Those who, like my friend Helen (as mentioned in last week’s review of La Marée Jeanne), are allergic to foam and other niceties of so-called molecular cuisine, and those who just crave good old-fashioned French food now and then would do well to have a meal at Au Bon Coin, where the classics of French bistro cooking are still made up fresh, not out of the freezer or a vacuum-packed plastic bag.
I had lunch there the other day with my friend Joan. The restaurant, with its appealing retro decor – zinc-topped wooden bar, white-tiled walls, old enameled advertising plaques – offers a reasonable price for lunch menus: €15.90 for two courses and €19.90 for three (fixed-price menus are also available in the evening).
I started with the hearty chicken-liver pâté
with cognac, served with salad, cornichons and big, fat capers. Joan skipped the starter and went straight to her main course: a whole calf’s
kidney with a sauce flavored with violet mustard and balsamic vinegar and baby-spinach salad on the side. My main course was a delicious crispy-tender-fatty
piece of pork belly with a Xeres-flavored jus, served with a generous helping of mashed potatoes.
Like the other courses, the desserts were classics with an added twist. The floating
island was streaked with pink praline and floated in a pool of pistachio-flavored crème anglaise. My crème caramel was flavored with bergamot and came with two almond sacristans (stick-shaped cookies made with puff pastry). The floating island was tasty, but I found the crème caramel rather pedestrian.
Places like Au Bon Coin, a haven for meat-and-potatoes fans (although the chef added a few little flourishes, unnecessary in my book), are becoming increasingly rare, but there are still a few left – I had a similarly simple, satisfying, high-quality meal recently at an old standby in the 10th arrondissement, La Marine – offering hope to those who are fed up with frills and tired of trends.