Au Rendez-vous des Camionneurs looks like anything but a truck stop, especially now that its new owners have spiffed up its interior with orange tables and turquoise banquettes and the menu with sophisticated dishes. It’s especially hard to imagine an 18-wheeler parked out front in its heart-of-Paris location on the Ile de la Cité, overlooking the Seine and facing the Left Bank, but a truck stop it once was, back in the 1950s, when the wholesale food market still operated at Les Halles just over the river on the Right Bank.
Three of us dropped in to test the new incarnation of this venerable place, which is open not only for lunch and dinner, but also for breakfast and drinks – according to the adorably friendly waiter, its terrace is a great place to watch the sunset while sampling a fancy cocktail in good weather.
Of our three starters, the most interesting was Mary’s croque monsieur with haddock, fresh goat cheese and smoked herring roe. Sounds like a weird combination, but it was delicious, with the buttery bread perfectly toasted and sealed in a sandwich press. I had the fine tartelette of sardines with a zingy onion
confiture brightened with lemon zest, and Terry was delighted with her creamy celery
soup topped with hazelnut foam, just the thing on a chilly autumn evening.
She was just as happy with her scallops (only three!), which came with an amazingly perfect risotto with baby vegetables, a real accomplishment, since restaurant risottos are often tasty but gummy from being overcooked.
Mary’s lamb shoulder came in two pieces, a tender one she loved and a bony, fatty one she enjoyed much less. Both had the gamey flavor only real meat lovers can appreciate. It came with the best gratin dauphinois I have ever tasted, enhanced by the delicious juices from the meat.
I went for the blanquette de veau, an old-fashioned dish that had become a degraded cliché in French bistros before disappearing from menus, but was reinvented here with tender chunks of veal, a creamy sauce and al dente baby vegetables.
We shared two desserts between us. Terry’s vanilla cream with exotic fruits and lime mousse disappeared so quickly that I don’t remember tasting it, but I do remember my baked Alaska (omelette norvégienne in French), a delicious ice cream and meringue
concoction flambéed at the table with rum.
My only complaint about Au RDV des Camionneurs is that it is a little pricey, but then it is in a very pricey location, and prices seem to be skyrocketing everywhere in Paris. They could easily make more of an effort with the wine list, however, which is rather limited in both selection and price range. The restaurant was out of the Crozes Hermitage we wanted, so we ended up ordering a €40 Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame from Philippe and Françoise Gourdon, which the waiter forgot to add to the bill. When we pointed out the error, he rewarded us with glasses of a 1982 Rivesaltes. I told you he was adorable…Favorite