Carving the slabs of roast meat at Le Louchébem. Photo © ParisUpdate.com
Vegetarians should look away now. Le Louchébem is all about meat, and mostly about beef. Its signature dish is l’assiette du rôtisseur: three giant slabs carved off smoking joints of roast beef, roast lamb and roast ham, served with a massive dollop of house mashed potato. This dish, in a challenge to meat lovers, is offered à volonté (all you can eat).
It put me in mind of Simpson’s in the Strand, in London, an establishment reminiscent of a gentleman’s club that is even more venerable (I think) than Louchébem, which, by the way, is Paris food market back-slang for a butcher (the restaurant, founded in 1878, survived the disappearance of the neighboring Les Halles market). The staff at Simpson’s trundle large carts around the oak-paneled dining room carving meat off the joint on request. I love Simpson’s, as much for the ethnic diversity of its lively waiting staff as for that of its customers. It has an amazing post-prandial drinks trolley, too, that can do as much, if not more, harm to your pocketbook than it does to your liver.
Louchébem is lower down in the scale of things but is an institution in its own right, where, as usual in France, skin color gets darker the further you move from the dining room. The waiters are most obliging, and found us a table within 15 minutes after we turned up without a booking.
Given the size of the portions, starters were out of the question. I considered having one of three sizes of steak tartare, but instead went for the hanger steak (onglet), always a reliable test of meat quality. And this was first rate – not perhaps the best ever, but good enough to rate highly. My companion wanted mashed potatoes (which she deemed perfect – not too creamy, as they often are these days) and so plumped for the assiette du rôtisseur. I tried some of her roast ham and found it very good, too.
Vegetables? Sautéed potatoes and some green beans were just about all that were on offer. Desserts? No room at the inn. Drink? A bottle of Paul Jaboulet Aîné’s extremely likable Parallèle 45. This I can buy from my local Nicolas at just over €8 a bottle. At Louchébem it set us back €27, so some very hefty markups are being taken on a wine list that seemed otherwise fairly uninspired.
All in all, we had a pleasant meal in a very traditional French restaurant, surrounded mostly by my French compatriots, and looked after by fairly attentive staff. We could have done much worse.
Le Louchébem: 31, rue Berger 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 33 12 99. Métro: Châtelet-Les Halles. Open Monday-Saturday, noon-11:30pm. A la carte: around €35. www.le-louchebem.fr/
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