I can brag about having eaten incredible meals chez Eric Frechon, now chef of the three-star restaurant Epicure at the Hotel Bristol, back when he owned a plain little bistro in the 19th arrondissement where the set menu cost 200 francs, the equivalent of €30, as opposed to around €250 for three courses at the Bristol. Now one of Frechon’s acolytes, Geoffroy Maillard, has reversed his former boss’s career trajectory by leaving the chichi Bristol and its like behind and opening a modest little bistro, La Table d’Eugène, near the edge of Paris, not far from the 18th arrondissement’s Mairie.
I met the always-chic Madeleine Czigler, Paris Update’s fashion correspondent, for lunch there recently. When I arrived, she was sitting there blending in beautifully with her surroundings, wearing a colorful patterned scarf that echoed the multicolored striped curtains behind her. Together with the brightly colored framed vintage advertising posters on the wall, they gave the restaurant a cheerful air that was enhanced by the caring service from two motherly waitresses.
We were cheered even more by our lunch. Madeleine had had dinner there the week before and had loved it so much (and had met French actor, Fabrice Lucchini, a regular, who came over to chat with her table of English-speaking ladies) that she was dying to introduce me to it.
We both chose the blackboard lunch menu, a great deal at €19 for a main course, quarter liter of wine (or other drink) and café gourmand (coffee and an assortment of desserts), but we decided to splurge and share the foie gras as a starter. This was a truly wise
decision, since it turned out to be the one of the best I had ever tasted. Marbled with cocoa and topped with Madeira gelée, it melted into divine goodness in the mouth.
When we asked what the house wine was that accompanied the lunch menu, we were given the unhelpful (and distressing, to fans of the film Sideways) response “Merlot,” but it turned out to be surprisingly good, whatever it was.
The main courses (two choices) were both
hearty and delicious: I had chicken fricassee with tarragon, served with mashed potatoes, while Madeleine had duckling à l’orange,
which came with mashed parsnips and baby vegetables.
The café gourmand came with three small desserts: a rather too-sweet fruit crumble, a little chocolate muffin and an absolutely
perfect chocolate cream. The coffee was excellent as well.
The inhabitants of the 18th must be thrilled to have La Table d’Eugène as their local, and I am more than willing to hop on the Métro and return very soon to sample the more sophisticated dinner offerings, with a three-course menu at €38 (€30 at lunchtime), and two tasting menus at €58 and €78.