The dining room at Champeaux.
A recent article in The Guardian called the Canopée, the new roof over the Forum des Halles in the center of Paris, a “custard-colored flop.” I’d be more inclined to call it a regurgitated-custard-colored flop; custard doesn’t deserve such treatment. Although its swooping curves can be quite fetching from certain angles, it is basically just a fancy, very
Two views from under the Canopée.
expensive (€216 million out of €1 billion for the entire Les Halles renovation project) hat for the badly conceived concrete wasteland underneath it. A shame that the city of Paris tore down one embarrassing eyesore just to put up another.
There is at least one good thing under the Canopée, however. After my disappointment with the gimmicky automated restaurant Za, I went back to try the restaurant opposite it: Alain Ducasse’s Champeaux. To my great delight, I found it to be a real success.
Though it is huge (seats 180), this modern-day brasserie is well laid-out, with different types of seating: tables, big booths for groups (cleverly placed in a separate area) and counter seating.
The tables are spacious and not too close together, and the day I was there (Sunday lunchtime), the noise level was reasonable, although one of my friends said that the last time he had been there, the clattering of the old-fashioned railway timetable (which displays the menu) was unpleasantly loud. Perhaps that is why it was turned off the day I was there.
Everything we tried was thoroughly enjoyable. The warm salad I started with was, oddly, made with winter vegetables, lightly cooked,
but it was delicious with its hint of garlic in the avocado sauce. The green beans “à la Parisienne” one of my friends ordered was a
real treat: super-fresh and smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with thinly sliced raw mushrooms. The escargots (served without
shells) with sorrel, horseradish and mushrooms were another hit.
We tried only two main courses. My vol-au-
vent, the weekend special (each day of the week has its own) was a perfect version of this old-timey French classic, a kind of high-class chicken pot pie, real comfort food. The steak
tartare was brilliant, nice and peppery, with fresh meat properly chopped by hand (not ground).
For dessert, we tried two different soufflés:
pistachio, served with salted-butter-caramel ice cream, and Cointreau, served with fresh orange slices with orange zest. They were both excellent, but I regretted not ordering the chocolate one, made with chocolate from Ducasse’s own bean-to-bar Manufacture de Chocolat, which is one of my favorites in Paris (along with Le Furet Tanrade and Ara). Next time.
And there will be a next time. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and am thrilled that there is now a restaurant in the center of Paris with plenty of space that is open seven days a week; has a friendly, efficient and professional staff; and serves reliably good food at fairly reasonable prices (other fine options in the neighborhood: Pirouette and AG Les Halles). And here’s another advantage: there was no custard on the menu.