Where the action is: in the front, around the zinc bar.
If you ask Judith Cercós why the restaurant she opened with her husband, chef Ludovic Dubois, is called Les Poulettes de Batignolles, she will say it’s because her French friends always call her “ma poulette,” a term of endearment loosely translated as “my little chickadee.” When you meet her, you will have no trouble understanding why this cheerful, chatty person, a native of Barcelona, is treated with such tenderness by her friends.
When my friend Tom and I went there the other night, we wondered why she had turned away some drop-in customers when three tables around us remained empty all evening. She told us later that they had been reserved online by people from foreign countries who had not called to cancel. That’s despicable, inexcusable behavior. But it also tended to confirm my suspicion that we had been seated in the “ghetto” for foreigners in the back of the restaurant, a practice I heartily dislike. Mix it up!
The other disadvantage of our placement (aside from the fact that we were next to the toilets) was that we were out of sight, out of mind, far from the bar and the heartbeat of the place, and waited ages to get a menu and later the bill. The only good thing about it was that it was fairly quiet in our little space with its empty tables, while the volume seemed pretty high in the rest of the restaurant.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let me say that I absolutely loved everything else about the place. The waiter was as sweet as Cercós (who is also the sommelier), and the food, which has pronounced Spanish influences, was great: creative, generous and delicious.
Tom started with the “pressed” foie gras
layered with smoked eel, topped with a caramelized wafer and counterpointed with Granny Smith apple. Foie gras and smoked eel sounds like an almost unpleasant combination, but it worked, with the eel playing off the foie gras without overwhelming its delicate flavor.
Meanwhile, I was more than content with another surf and turf offering: a tartare of veal and oysters with sherry vinegar, piquillos and
eggplant. I didn’t really taste the oysters and wished they had been a bit more assertive, but I thoroughly enjoyed this dish decorated with lots of colorful bonus bits: red pepper, tartar sauce and yellow beads that looked like fish roe but didn’t taste fishy at all.
My main course was a large serving of perfectly cooked, positively succulent roasted Iberian pork, topped with lovely gravy and a roasted
potato that was just as succulent. I relished every bite. It came with a little casserole of delicious broad beans flavored with a piece of ham.
Tom had ordered yet another meat-fish combo:
paella with langoustines, calamari and chicken. Judging by his deep concentration (and approving comments), he was thrilled. I thought the rice, with its rich, fishy sauce, was exceptional.
There was hardly room for dessert, but we girded our bellies and ordered a crème Catalane with oranges and crumble topping to share. Creamy and dreamy.
The sommelier/poulette-in-chief had recommended a Spanish red, a Ribeira Sacra from Guímaro, which was light but had plenty of body. We loved it.
If you go – and you should – ask for a seat in the front of the house where all the fun is, but beware of the decibels.
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