The Worst Restaurant Experience of 2016 AKA The Time That I Cleared The Dirty Plates…

Normally, if I have a bad experience in a restaurant, I’ll chalk it down to bad luck and keep schtum. However, trying a new Italian restaurant last night turned into such a comedy of errors that it is too good not to be shared.

We arrive shortly after 8pm. My two friends live on the street and they texted me on Tuesday to tell me about the recent sighting of an amazing pizza oven.

It’s a Friday night – their first Friday night – and the restaurant is about a quarter full.

The waitress – for the purpose of distinguising her from the others, we’ll give her the very unimaginative name “Waitress in Black” – gestures to a two tables of two, asks if, once she has put the tables together, if that would suit us. “Yes, yes, fine,” we murmur. Coats off, we sit down and settle in, but then Waitress in Black realises that the two tables don’t meet completely straight. It’s a centimetre off. We try to tell her that it’s fine but she insists that we get up. There’s a third small table on the other side and she wants to change the tables around and for us to sit on tables 1 and 3 instead of 1 and 2.

Have you ever seen street game where there are three upturned cups and a coin underneath? You have to keep track of where the coin is as the cups are moved around. That’s basically what happened with our seats. Awkward.

There are large pieces of broken glass on the floor.
I point this out to her, mainly so that she doesn’t tread on it in her black ballerines. With a shrug, she indicates that we are to sit on the tables furthest away from the broken glass so this becomes a moot point.

We are given the menus and are left to peruse. Starters (bruschetta, burrata and salumi) range between 8 and 10€, mains (pizza or pasta) between 13-14€ and desserts (tiramisu, pannacotta) 8-9€. There is a three course menu, priced at 35€.

It’s an old restaurant-industry reflex of mine – and I’m aware that there are many moments in this story where I’m going to come across as a Basic Bitch – but the menu doesn’t add up.

Even if you had the most expensive starter, main and dessert, it would come to a maximum of 33 euros… and quite likely even less. The fixed price of 35 euros had clearly been completely plucked out of the air… probably because other Paris restaurants set their dinner menu at that price. Yet, if you had gone for this option, you would surely have been out of pocket.

As a sidenote, just the day before, my friends had seen them offering a week-long promotional menu (even at dinner) at 20€, which we considered a steal. I inquire politely, but learn that that was yesterday and today is today.

Anyway, we were happily seated at 8.20pm. A few moments later, we are offered a glass of Prosecco on the house… of course, we happily accept. I take one sip and realise that what we’ve been served can in no way be a Prosecco; it’s actually a Moscato d’Asti, a much sweeter sparkling wine. Still, it’s a free drink. I’m not complaining. It is 8.25pm.

Let me take a moment to describe the restaurant for you. It’s a decent sized space with 30-35 covers. An open kitchen at the back with two seasoned pizzaioli and two chefs plating pasta. There are touches of aesthetic brillances (the beautiful tiling on the bar) but the effect is ruined by the overhead fluorescent lighting. It is so bright in fact that you wonder whether you have walked into a hospital by mistake. To add salt to the wound, just at eye-height from where we are sitting, there is a string of bright green LED lights piercing our pupils.

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At 8.40pm, Waitress in Black comes over and we finally place our food and wine order. Two other tables have since arrived and the table to my left has even managed to order before us. The table to my right are trying to get the waitress’ attention but it’s to no avail. “Si, si, arrivo subito!” she calls across the room.

There is another waitress – let’s call her Waitress in White – but let’s also give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she’s never waited tables before in her life. Nor has she ever even been to a restaurant before. Her tasks seem to include passing off Moscato d’Asti for Prosecco, ferrying food from the kitchen and ambling around the restaurant empty-handed.

A table of two ask her for something. She looks at them vacantly then goes to find Waitress in Black. A glass of water is subsequently produced.

Other times, Waitress in White is walking around the restaurant holding plates of hot food but visibly has absolutely no idea for whom they are destined.

Anyway, our food arrives at 8.48. Very quick for two pizze and a pasta dish…. but then it’s become clear to us in the forty minutes that it’s taken to get to that point that the four chefs are bored stiff, waiting for orders from the one competent waitress.

Again, there’s a problem. We still haven’t got our wine.
We had also asked for some water, but that hasn’t come either. We’re dry.

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To be fair, poor Waitress in Black had tried to open the bottle a few minutes before but the corkscrew had broken in two, leaving the screw part firmly buried in the cork. A new bottle had to be retrieved.

By the time the wine is served, I had already finished my pizza. My friend is only a slice behind. It left us in the rather humorous situation of having nothing left to eat but a full bottle of wine to be drunk.

We finished eating by 9pm. At 9.20pm, the finished plates are still in front of us.
There are now six tables in the restaurant and Waitress in Black is running ragged between them.

A wicked idea has entered my head. I apologise in advance to my dining companions whilst letting them in on my plan…  I give the wait staff a grace period of three minutes before I put the plan into action.

Needless to say, three minutes later, the plates are still there. I’ve seen from Table on the Right that calls for help are only answered by “si, si, sto arrivando…” They are also waiting for their table to be cleared. If we’re ever to leave the restaurant, something more dramatic needs to happen.

I’m not proud of it and I’m hoping that it never has to happen again…. but I get up from the table, stack our plates and take them myself towards the back.

Oh my gosh, I wish I could describe their faces! Words don’t do it justice.
Waitress in Black, Waitress in White and two other Women in Grey are all standing near the pass and they have frozen, their mouths wide open. A pizzaiolo slaps himself on the head out of frustration.

One of the pasta chefs steps forward and takes the plates from me. Let me just say at this point that I had no intention of actually going any further out the back nor making a big scene. It was intended to be a wake-up call for the whole team that more attention needed to be paid in front of house.

I explain in Italian that we’d been waiting with the plates in front of us for half an hour (ok, that was an exaggeration – it had been 20 minutes) and that we would like a dessert but that I needed to leave shortly.

The chef is very quick to say that I was completely right and that he personally will take our dessert order.

He’s good to his word and immediately comes to our table to ask what desserts we would like. “Well actually, what’s on offer? Could we maybe see a menu..?” we reply.

He again steps up to the mark, provides menus and we order immediately.

Very shortly afterwards, with the theatrical flourish of an Italian chef who takes pride in his food, our two tiramisu and a panna cotta arrive in front of us. He kindly wishes us a buon appetito and is just about to turn tail back to the safety of his kitchen when I ask, “scusa..?”

I pause just a second, because if you had been there, you would have appreciated the comic timing.

“Would it be possible to have some spoons?”

The poor guy.

He goes to the first waitress station but there are no spoons there. He goes to a second one and comes back with three huge spoons for us. I can only assume that there were no teaspoons in the second station and he was probably too embarassed to go looking any further.

“You know, you should be a waitress,” he says.
“I am one,” I reply.

Ahh! I could barely hold back what would have been fits of uncontrollable laughter.

That was 9.30pm. A shot of limoncello appears alongside the dessert.

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Now, if you had any experience in service, at this point you would think: OK, the table is in a rush, we need to prioritise getting them out of here.

We ask for the bill at 9.50. Instead, we receive a shot of finocchietto.

Clearly Waitress in Black has resorted to “Restaurant Handbook 101 “- if all else fails, give the clients a free drink. You can’t make the problems go away, but you can try and get the guests so drunk that they may forget.

“So would you like the bill now?” Waitress in Black asks at 10.05. “Err yes, we did ask you for that…”
A few minutes later, she turns round to ask us what desserts we had. Evidently, Chef had got them from the kitchen and without writing it down.

However, let me just say, our dessert bowls were still in front of us. (Over half an hour from when they were served and fifteen minutes of sitting obsolete in front of us.) It wouldn’t not have taken Einstein to recognise which dishes they were and conclude that we’d had two tiramisu and a panna cotta.


I’ve done my time working front of house. I’ve had multiple moments which could be perceived as a baptism of fire. It’s for that reason that I became such a bitch last night. My tolerance for getting-the-simple-things-wrong is lower than your average punter.

Some things are more than understandable when you have just opened a restaurant: that there is no computer system for communicating between the salle and the kitchen; that credit cards are not accepted; that there are teething problems; that being from Naples, their levels of service do not meet my British expectations of efficiency.

However,

  • We shouldn’t have had to wait thirty minutes before placing our order.
  • We should have had wine – or at least some water – in our glasses while we were eating.
  • I shouldn’t have needed to clear our table.
  • Even with the wake-up call, we were in that restaurant for over two hours. And do you know what, we would have enjoyed a lengthy meal…. if we had had some wine to drink! But empty glasses, a gormless waitress and such bright lighting makes for a frustrating experience, even though the pizza was actually very good.

Had we paid 35 euros (excluding drinks) for the evening menu, I would have been seriously pissed (in the American sense.)

There was also no management presence. Nobody overseeing.

The restaurant gave us the choice of a menu in English or in French. It’s a nice touch… but maybe the time taken on that bad translation should have been used to sweep up the broken glass, to print a wine list or even train Waitress in White?

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Would you know what to expect if you saw that on a menu….? Italian, French, English and, err, “nettung”?!

As we’re paying, I tell Waitress in Black that I hoped she hadn’t taken offence by me taking the plates up. We told her how we understood that the service problems were not her fault and we’d seen her doing everything by herself with no support from the three other women. (We had falsely assumed that one of the Women in Grey was the boss.)

It turns out, however, that Waitress in Black actually was the boss there. She had been working as a waitress in France for a year and then was offered this job. I’m not identifying the restaurant because the food was great and it has potential… but let me just say as a word of warning if you recognise the photo at the top of the page, I won’t be hurrying back there any time soon.

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Yard, 75011

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Photo credit: the team at Yard.

One of my best meals in recent months was had at this thimble-sized restaurant just a stepping stone away from the Pere Lachaise cemetary.

Jane Drotter presides over the 25-or-so covers on the floor, whilst chef Shaun Kelly (ex-St John, Saturne and Au Passage) has free rein in the kitchen. The result is a powerful combination.

Service is friendly and efficient. Jane, always smiling, has a wonderful manner with the clients. The restaurant Yard has technically been open since 2009, but it is only since summer 2014 that they have been open in the evenings as well. This change, along with the arrival of Shaun Kelly, was accompanied by a huge wave of buzz amongst the foodies and fellow restauranteurs in Paris.

Both lunch and dinner menus comprise a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts. Not exactly great if you’re a picky eater, but at least you’re sure that what they have is fresh, seasonal and, let me tell you, it is going to be good! The wine list is interesting and more extensive, with natural wines from France, Spain and Italy.

A special mention for the spectacularly decadent “Kate Mousse” which might just have gone down as my favourite pudding that I’ve eaten this summer.

In particular, the lunch menu at 18 euros for entrée + plat + dessert is an absolute steal. Highly recommended.

N.B. If this sounds like your sort of place, you’re sure to like Le Servan and Le 6 Paul Bert too.

 


Essential Information

Address: 6 rue de Mont Louis, 75011
Telephone: 01 40 09 70 30
WebsiteWebsiteFacebook
Opening Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Open Monday lunch also. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Reservations: advisable – best to call a week in advance. 
Suggested footwear: Black leather ankle boots with a slight heel. 

 

Le 6 Paul Bert, 75011

UPDATE (Feb 2015): I went back to Le 6 Paul Bert for dinner with some friends two days ago. In the evening, the restaurant offers a prix fixe menu at 44 euros, comprising four courses (starter-fish-meat-dessert.) I understand they’re undergoing some staff changes in the kitchen… and unfortunately, it showed.

There were three choices for each course and being a group of 6 people, we ordered a bit of everything. This decision proved to be fortuitous as some dishes that we received were really not very good. I’m talking bitter winter leaves that were overly salted — think crunching down on a mouthful of rock salt. Veal that was tough and stringy and really not pleasant to eat. A financier made with different cereal grains that was so flat that two of us didn’t even finish.

Still, service was very pleasant, as usual, and the wines were great. Special mention also to the Sicilian cannoli with a punchy lemon cream filling that was absolutely delicious.

I used to recommend this restaurant fervently but I think my ardour has been somewhat extinguished after this latest experience.

 


 

APRIL 2014: I have been a fervent supporter of the Vélib – the Paris bike-share programme. For just half the price of a monthly Navigo pass, I’m able to nip around this beautiful city first thing in the morning before it wakes up and late at night after the last métro (n.b. to avoid unwanted advances, much better for a girl to take a bike than attempting to walk home.) It’s also useful (and often faster) when you’re going to a part of the city which requires that you make two changes on the métro.

However, last Friday as I sat down at Le 6 Paul Bert to have lunch with an old university friend, I was shaking. You see, at the Faidherbe-Chaligny crossroads, just seconds earlier, I had been knocked off my Vélib by an oncoming motorcycle which was running a red light.

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It happened as I was waiting in stationary traffic to turn left at the pedestrian crossing. I saw the white motorbike coming – because, as you can see, it’s a fairly wide junction – but I still don’t know how it was able to get at an angle which would have clipped my back wheel and sent me flying. Incidentally, he didn’t stop after the accident.

With a bruised leg and grazed hand but fortunately nothing worse, I sat down at the table, so ready for the royal feast that I was about to be treated to.

Le 6 Paul Bert is owned by the same Bertrand Auboyneau who made his name at the Bistrot Paul Bert just a few doors down on the same street. Unlike the Bistrot’s classic but hearty cuisine, Le 6 serves up small, light dishes with inventive combinations.

It’s a narrow space; a traditional zinc-topped bar on one side and a line of lipstick-red tables on the other. At the end, you see the open kitchen where Louis-Philippe presides.

The 19 euros lunch menu (entrée+plat+dessert) is a steal. The options are fairly limited – just two options for each – but it’s so good, you don’t even need to choose.

A raw fish (one that I hadn’t heard of before) carpaccio, served with strawberries, basil, petit pois and asparagus. A skillful lesson in cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The main course of paleron de boeuf, carrots and garlic was suave as it was mouthwatering. Perfectly seasoned and really tasty. I could have had two. To finish, a white chocolate sponge with a milk sorbet and quenelles of white chocolate mousse. Heaven.

Antonin, our sommelier, had taken the time at the beginning of our meal to be sure that we were happy with our wine choice. The list is extensive and boasts a great choice of natural wine (what else!) from both France and abroad.

I run the risk of sounding like a grump but I will just add one last thing: don’t believe what some websites may say about this being a place “where the locals go.” It may have once been the case, but nowadays, the clientele is distinctly English-speaking.

You come because you want to discover some of the most exciting cooking that’s happening in Paris right now – and even better, you know it won’t break the bank.


Essential Information

Address: 6 rue Paul Bert, 75011
Telephone: 01 43 79 14 32
Website: Facebook
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Saturday lunch and dinner, Tuesday dinner. Closed Sunday and Monday. 
Reservations: recommended – a couple of days in advance.  
Suggested footwear: tan-coloured ankle boots over your skinny jeans. 

 

Georges, 75004

The restaurant Georges, like the Café Marly by the Louvre, has recently come under fire for a policy of seating only the most beautiful by the window, meaning that the less-than-beautiful get a miserly seat at the back.

It may come as a surprise but I can actually understand the basis of this policy. It’s not quite the same thing, but in restaurants that I’ve worked in, we frequently had a policy of seating as many clients outside or at the very least by the window so that it would look busy to passers-by and thereby hopefully attract more clients.

Admittedly, in this case, it’s not quite the same. Stories of potential clients being turned away, because they were wearing overly-practical footwear, are plentiful. If you’re aware of the reputation that the Costes group (the owners of these two hotspots) you would not be too surprised. (Have you ever to the Hotel Costes?? I know grown men who have come away weeping for their mothers after just forty-five minutes at the bar.)

But anyway, my mum was in town for a few days last week. We decided to go and see the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Pompidou Centre… just like the other five thousand people and their dogs, I hear you sigh.

We hadn’t made plans for afterwards but as we take that escalator up the side of the building, getting higher and higher, there was only one option.

The view from the top of the Pompidou Centre is really quite breathtaking. “Shall we meet here for lunch afterwards?” she asked. The deal was done.

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Much could be said of the physical attractiveness of the fellow guests (but considering it was a Wednesday lunchtime, the bar was not too high) but what I will remember about this lunch was the sheer dappiness of our hostess. The phrase “to have more beauty than brains” has never really been so pertinent before. Fortunately, our waiter had just as many attractive genes as the hostess and yet a few more brain cells.

The lunch went smoothly. The restaurant is beautifully designed. Attentive service. Good food. Our wine glass was always topped up. Solid. A good experience that is worth doing once.

Two omelettes, a club sandwich, a bottle of Leflaive’s 2011 Chardonnay and a couple of coffees later, we ended up with a bill only fractionally short of a hundred shiny copper pieces… but when you’re in a restaurant like this, it’s not to count the pennies.


Essential Information

Address: 6th floor of the Pompidou Centre, 75004
Telephone: 01 44 78 47 99   
WebsiteGeorges, Facebook
Opening Hours: from midday til 2am, every day except Tuesday.
Reservations: not necessary for lunch, but advisable for the evening.
 

Aux Charpentiers, 75006

 

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“Food and love have two things in common….. they are both temporary but should bring pleasure” says Aux Charpentiers boss, Pierre Bardeche.

Aux Charpentiers is a traditional French bistro, where Pierre and his wife Colette Bardeche have ruled the roost since 1976.

In the heart of the historical St Germain quartier, this is a great address to have up your sleeve. Founded in 1856, stepping inside is also an exercise in stepping back in time. The decor has not changed much since those days… but that adds to the charm. Surprisingly large, I would reckon there are a total of 120 covers once we rack up the light and airy ground-floor space, the slightly dingier downstairs, the patio and the garden.

On the menu: traditional French cuisine, carefully prepared. Expect to see starters such as egg mayonaise, foie gras or an endive&roquefort salad and beef tartare, blanquette de veau or a saucisse de Toulouse as a main course. A plate of cheese to follow is, of course, de rigueur. Everything is prepared onsite from the freshest and most seasonal produce available.

I personally don’t find the wine list particularly exciting. It is rather too traditional for my very eclectic tastes but I hold my hands up and accept that’s entirely my fault.

Colette, who runs the front of house, is always smiley and welcoming but other times, service may be brisk. On one occasion, upon asking the waitress who the winemaker was (the wine list gives just the region and the vintage) to the horror of my dining partner, we received a stinging “bah, mais, j’sai’pas, it’s written on the bottle!”

Despite that, I keep coming back to this classic gem time after time… well, because it’s one of the very few restaurants of its kind that are left.


Essential Information

Address: 10 Rue Mabillon, 75006 
Telephone: 01 43 26 30 05
WebsiteAux Charpentiers
Opening Hours: 12noon-3pm and 7-11pm, seven days a week.
Reservations: recommended – a couple of days in advance.  
Suggested footwear: flats, nothing too fancy. 


Clamato, 75011

Open since November 2013, Clamato is the little brother to Septime, located right next door and by the one and only, Bertrand Grébaut. Specialising in seafood, oysters and natural wine, it attracts a hipster clientèle – beautiful women and sexy men sporting a few days of stubble.

Great with a group of four or five friends if you are able to bag yourselves a table or as a couple sitting at the bar. Service is friendly and informal. Order a whole lot of small plates – it’s not cheap, but it’s fresh, modern and very tasty. I particularly recommend the smoked eel burger, the artichaut and prawn dish and the deep-fried crab with the most addictive spicy mayonaise that I would happily eat off the spoon until falling blissfully into a food coma…


Essential Information

Address: 80 rue de Charonne, 75011
Telephone: 01 43 72 74 53
WebsiteFacebook
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Friday, from 7pm – midnight. Saturday and Sunday, from midday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 
Reservations: recommended – a couple of days in advance.  
Suggested footwear: do you remember those pumps you wore to Bones?

 

CLOSED – Bones, 75011

UPDATE AUG 2015: Sadly Bones closed its doors last night.

Keep your eyes peeled to find out who takes this space.


 

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Combining minimalist food and décor with great drinks, Bones is on every Paris hipster’s radar. Young and beautiful anglophones flock to this bricks and mortar bar and restaurant in the 11th.

The charming James Henry (formerly of Au Passage) heads up the open kitchen. His philosophy of using every part of the animal, from nose to tail, is highly admirable. Press him further on how he uses other byproducts and you’ll be won over by the virtues of his whey granita. His six course tasting menu (for around the 50 euro price point, before wine) however, gets mixed feedback.

Pierre Derrien is on front of house and does a great job suggesting interesting wines to accompany your meal. The Charles Dufour Extra Brut Champagne that he picked out for our table last night was exceptional. The wine list is extensive – all natural, with non-French wines well-represented – but there seem to be a lot that they don’t have in stock. Beers and cocktail are also de rigueur.

The restaurant seats roughly thirty covers and has two services per evening. The bar – which does not accept reservations – offers a high-quality “small plates” menu.

You come to squat at the bar, sup on some great natural wine or beer and admire the best choice of the highly-sought-after Karuizawa whiskies I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. Its next-door neighbours, Clamato and Septime, attract a similar clientèle.


Essential Information

Address: 43 rue Godefroy Caviagnac, 75011
Telephone: 09 80 75 32 08
WebsiteBones, Facebook
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 7pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Reservations: definitely recommended – phone between 2-7pm a week ahead. 
Suggested footwear: cute little ballerina pumps.

 

Le Dépanneur, 75009

Shortly before August 2013, Pigalle’s well-known all-day-and-all-night joint, Le Dépanneur, re-opened under new management.

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Situated in trendy SoPi (South Pigalle for those of you not in the know) the restaurant is barely a hop, skip and jump away from the seedy attractations around the Moulin Rouge. However its unique exterieur, large windows reminiscent of either a school bus or an old greenhouse, and the fact that it’s right on an intersection, make this bar-restaurant stand out from its surroundings.

What will also catch your eye is the number of well-dressed bobos sitting outside, smoking, and nursing a tequila cocktail. Oh the idiosyncrasies of Paris life! As you make your way inside, you’ll surely notice the decor. Sleek, modern, with a little beach-house vibe going on. (For those who have an eagle-eye or a fondness for trivia, the same designer also did the Mary Celeste.) Washboard wood meets industrial chrome. This of course fits neatly with the theme of the restaurant – California in Paris. Tacos, tequila and burgers. 

We sit down to eat. I choose the CaliClassic burger. It’s good. The meat and the bun are perfect. I remember that it’s Jordan from the Cantine California food truck in the kitchen. I savour the second bite. Unfortunately, that’s where a little niggle crops up.

Did I really need guacamole and mayonnaise? Raw red onions as well as caramelised onions? Bacon, of course, is a staple in any good burger as far as I’m concerned and the Cheddar was exceptionnally tasty too (I’m always appreciative of good Cheddar)… but cheese and guacamole and mayonnaise and pickles and lettuce, tomatoes and… and… and… and… it all seemed a little too much.

Maybe this is an American thing that we Brits just don’t get. Maybe it boils down to personal taste – I know I can be a boring old stooge at times.

In short, I love the vibe, I love the tequila and I love the fact that there’s a vegetarian burger on the menu. (It’s not half bad either, I’m reliably informed.) I like the fact that you can get wine, cocktails and beer alongside burgers and tacos. What I didn’t like so much was the price. 17 euros for a burger seems rather on the hefty side to me, especially when you’ll be paying 12-13 euros for the cocktail. Here’s a suggestion: why not cut down on all those accoutrements and charge me a tenner? I tell you what – that would be such a great combination, you’d find me here every day!

(Price-wise you’re looking at: 4.5 euros for a Brooklyn Lager, 5-6 euros for a glass of wine, 10 euros for a starter, 17 for a burger and 8 euros for a dessert.)

You come because you’ve finally embraced your inner hipster and you’re trying to kid yourself that you’re actually in California… 😉

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Essential Information

Address: 27 rue Pierre Fontaine, 75009
Telephone: 01 48 74 48 74
WebsiteLe DepanneurFacebook
Opening Hours: every day from 10am til 2am. “Service continu.”
Reservations: not necessary.   
Suggested footwear: embrace your inner hipster

 

ADDENDUM: I went back today (Tuesday 15/04/14) and am actually very glad I did. You see, let me explain… I had tried to go to another restaurant in the area but was briskly told that last orders were at 14h. (It was 14h05.) Turned back out onto the street, having to quickly formulate a plan…. it was a beautiful spring day, the sun was hot and the Parisians were on their best behaviour…. Le Depanneur.

Maybe it was because it was a fairly quiet Tuesday afternoon – and did I mention that the sun was shining – but the service was really great. (And it’s not often I say that.)

I sat on the glorious terrasse. One Brooklyn Lager quickly became two Brooklyn Lagers. A burger arrived. Still up to its very high standards – and with less “stuff” it seemed too! The whole thing is still over-priced, but given the fact that I spent a very pleasurable hour or so in that spot in the sunshine, I’m more than happy to pay the 27 euros that my bill came to in the end.

Where To Find Oysters in Paris

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This blog post comes to you today from the corner of my bed. I’ve just spent a very uncomfortable night curled up on precisely one sixth of the normally available bed space.

Three rooms of Burnt Cream HQ are being repainted this weekend, which means that everything has had to find a new home. I was sharing my bed with the coats from the hallway, cushions from the sofa and a couple of picture frames that were sticking into my lower back. I had naively thought that the other adjoining rooms would avoid the fate of suffocation by paint dust because the decorator would just close the door…. but it turns out that said door met its match because it is currently sitting in the naughty corner of the other room, wondering where its hinges went.

All this is making me work on a new dimension of French lexicon. The most useful word has been the verb écailler, which I knew before in the context of “écailler le poisson” (“to scale the fish”) but it loosely means to take off and can be applied to all manner of things. In particular, this past weekend I’ve found myself having to say “l’humidité écaillait la peinture” (“the damp was causing the paintwork to come off”) quite a lot. In its reflexive form s’écailler it means to flake or peel off. I’ve heard it being used to refer to chapped lips or dry skin, which is also pretty useful to know around this time of year…

The main reason, however, why you should know this verb is because it also means to shuck an oyster – écailler une huitre. And an écailleur is therefore somebody who opens the oysters. Yes, the French even have a word for that.

Here are my top five recommendations for eating oysters in Paris this season:

Huiterie Regis

3 rue Montfaucon, 75006

Sleek and chic, by the Saint Germain market. Only 14 covers, no reservations. Prices start around 18 euros for a dozen but can go to 60 euros for a dozen Belons. Very nice wines. Menu limited almost entirely to bivalves. Also do take away.

Le Mary Celeste

1 rue Commines, 75003

Oysters are not just for the rich and snooty, the Mary Celeste attracts a young (and largely English speaking) clientele. Perch at the bar, sup a cocktail or some Brooklyn beer and knock back the oysters. Varied menu of small dishes. Cocktails, wine and craft beer. Very on-trend right now. (Psst! Try Clamato too.)

L’Écume Saint Honore

6 rue du Marche Saint Honore, 75001

A fishmonger-come-restaurant. A little kitsch but you’ll have a memorable experience. Well positionned between the Louvre, Vendome and the chichi shopping streets. Can quickly do some damage to the wallet.

Le Baron Rouge

1 rue Theophile Roussel, 75012

Rather chaotic and crazy, but at the Baron Rouge, the wine just keeps flowing. Convivial atmosphere. Reasonably priced oysters to be eaten on the hoof. Le Baron Rouge is the most talked-about, but you’ll probably find a similar kind of wine bar with a pop-up oyster seller in most arrondissements at this time of the year. A very good neighbourhood option.

L’Ecailler du Bistrot

22 rue Paul Bert, 75011

Traditional French seafood restaurant. Old school, but in the positive sense. Great natural wine list. Treat yourself to a slap-up meal. Reserve a couple of days before to be sure of getting a table.

Alternatively, you’ll see loads of sellers popping up on the pavements of Paris during the winter months. It will typically set you back between 10 and 15 euros for a dozen so it’s a more affordable option than going to any of the above or getting a seafood platter in a traditional turn-of-the-century brasserie (such as those around Montparnasse, for example.) Pop a bottle of bone dry Sancerre or more rounded Muscadet-Sevre-et-Maine (the traditional accompaniment) in the fridge but you can also try with Champagne or any other kind of dry bubbles. I had a really good Vouvray Brut NM from the Domaine Champalou yesterday at La Derniere Goutte which would be perfect.

Oh, and don’t forget, you should also try to écailler those oysters yourself!

La Cave 27, 75018

cave27

Inattendu. Insolite. Izakaya.

The first two words would be how the French would describe this izakaya. Quirky and completely unexpected.

The Japanese word izakaya originally comes from i meaning ‘to stay’ and sakaya a ‘saké shop’ and therefore loosely, it means a saké shop where you can hang out. That’s a pretty accurate description for the Cave 27.

With a floor space of no more than 12m², it is smaller than your average Parisian studio. It certainly feels like one too. There is just one table in the middle of the room. Stools pop out from nowhere to accommodate diners. Stepping over the threshold is like stepping into someone’s living room.

The host in this ‘apartment’ is Takemoto, an eccentric long grey-haired, flamenco-lover, who can greet you in English, French, Spanish, Arabic or Japanese.

Accordingly, there is an eccentric and international selection of alcohols on offer: French and Spanish wine (for between 11 and 15€ a bottle) and a few beers, as well as plenty of saké, shochu and Japanese whisky (I think I spotted a Nikka Miyagikyo Non-Age behind the bar.)

You can either perch at the bar or find a spot around the table. I still dont know how we managed to fit 8 people in there on Monday night. It looks like there’s only space for three. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, there is live music. Only le bon Dieu knows how they all fit.

As for food, you choose between small ‘tapas’ dishes or in an enormous saucepan in the middle of the table. The 2 dishes of tapas and a half-pitcher of saké for 6€ is a steal. If you fancy something a little more substantial, it’ll set you back 8€ per person for the steaming bowl of broth. Even with several rounds of food and drinks, you’ll get change back from a twenty euro note.

It really is the one of the most astounding places I’ve come across in Paris. Once you’ve got over the initial discomfort of being in this tiny room, the lowered boundaries mean that you end up making conversation with the other diners (something that never normally happens in Paris.) Food is shared, bottles ordered for the table, and new friends are made.

 


Essential Information

Address: 27 rue Lamarck, 75018
Contact Details: Email takemotomotoichi at yahoo.fr  
Opening Hours: from 12 noon – 14.30 and from 17h until midnight. Even on Mondays.
Reservations: not necessary.
Suggested footwear: don’t quote me on this but you could practically come here in your slippers!