Le Petit Marché

February 17, 2009By Paris UpdateArchive

Reflections on Rip-offs

petit marche restaurant, paris
Lotte with a spicy pear chutney.

I have just been exercised by a grimly entertaining piece in the London Daily Telegraph about the food at Disneyland Resort Paris. The writer had no high expectations of the food there, but still felt rather ripped off at the end of the day. As she pointed out, the price of a less-than-indifferent meal at DRP is about the same as that of the lunch menu at Michel Roux’s two-starred Le Gavroche in London.

I was in a similarly brown study as I mused on the meal I had with a friend at Le Petit Marché, just off the Place des Vosges. It’s one of those places where you get the sense that the staff would prefer you to pay up and leave, preferably before you sit down.

The food isn’t bad, in a dull sort of way, and there’s a fishbowl kitchen to watch the laidback cooks at work. But I had to work hard at getting the staff to serve me a welcome drink: they were having such a good time among themselves that they couldn’t drag themselves away from the bar area.

The chestnut soup my friend began with was very good. My smoked salmon on a warm potato salad was the dumbed-down version of the herrings in oil salad that any self-respecting bistro serves. Not bad, but distinctly lacking in backbone.

Then came monkfish steaklets with some Asian-themed bits and pieces: again not bad, but rather sloppily turned out, as were my slices of pork tenderloin, served up with decent mash and crunchy string beans.

Dessert was a satisfyingly runny Saint Marcellin cheese and a creamy panna cotta with almost seasonal strawberries.

A strange faux pas for a restaurant of this level: our bottle of 2006 Hautes Côtes de Beaune was brought to the table already uncorked and dumped unceremoniously: no ritual sniff’n’sip to see if it was OK. Like it or lump it. It was quite OK actually, and paired well with our food choices.

There was a fair amount of choice on the menu, but due to the thumping bass on the very loud sound system, my neurons refused to fire and so the details fell through the gap between them. The music, I reckon, is a wheeze to keep the crew jiving, and one that wouldn’t bother the iPod-generation patrons whose hearing is probably poorer than mine. Get this: it wasn’t the diners who were making the racket, but the staff. At one point we had the chief honcho playing “let’s see how much noise I can make smashing these 10 empty wine bottles together on the counter.” That’s when I got a tad annoyed.

Also in the rip-off category was La Cigale in Nantes, where I had gone on a day trip to see an exhibition of paintings by Simon Vouet (fab!). A friend had recommended La Cigale, hastening to point out that, like La Coupole in Paris, you went for the setting, not the food: the PreArt Nouveau decor is superb (see photo below), but the food and service are pretty dire. But it is a good place to observe the Parisian’s country cousins, especially on a Sunday. Just lower your expectations plenty. Or go for breakfast to admire the breathtaking decor.

cigale, nantes

Richard Hesse

Le Petit Marché: 9 rue de Béarn, 75003 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 72 06 67. Métro: Chemin Vert. Nearest Vélib stations: 26 rue Saint Gilles; 69 bd Beaumarchais. Open daily for lunch and dinner. A la carte: around €40*.

La Cigale: 4 place Graslin, 44000 Nantes. Tel.: 02 51 84 94 94. Open daily, breakfast served from 7:45am, meals continuously from 11:45 till 00:30. A la carte: around €50*.

* three courses, not including wine

© 2009 Paris Update

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