Le Bouillon, Pigalle: c'est si bon!
After two years living abroad, I realise I can be a bit of a Parisian cliché. I love grumbling, I drink my coffee black, I mostly wear plain dark clothes.
So when I come back to Paris, like pretty much every expatriate, I eat all bread, devour all the cheese and drink all the wine. And while I love a good Italian restaurant, all I want when I come home is a true good French restaurant.
Indeed, I think it would be hard to be more French than Le Bouillon, a new restaurant which just opened in Pigalle, the red district of Paris. A bouillon is a broth in French, but it also gave its name to a type of restaurant created at the end of the 19th century, offering traditional French cuisine.
While there used to be hundreds of bouillons in Paris, there are only a couple remaining, with the most famous called Le Bouillon Chartier, still extremely popular to this day but particularly among tourists.
The team behind the hype Brasserie Barbès and Jeannette got the idea to rekindle the love between French people and their bouillons. A few weeks ago, they opened their new eatery right on the Place Pigalle and used the recipe for success. The classic Parisian decor mixes red benches, small tables, wide windows and columns covered with theatre posters, and the servers wear the traditional attire of Parisian waiters, white shirt and black apron - plus the smile. Impossible to be mistaken, you are in Paris.
When we visited Bouillon on the first Sunday of December, we decided to make it an early lunch and didn't regret it: we got a table straight away at 12.30pm - a long queue had formed on the pavement by the time we left. But with 300 seats, I don't imagine you need to wait for hours to get a sit at a coveted table.
What makes le Bouillon so special, on top of the location and decor, is how affordable the menu is. The entrees are between 2 and 8 euros, the mains are around 10 and the most expensive dessert is 4,50 euros. For that price, it would be rude not to try the menu extensively and the three of us agreed to go all out.
Don't expect to discover something new on the menu if you know a bit about French food. All the dishes are as classic as it gets, real traditional dishes that have been the part of the bistro culture forever.
For the entrees, we ordered the pâté en croûte (a sort of meat loaf pie), the oeufs mayo (eggs with mayonnaise) and the poireaux vinaigrette (leeks with French dressing). Simple and efficient, all the plates were unfussy and incredibly tasty. A basket of delicious bread came in handy to wipe them all clean.
For the mains, we went for the pot-au-feu (a traditional beef and veggie stew), the agneau de 7 heures et mojettes (lamb cooked for 7 hours and served with beans) and the bifteck frites, sauce béarnaise (thin steak with fries and béarnaise sauce).
Again, no big surprise here, just good quality ingredients making for some tasty French comfort food, that we washed down with a cheap Côte du Rhône for 8,60 the bottle - plus 3/4 of a bottle of Champagne kindly offered by a lovely couple sitting next to us. While the proximity to the other table could have been annoying depending on our mood (and the crowd), on that day it was the occasion for some nice discussion on both sides of our table. And they say French people are not friendly! (good food softens us for sure)
For dessert, the Poire Belle Hélène (pear with ice-cream and chocolate) and the profiterole (a chou filled with ice-cream and covered in chocolate sauce) tasted like delightful childhood memories. The milk ice-cream didn't have much interest on its own but was a nice addition to the other two desserts.
This feast cost us a mere 70 Euro for three, including tips. We couldn't have asked for a more friendly, homy and tasty lunch on a cold winter Sunday. A mix of young, old, local and tourists make the place a fun hangout that we can't wait to visit again.