Last Spring, Françoise Meunier-Lecarrer popped out to do a few bits of shopping after lunchtime service at La Grange Batelière, her precious 19th century brasserie. You know, the sort they have in French movies, with wooden bar, red-checked tablecloths, tile floors, a wooden coat-rack and tons of atmosphere. When Madame Meunier-Lecarrer returned, her restaurant had burned down and with it the cave and its 12,000 superb bottles of wine. Those bottles had been selected over the years by Meunier-Lecarrer, and they’re irreplaceable. So, she had two choices: close or start over again. “No, there was never any doubt in my mind, La Grange Batelière would rise from the ashes,” declared Meunier-Lecarrer, certainly not a weak-willed woman.
Last week, with her équipe in place, Meunier-Lecarrer was back, along with Ludovic Cingla, the chef, Guillaume Drouin, the 2nd and Pierre Lohezic, the chef de rang. “We’re committed to Françoise”, they vow. “They’re knights in shining armour”, sighs Françoise, opening a very decent Cornas 1998 (40€). Wines are now priced between 20€-40€. But Françoise knows the wine producers, and tours France looking for interesting little growers, I predict she’ll soon have a super cave bursting with brilliant budget wines to discover.
The menu is now posted on a blackboard. For 25€ there’s the choice of four starters, four main courses, four desserts, and cheese; it’s a terrific value and wines are still served in the finest Riedel glasses. Meunier-Lecarrer has her standards, bien sûr. The generosity of the dishes has not changed; Cingla still serves one of the best coulant aux chocolat pistache in Paris.
La Grange Batelière
16 rue de la Grange-Batelière, 9th
Tel: 01 47 70 85 15.
L’Entredgeu is a play on the name of Philippe Tredgeu (ex-chez Casimir in the 10th), and his wife Pénélope (ex-Ducasse; everywhere). Look—don’t blame me for the name, it’s their baby! Together les Tredgeus have revived and corrected a lovely old bistro, leaving exactly what should be left, such as the original floors, the bar, the funny little fridges. Local artists’ works cover the walls and red-checked tablecloths, brown wooden chairs, and grandmère’s half curtains contribute to the delightful neighbourhood atmosphere. On the blackboard: five starters, five main courses, four desserts, cheese, and salad for 28€. “My cooking is traditional, with beef from the Aubrac, fish fresh daily from Rungis; I like to work with unusual vegetables, make, say, salsifis au jus, remoulade et purée de celeri, gratin d’endives, tombee de chou, pommes grenailles and lard paysan,” he rattles off, and then disappears into his kitchen, to continue his service. Tredgeu has talent, is not afraid to put pimpant (piquant) dishes on his blackboard. Little details count: a tiny freebie taste of a new dish for your comment, bread from Manzagoc the baker, excellent Tarte Tatin and home-made vanilla ice-cream. All washes down nicely with a Château La Galiane Margaux 1997 (30€). Or sip an absinthe, it makes the heart grow fonder!
83 rue Laugier, 17th
Tel: 01 40 54 97 24
Metro: Porte de Champerret
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt for a chef to lose his stars–take Christophe Die at (Michelin starless) The Astor, for example. The neo-surrealist black and white trompe l’oeil space, designed by Frederic Mechiche, looks like a 1930’s cruise ship and still sparkles. Die takes his orders from Joel Robuchon, and the quality of the products he uses are top niveau. No, nothing’s changed: Mehmet Eski still runs an excellent front of house, and the Jeeves-type barman shakes excellent cocktails with just the right amount of sophisticated savvy. Try the (50€) Menu Club at lunchtime, which includes a starter, main course, (note the rognons de veau cuits à l étouffée dans sa graisse), cheese, dessert, wine, coffee and lots of delicious little freebies. And wish upon a star for the rum baba, just one of chef pâtissier Sebastien Lhor’s specialities.
11, rue d’Astorg, 8th
Francois Pasteau’s lunch menu at L’Epi Dupin is 19.80€. At night you’ll pay 29.80€ for original, daring sucrée-sale dishes that have become Pasteau’s signature. If he ever stops serving le tatin d’endives et chèvre, sauce mielleuse à la coriander, there’ll be a revolution on the rue. It’s very difficult to get a table, and if you do secure one, expect to be elbow to elbow with your neighbour. Relax, he’ll let you taste his wine, tell you the story of his life/wife/mistress. Eva will take your order, explaining each dish with such tender loving care you’ll think she’s never served them before. Here’s a handy trick: if you can’t get a table, ask to sit at the bar. Last time I was there Zazie, the French heart-throb, looked happy as can be. Pasteau is closed until 24th March, so you’ll have to wait to taste his tatin, his filet de dourade et boudin noir façon millefeuille and his Breton-style Far aux pruneaux, glacé à l’Armagnac. Here’s his e-mail – you ain’t too proud to beg. [email protected]
11 rue Dupin, 6th
Tel: 01 42 22 64 56
Like oysters? Claude Colliot of Le Bamboche serves Sorbet d’huitres d’Isigny, à l’émulsion de verveine citronelle – it’s mind-blowing, it’s just a starter! And it doesn’t stop there. “My aim is to find the perfect balance between respect for the products and the discovery of new well thought out taste sensations,” he explains. Some say Colliot’s crazy, too much of a perfectionist, as he tracks down products direct from the source; nothing comes from Rungis, that would be too easy. His address book is worth stealing–if you bag it, let me have a go! But I do know that he gets his vegetables from Didier Pil in the Loire Valley , pigeons are from Finistére, bars de ligne from the Ile d’Yeu and chocolate from a tiny plantation in Saint Dominique. Cèpes from Sologne are infused in a mousse de lait; côte de veau from Corréze is married to an emulsion of hazelnuts; and Colliot is married to the gregarious Chantal, who will choose you a non-filtered, natural wine, so divine you’ll fall in love with her, especially when you see the price.
15 rue Babylone, 7th
Tel: 01 45 49 14 40
Lunch 26€-32€ – Dinner Menu Découverte 57€ + A La Carte.