The underground walkway between the line 4 and line 12 of the metro at Marcadet Poisonnieres is interminable, throw in a trip that took three changes an empty stomach and a slight hangover, you’ll understand why I was a bit jittery by the time I arrived at Faidherbe Chaligny to meet my friend Juel (@winewomansong).
Lunch was to be at the storied Bistrot Paul Bert, an old school place down a little side street. They were middling busy when we arrived, 1pm on a Tuesday in February possibly not being their busiest service.
Service was gloriously French in that it had that charming inattentiveness that only the French seen to quite manage. They had their own pace for feeding and watering us and little I could do seemed to change it. Mind you aside from the quibbles over getting a jug of tap water and a basket of bread there was little for which we wanted.
2007 Overnoy Arbois Pupillan: Savoury and salty with some neatly delineated dusky oxidative lowlights, but nothing too outré. This was all about the coiled acidity and tightly wound minerality.
Turning established gender menu choice stereotypes neatly on their head I opted for the red mullet carpaccio followed by the brill, while Juel took the agricultural laborers option of terrine de campagne de la maison and tete de veau avec sauce gribiche.
The mullet was a beautifully arranged carpaccio of luminescent stained glass like slices decorated with milky white disks of daikon and lightly pickled spring onion. The slices came slightly thicker than at Au Passage, and though the plate was marginally more cluttered both dishes were astonishing in the freshness and quality of fish presented.
In contrast to the carpaccio, the terrine was a veritable doorstep of country bluster. An edible cliché of traditional peasant directness and honesty, it’s muscular porky depth bristling like stable boys stubble on a ladies cheek.
Jean-Francois Ganevat, Cuvee de l’enfant terrible Poulsard 2010 was almost schiller wein in colour, being fresh and like a deep rose. Light carbonic style tannins came with fresh Jura alpine influenced acidity. Some faintly cherry like fruit notes, but really this was about restrained site specific expression.
I have long held that there is nary a dish that cannot be improved with the measured addition of pork product. The Brill with Puy lentils (aux lard) was a prime example, marvelously cooked brill, seemingly needing no more than a shrug of the knife to come away from the bones, the flesh still juicy in it’s chunks. The flesh had been crowned with two perfectly crisp rashers of bacon that neatly proved a flavour bridge to the slick of creamy lentils, their lovely earthiness grounding the dish.
I didn’t try any of Juel’s tete de veau, but there was very little attempt to gussy it up for the restaurant table, indeed the waiter congratulated her on her order and left with a wry grin on his face. A pile of fatty, meaty head was topped with a pile of sauce gribiche, there were a couple of boiled vegetables added as an afterthought and a surprise treat of a largish morsel of wobble brain. Judging from the heroic amount that Juel ate and the entirely positive noises I kept hearing it was rather good.
I’m always less impressed with desserts that I feel I ought to be, it’s probably related to my tendency to work my way through the bread basket at the start of the meal. That said the desserts were great examples of Parisian classics, my Paris Brest coming liberally decorated with bits of nut and fair bulging with praline cream. Juel’s Baba aux rhum looked like a particularly extravagant mediaeval hat with it’s towering spiral of cream at its centre. As usual the bottle of rum was left on the table in the off chance that we’d need to add more.
I loved Bistrot Paul Bert, it was exactly what I imagine of a French bistro, bold traditional flavours where necessary, delicacy if called for. A stunning wine list of natural wines, though taking the more liberal French interpretation of the term means that there are wines for everyone here.
I will be back
Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 rue Paul Bert, 11eme Paris
+33 1 43 72 24 01