Thursday, 7 November 2013

Restaurant Review: Bistro Paul Bert, Bastille, Paris

Enjoying some mighty fine bread at Bistro Paul Bert
Following another tip from Trina we headed to Bistro Paul Bert in the Bastille district for lunch on Thursday. It was an enjoyable half hour walk from our apartment across to the restaurant. I'm enjoying the fact that spending the week in the suburbs allows us to visit areas of the city most tourist wouldn't reach. On the way we walked through a strip of student bars (which all looked like dives), so interesting boutiques and seemed to pass through a flooring district too.

As we arrived it certain looked like the classic French bistro with red awnings and wicker chairs out front. As we looked at the chalk board menu hanging outside I was pleased to see a few spare tables as I feared with the restaurants reputation it might be full.

Stepping inside I hopefully asked the table for two. The waiter looked worryingly dismissive when I said we didn't have a reservation and then pointed to a small table in the middle of the restaurant near the bar.
Rabbits livers with death mushrooms
The pricing of Paris menus is something I haven't quite got my head round yet. Main courses seem disproportionately expensive compared with starters and desserts. The lunchtime set menu was similarly skewed at €19 for three courses, €18 for two courses and €14 for one. With pricing like that why would anyone only have two courses? We dived right in for the full monty.

There was the choice for two starters, three mains and two different desserts or cheese. We decided to split our choices so that we could order as much of the menu as possible.

Cream split pea soup
I ordered the rabbit's livers with death trumpet mushrooms. The rabbit's livers has quite a mild flavour and the mushrooms were punchier than I expected. Nothing overly exciting, but a pleasant why to start.

Becks ordered the cream split pea soup which came served in an over sized Pyrex bowl. I loved the classic "we don't really care"bistro attitude of using such an absurd bowl. I don't think they were trying to be 'cool' or 'hipster' it's just the way they do things. The soup was was the winning starter. Rich from the cream and subtly flavoured with the split peas.

Duck breast with quince and house puree
We gave the octopus a miss and ordered the two other main courses. I ordered the duck breast with quince and house puree. The duck was served pink, the potato puree was impossibly smooth and quince was the most flavourful part of the dish.

We swapped mains half way through so that we could get try both dishes. I swapped my duck for the rumpsteak, frites and bearnaise sauce. The star was undoubtedly the bearnaise sauce which was one of the best I've had in ages and I proceeded to smother everything in it.The chips were enjoyably crunchy. The beef was slightly on the chewy side.

Steak frites with bearnaise sauce
I made a huge tactical error on the dessert front by ordering the cheese. The hard cheese, blue and two soft cheeses were as ripe and as pongy as you could hope for. The cheese wasn't bad, in fact it was pretty good. My error was in missing out on the Ile flottante that was sitting in a huge puddle of creme Anglais.

There was no swapping of desserts half way through, so I had to suffice myself with a couple of tastes of the Ile flottante and the creme Anglais was very good indeed. It gave me food envy.

Ile Flottante
I thought all of the basic sauces (the soup, bearnaise, puree maison and creme angalais) were done very well at Bistro Paul Bert, suggesting that the cooks in the kitchen really know what they are doing. The bread on the table was a bit special too, getting a sourdough geek like myself quite excited.

I wouldn't make any 'best meal ever' calls about our lunch; the beef was a little chewy and the duck bland for that. However, at €19 for three courses you couldn't expect the 'best meal ever' and it was exceptional value for what it was. We got a classic French bistro experience to boot.

Coffee ordered purely for the mini canale

Bistro Paul Bert
18 rue Paul-Bert 
Paris 75011 
Tel : +33 1 43 72 24 01


  1. I wonder what their reasoning is with pricing a euro difference between a whole course... NO way would I get just the two courses!

  2. I just saw Bourdain's Layover in Paris episode and guess what - of the limited time he has (48 hours) and all the options in Paris, he chooses to eat at Au Passage AND Bistro Paul Bert! Ahead of the Bourdain curve!

    1. You have impeccable taste and the rest of us are just copying you!