Through the Grapevine
|No shortage of wine here.|
With the smoking ban in French restaurants about to take effect on January 1, 2008, it is well worth praising a pioneer like Jacques Mélac, who has had a no-smoking policy for a year now, during which time he claims to have lost only a handful of clients because of it. What bliss not to have a neighbor holding a cigarette over his or her shoulder to avoid annoying a companion, while the smoke goes right up your nose instead!
The Mélac Bistrot à Vins, famed for the real grapevine growing over its doorway, has been in family hands since 1938, with Jacques Mélac taking up the reins from his father in 1977. The restaurant prides itself on its Aveyron roots, and everywhere you look you will see maps or photographs of the Aveyron (even though, presumably, Jacques Mélac, complete with wondrous handlebar moustache, has never lived there himself). The rest of the wall space, encouragingly, is covered with wine bottles. The service is jovial and laid-back, to the extent that you are informed on the menu that you will be charged an additional euro if you do not finish your food!
This is most certainly not a restaurant for vegetarians or those of an overly delicate palate; the menu is full of hearty, high-quality meaty fare. For the starter, my three companions and I decided to share two plates of charcuterie, with some especially tasty Aveyron ham, accompanied by a more than acceptable red wine, also from the Aveyron.
For the main course, three of us chose the deliciously tender rognons de veau (veal kidneys), served with rather lumpy mashed potatoes and a creamy, flavorful mushroom sauce, while the fourth member of our group opted for the toothsome magret de canard, which came with sautéed potatoes. We skipped over the excellent selection of cheeses and went straight for the desserts, which included a pear clafoutis, a chocolate and apple cake, all of which were just right, and French toast, known in France as pain perdu (literally, lost bread); on delivering it, our waiter cheerfully announced that the bread had been found, even though, judging from the toughness of the crust, it could have done with being found a little earlier.
The restaurant prides itself on clients not having to book in advance, but, even with the large number of tables, it was very full on the Saturday night we went there, so booking is to be recommended if you want to be sure of having a good meal and spending an enjoyable evening in this lively Paris classic.
Mélac Bistrot à Vins: 42 rue Léon Frot, 75011 Paris. Métro: Charonne. Tel.: 01 43 70 59 27. Closed Sunday and Monday and in August. Metro: Charonne or Rue des Boulets. Nearest Vélib’ station: Rue Léon Frot/Rue de Charonne. www.melac.fr/
© 2007 Paris Update
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