Tourists Get It Right
The Beaurepaire has a fabulous summer terrace, so hard to find in Paris, and a cozy interior. And the food’s not bad!
Something was wrong. My lunch date, restaurant reviewer John Talbott, wasn’t waiting for me in the new bistro Verres de Contact on the Boulevard Saint-Germain as planned, but on the street in front of it. Turns out that an electricity cut had forced the restaurant to close for a few hours. Where to go? We first scanned our brains, but the nearby places we thought of all turned out to be closed on Monday, so I resorted to various location-based apps on my iPhone, all of which proved unsatisfactory, either because the places they turned up were also closed on Monday (or closed some time ago) or were uninteresting.
We wandered the neighborhood, which certainly wasn’t lacking in restaurants, much as tourists would, staring at menus and peeking into interiors and eventually decided to take a chance on the Beaurepaire even though the menu wasn’t particularly exciting – usual suspects included foie gras, magret de canard and mousse au chocolat – because it had a nice feeling about it and a cozy interior with lots of little pictures and lamps and mirrors on the wall. It turned out that it had something even better on the other side of the restaurant: a large terrace on a quiet, tree-shaded square. A real treasure in Paris, especially on such a golden day, with the warm sun dappling our table and the air clear, cool and sparkling after a weekend of rain. We were thrilled.
It remained to be seen what the food would be like. The terrace was filling with tourists, not surprising in the heart of the Latin Quarter, but not usually a good indicator for food quality. The servers, a young man and a young woman, were sweet, smiley and prompt with the wine and first courses. Mine was a pleasing dish of cut-up asparagus in a buttery, creamy sauce. John’s “Basque pâté” caused us a bit of consternation when it arrived: the dark round of pâté sat on the plate next to the can it had just come out of, which had been refilled with cornichons, and three pieces of toast. We both expressed our disapproval of pâtés that came out of cans but appreciated the fact that no attempt was being made to hide it. It turned out to be rather delicious and delightfully piquant, with a high Espelette pepper content. John even noted the name of the producer—Jean Haget—for future reference. Not a bad idea for a gift.
An inexplicably long wait occurred before we received our main courses. When it arrived, John’s calf’s liver was not “rosé, almost rare,” as he had requested, but it was delicious and came with a lovely creamy cauliflower purée drizzled with a slightly sweet gravy. My rack of lamb was very rare, a bit too much for me, but just the way he liked it, so some meat swapping took place. The purée of zucchini with herbs on the side was a big hit with both of us.
We had chosen the vin du mois, a 2011 Côtes de Thongues from Languedoc – designated on the label as an “indication géographique protégée,” a European label guaranteeing that was grown and made in a certain area. It turned out to be a hearty, likeable table wine.
The low point of the meal for me was the dessert, the fraisier de la maison, a strawberry concoction in which neither the strawberries nor the creamy topping had much flavor, but John’s mousse au chococlat with hazelnuts was extremely tasty.
While not perfect in every detail, our meal was thoroughly enjoyable, not in the least because of that terrace. Next time I’m looking for a place to eat in the neighborhood, I’d be happy to go back, and I’d even go out of my way for that terrace on a hot summer evening.
Here’s a link to John Talbott’s review of Beaurepaire.
And look for my review of Aux Verres de Contact next week.
Beaurepaire: 1, rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris. Métro: Saint Michel. Tel: 01 43 29 73 57. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner, Monday for lunch only. A la carte: around €33.
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