It’s a great pleasure to discover new restaurants with creative chefs, but sometimes you just want the comfort of a simple, reliably good meal in a friendly place. When that’s what I’m looking for close to home, I go to La Marine on the Canal Saint Martin, where I can almost always get a table without a reservation even though it is always bustling with customers.
Another advantage is its pretty bistro decor with a semicircular zinc bar, mirrors and period molding (when the restaurant closed for renovation recently, I feared that it would lose its old-fashioned charm, but thankfully they just spiffed the place up and added a rather cool ring of globe light fixtures).
So, when I had a last-minute proposal for dinner with my friend Chloe the tour guide (shameless plug: she’s great at it and works for Paris Walks) and her visiting father John on a Sunday evening, I suggested La Marine (another plus: it’s open seven days a week).
Normally I go straight for the main course here because the servings are so generous, but we decided to share a starter, an octopus salad with arugula. It was fresh and tasty, although I would have preferred that the octopus be a tiny bit less cooked.
Then I went for my standard dish here, the rump steak with gratin dauphinois. It comes with pepper, blue cheese or béarnaise sauce, but I like it best plain. I didn’t find this basic meat-and-potatoes dish quite up to the usual standard – the gratin seemed a bit tired – but it was still very good. I attributed the difference to the fact that it was Sunday and probably the regular chef’s night off.
Chloe had the flash-cooked tuna with shiitake mushrooms and vegetables substituted for the house mashed potatoes (which, by the way, I recommend), while John partook of the daily special, andouillette. I heard no complaints from either of them, and all three plates were soon wiped clean.
A few more good things about La Marine: the youthful (and unusually numerous for a Paris restaurant) staff is always cheerful and efficient, and the restaurant is open all day every day, has reasonable prices and offers free Wi-Fi. This is a truly customer-friendly place.