The poached egg with tomato coulis and cilantro cream. Photo © ParisUpdate.com
Pros: More-than-decent food, good wines, pleasant service
Cons: service a bit slow, decor needs a rethink
Just back from a week in rural Ontario with some of my very extensive family, I remarked, as my companion and I finished our meal at Château Poivre, that it was a relief to get some satisfying food inside me.
I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by the quality of what was in my plate during that week, but then, my relatives are not gourmets, and rural Ontario is not big-city Ontario. The supermarkets offer a vast choice of fairly mediocre products. I was at first surprised to note that there was not a single food store – not a baker, greengrocer, butcher or even a deli – on the main street of Bowmanville (pop. 35,000, according to Wikipedia). But of course, supermarket chains rule, so there is no need for smaller outlets. I’m sure things are different in Toronto.
Château-Poivre had been one of my regular haunts when I lived for a while in Montparnasse a decade ago. At that time, it was owned and run by an imposing chef with a handlebar moustache, and the Southeast Asian waiter, a dancer in real life, got on famously with my girlfriend, Katherine.
The food back then was hearty fare from southwestern France – the star turns were a large tureen of soup left on the table until you had finished with it, and a cassoulet of gargantuan proportions. I once took my kid sister there with a couple of her friends, and they did serious damage to both of the above and raved about the place.
It changed hands about three years ago, and the new crew has a lighter touch and a more inventive take, with menus that change every couple of weeks and a decent wine list with prices ranging from about €20 to €70. We chose a Côtes Roannaises (€23), which was well-made, light and summery.
Starters were a dish of oyster mushrooms and veal sweatbreads in a cream sauce; and a poached egg on a bed of leaves, tomato coulis and cilantro cream (although neither of us found much evidence of the latter), adorned with a crispy slice of bacon and a cheese cracker. They were prettily served in some contemporary china. We switched plates halfway through and enjoyed both dishes.
Then came a fillet of pollock with anchovies and celery purée. By the time I got round to tasting it, after putting away my own veal hock (a.k.a. osso bucco, I opine), slow-cooked with thyme and bay leaves, it was past its best, but it was a touch on the overcooked side, which is not good for a fairly dull, if ethical, fish at the best of times. The anchovies also upstaged it outrageously. My veal was tender, if a tad on the dry side, but perfectly acceptable given where we were and what we were paying for it. In passing, note that this is not a place to take a vegetarian: there is not a single veggie option.
Desserts were a very good rice pudding with a compote of berries, and a melon and lemon cream concoction that was unusual but light and refreshing.
The restaurant’s decor needs a bit more thought: the banquette that used to run the length of part of the main room has been removed, but the space seems too narrow for the circular tables that have now been put in. But that’s a minor carp. The food is good, and the neighborhood, of a warm summer’s evening, is a real pleasure. It must be one of the most authentic bits of Paris and has a real village feel: go and check out the leafy, cobbled Rue des Thermopyles, near the Pernéty Métro station: it’s a million miles from Notre Dame.
Château Poivre: 145, rue du Château,75014 Paris. Tel : 01 43 22 03 68. Métro: Pernéty or Alésia. Nearest Vélib stations: 11, rue Didot; 26, rue Mouton Duvernet. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, dinner only on Monday. Fixed-price menus: €28 (three courses, €25 at lunchtime), €18.50 (two-course daily special). www.chateaupoivre.com
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