April 14, 2009By Richard HesseArchive

The beef was there, but where was the excitement?

Pros: An extensive wine cellar, good products.

Cons: A lack of that infectious pride in outstanding products that sets other caves à manger (like Papilles) apart.

Styling itself as a bistro-cave (i.e., you can eat on the premises, and it sells wine to go) and as a maison sincère et sérieuse, Quedubon, which could be translated as “only good food and drink,” is tucked away on a side street a stone’s throw from the wackiest park in Paris, the Buttes Chaumont, which features a lake, waterfalls, hills, artificial mountains and a suspension bridge.

You could do worse than lunch or even dine at Quedubon if you want to get the feel of a genuine understated neighborhood bistro. It’s not the sort of place you would put on your “must-do” list, but it makes a decent job of serving good-quality ingredients at local prices.

The wines to go can be purchased, Papilles style, to have with your meal at the takeaway price plus a corkage fee of €8. There are also wines on the chalkboard, which are an easier choice, and seemingly the preferred option, as I was gently discouraged from rummaging through the takeaway wines by one of the staff. Many of the bottles are so-called “natural” wines and, in truth, the three we tried in the course of the evening did not float our boat. A white Anjou as an aperitif came with a distinctive burnt-rubber nose that detracted from the honest wine trying to get out. We did not finish our bottle of Bandol Chateau Saint Anne (€36), which had the thin, cidery taste of an unstabilized wine, while the glass of 2003 Gewurztraminer made by the Binners, which I had been looking forward to all evening, had seen far better days and was a major disappointment both to the eye and the palate.

The Utah Beach oysters on the menu, while big and meaty, tasted underwhelmingly bland and were unappetizingly served at room temperature. The poached eggs in a cream sauce with bacon bits, topped with a little goat’s milk cheese, were tastier, especially the excellent bacon.

Meat came in the shape of a large piece of Salers steak with Szechuan pepper and a gratin dauphinois, and two generous pieces of farm chicken atop celeriac mash. Nothing to complain about here. Nothing to rave about either. Careful presentation is not high on Quedubon’s list of priorities, which in itself is no bad thing, but the unimaginative plating was a reflection of the whole experience. In a place like this there ought to be a Rabelaisian ambience, a shared awareness of tasting the good things of life. Instead, there was a sense of people going through almost formulaic motions: this is a bistro-cave, it’s fashionable, it’s freewheeling. Don’t ask for enthusiasm or a sense of wonder that there are people out there producing marvelous things to put in our mouths.

I certainly shan’t be rushing back to Quedubon, whose connection with the much-regretted Zingots (the patron was one of the original owners) was the main reason for giving it a try. I went there with over-egged expectations, I admit, hence the disabused tone of this review. But, with the 19th arrondissement being less blessed than others with decent places to eat, it could be an acceptable fall-back solution if you’re in the neighborhood.

Richard Hesse

Quedubon: 22, rue du Plateau, 75019 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 38 18 65. Open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for lunch. Métro: Buttes Chaumont. Nearest Vélib stations: 28/30, rue Botzaris; 20, rue Carducci. Around €35*.

* three courses, not including wine

© 2009 Paris Update

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