Continuing in the genre of workers’ restaurants – see our recent review of Bouillon Chartier Gare de l’Est – we ate the other night at a “routier” (truck stop) called Les Marches. Popular with both Parisians and tourists, this restaurant in the posh 16th arrondissement has probably not seen a trucker pop in for a meal in many a year.
The old-fashioned charm of the restaurant has been carefully preserved by its latest owners, with red-checked tablecloths (although their appeal is slightly marred by paper versions laid on top of the real thing), molded ceilings, chandeliers and a large staff of friendly servers.
My friend Perry started out with a big chunk of good pork rillettes, fatty and flavorful, accompanied by cornichons and toasted baguette.
I was happy to see œufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce with lardons) on the menu, a rare sight these days. This is a Burgundian dish I love and would like to have more often. Unfortunately, in this case, the sauce was unpleasantly vinegary-tasting, the lardons had lost their flavor, and the eggs were rather overcooked. This was the low point of the meal for me.
Things started looking up when my huge dish of plump pike quenelles, swimming in crayfish bisque and topped with a good-sized helping of spinach, arrived. Comme il faut and wonderfully satisfying.
Perry’s dish of humble stuffed cabbage was just as enormous and just what he had been craving, meaty and filling.
We both found good versions of our favorite desserts on the menu. He had the baba au rhum, dolled up with house-whipped cream and candied fruits, with, of course, a generous glug of rum poured over it.
At Chartier Gare de l’Est the week before, the profiteroles left me indifferent, with ordinary (store-bought?) chou pastry and dull chocolate sauce. No such thing at Les Marches: the much more generous serving had crispy pastry, a rich, dark chocolate sauce and classy ice cream. One of the best ever, and I’ve sampled many!
If ever a trucker had the courage to brave Paris’s intramural traffic with a tractor-trailer these days, he or she would be happy with the generous servings but might well be shocked by the prices. Chartier charges a lot less for similar dishes, but it must be said that the food at Les Marches is far better (and is not that expensive). You get what you pay for, and if you want traditional French bistro food and have a big appetite, Les Marches is the place for you no matter what your profession.Favorite