Le Coupe Chou
© W.A Dudley
Paris old-world restaurants
by Julie Baker
Paris is full of beautiful restaurants that have kept their old-world charm if you know where to look...
Restaurant La Truffière 4 rue Blainville, 5e, M° Cardinal Lemoine, tel: 01 46 33 29 82, closed Mon. Located in a 17th century building just a stones throw from the place de la Contrescarpe, this beautiful restaurant with its elegant silverware and superb service is one of the most atmospheric on the Left Bank. Huge oak beams, leaning cream-colored walls and cut-stone vaulted cellars speak of the past, while unusual floral decorations and world music lend just the right touch of individuality. A smooth lobster bisque was followed by a hot roasted prawn as an amuse-bouche and then a salad of shaved parmesan, roquette and truffles, a wonderful combination of texture and flavors. Truffles figure highly on the menu, as the restaurants name suggests, and we were particularly impressed by the excellent beef fillet, served with an intensely-flavored samosa of potatoes and truffles and a morilles mushroom sauce. Truffles are even highlighted in the dessert menu, where they perfume a diced mango sabayon which was presented in a spectacular chocolate ship complete with white chocolate sails. Other desserts include an exquisite chestnut mousse wrapped in a delicate tuile biscuit accompanied by a frothy armagnac sabayon. Enjoy a coffee while sipping one of the more than 50 varieties of armagnac, some of which date from 1900, whilst reclining in clubby armchairs in front of the crackle of a log fire. The 90F three-course lunch menu is spectacular value. $$$
Le Coupe Chou 3 impasse Chartière, 5e, M° Maubert-Mutualité, tel: 01 46 33 68 69, open daily. Everything about this restaurant, from the little entrance that opens like a well-kept secret onto a room scented by wood smoke from the huge fire place to the friendly service, is captivating. Located on a tiny medieval passageway not far from La Sorbonne, the restaurant is made up of an extraordinary group of charming rooms dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Lead windows, exposed stone, period furniture and handmade floor tiles create an irresistible dining atmosphere perhaps unique in Paris. The kitchen revolves around the classics, often with innovative touches and there are subtle references to medieval-style cuisine, such as an admirable duck terrine served with a lush compote of onions with cassis. The magret de canard, accompanied by simmered peaches and a superb potato galette, was tender and perfectly-cooked as was the rack of lamb served with mint, although the sauce needed slightly more definition. The luscious desserts were a soothingly perfect tarte tatin accompanied by a side order of crème fraiche, and the house specialty, a millefeuille served hot and caramalized on top, From the extensive wine list, we found the fine 1997 Château Lieujean to be extremely well-priced at 153F, as are the 150 & 200F menus. $$$
Restaurant Vagenende 142 bd St-Germain, 6e, M° Odéon, tel: 01 43 26 68 18, open daily. One of the most breathtakingly ornate of all of Paris art nouveau restaurants, the interior of this famous brasserie is a visual delight, with swirling panels of wood and mirrors reflecting the rose-hued glow of frosted tulip-shaped light fittings and an intricate mosaic floor. Shellfish are the specialty and the 148F menu is great value, offering half a dozen oysters that were so fresh that they cringed under the lemon, an excellent roast suckling pig served with honey and lightly spiced sauce, and dessert. Among these, the trio of crème brûlées, flavored with rose water, lavander and orange blossom, were an absolute delight. The ratatouille and brousse cheese choux puffs made a bright, cheerful entrée, although the accompanying salad was sadly overdressed. The fish of the day was mérou served with a dazzling fan of interchanging green and white asparagus sprinkled with parmesan, a generous helping although the fish was a touch dry. The restaurant has just added wheelchair access, air-conditioning and special lighting to enhance the painted wall panels depiciting scenes of Alsatian life and the celebrated back room has been recently restored to its original splendor. $$
Bouillon Racine 3 rue Racine, 6e, M° Cluny, tel: 01 44 32 15 60, open daily. Bouillons were 19th century food halls that provided nourishment for ordinary folk, and this beautiful restaurant, painted in art nouveau signature green, is one of the oldest and most distinguished remaining in Paris. All the architectural details are authentic, and the wrought-iron tables, chairs and light fittings were specially forged in Belgium from original designs. The handsome downstairs area is dominated by huge windows, a well-stocked bar and a beautiful mosaic floor, while the upstairs salle has a more intimate feel thanks to the parquet floors and small booths. The specialty of the house are hearty fare such as the famous beef bouillon, the carbonnade de buf served in a big cast iron dish, or veal kidneys in a shining copper pot. The lunch menu is good value, offering an entrée and main coursefor 99F, and dont forget the houses superb collection of Belgian beer, including the rich Palm special. $$
Au Petit Riche 25 rue le Peletier, 9e, M° Richelieu-Drouot tel: 01 47 70 68 68, closed Sun. This jewel-box of a restaurant has retained its original Belle Epoque decor including flowering candelabra lights, nicotine walls, smoked glass, gleaming brass fixtures, and the smooth hush throughout of time-polished wood. Just off the Grands Boulevards, its perfectly located for shoppers and nighttime theater-goers. The food is unpretentious, generally satisfying if sometimes uneven, but well-priced. The evening menu is good value, offering fresh oysters or the rich soupe de poisson, and such hearty traditional fare as grilled pigs trotter and blanquette de veau. The selection of sorbets and ice creams is a delight. Everything about the establishment is old-fashioned, including the service, which is formal, if amiable, and absolutely not in any hurry. $$
Price Code: $ = up to 160F. $$ = up to 220F. $$$ = more than 220F. Prices are for the average cost of an entrée, main course and dessert from the à la carte menu and excludes wine. While all care has been taken to verify estimates, we cannot be held responsible for any changes or fluctuations.