Faubourg Mont­martre, 75009 Paris 9ème

The ex­trav­agent Art Nou­veau din­ing room of Bouillon Racine ABOVE:

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