Le Temps des Cerises

October 30, 2011By Heidi EllisonArchive

Old Montmartre mural at Le Temps des Cerises.

Pros: aimiable atmosphere, reasonable prices, decent food, old-timey decor

Cons: noisy and cramped, but who cares?

It’s small, cramped, crowded and noisy. And, while the food is hearty, copious and tasty, it’s certainly no foodie’s dream. So why would you go to Le Temps des Cerises? Because of the warm, friendly way you are greeted and efficiently cared for by the two men who run the place. Because their warmth seems to infect all of the customers, who remain cheerful even when they have to wait for a table and are willing to chat with their neighbors. Because of the Old Paris decor – murals and vintage photos of Montmartre street scenes – and the simple, old-fashioned, well-prepared food, both of which are getting harder and harder to find in the French capital. Because the prices are reasonable. And because it’s open every day (even Sunday!) for lunch and dinner.

We had reserved for a post-cinema table for 10pm last weekend. When we arrived, there were already three parties sitting at the bar waiting for their tables. This would normally have annoyed me, but the gentillesse of the young man at the bar who asked us to wait at the little table next to the door and the promptness with which the other brought us a glass of wine – a lovely flowery Viognier – bolstered my patience levels.

The wait seemed to pass quickly as the first shift of diners began to leave, and we were shown to our table just as we finished our aperitif. Squeezing between two tables to get to the banquette in those tight quarters, I nearly knocked over the wine glass and carafe on the table next to ours, both of which were saved by the quick reaction of my dining companion.

When we arrived, we had been greeted at the door by the enticing smell of garlic, so we decided to go right to the source and ordered escargots, which satisfied that craving. The other starter was pan-fried foie gras, which I found to be a bit lacking in flavor but still enjoyable.

On to the main courses: suckling pig for me, served with satisfying mashed potatoes, gravy and cloves of roasted garlic, and entrecote with frites for my friend. As I said above, it was all hearty, copious and tasty, no more, no less. The bottle of St. Joseph we ordered was fine but undistinguished.

The service was incredibly efficient considering that only one waiter was serving the whole room while the other handled the bar.

We were too full for dessert, but could have chosen from such classics as profiteroles or crème brulée.

The waiter gave us each a free glass of that sickening Manzana Verde (green-apple liqueur) at the end of the meal. We wished it were Calvados instead, but appreciated the gesture.

You get the picture: go to Le Temps des Cerises when you’re in the mood for a lively, sociable dining experience – after the cinema or opera (Bastille is just a few steps away), for example – not when you’re looking for serenity. It’s probably best to avoid it on Saturday night, when it is packed to overflowing with a mostly young crowd.

Heidi Ellison

Le Temps des Cerises: 31, rue de la Cerisaie, 75004 Paris. Métro: Bastille. Tel.: 01 42 72 08 63. Open daily for lunch and dinner. A la carte: around €30.

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