The dining room at Thoumieux.
Once upon a time, Thoumieux was a much-loved brasserie with a wonderful, rather rundown old-fashioned decor and mediocre food. Whenever I found myself in the seventh arrondissement with a group of friends, it was the fallback restaurant; they all wanted to go there.
Then along came the Costes family, controversial kings of the Paris café scene, known for their trendy establishments where youth and good looks are practically a requirement for both employees and customers, and acquired this old favorite. They pimped up the decor – red banquettes, globe lamps, brass hat rails, big mirrors – without destroying it (but still, isn’t it just a tad too sparkly and shiny?) and installed their partner in this enterprise, famed chef Jean-François Piège, as executive cook, with his own soon-to-be three-star restaurant upstairs.
Last year, Piège departed to concentrate on his own restaurants, Le Grand Restaurant and Clover, leaving the kitchen to Sylvestre Wahid. We went back at lunchtime on New Year’s Eve to try out the brasserie.
In spite of the Costes’ reputation for hiring snotty servers, our waitress was lovely, although perhaps a bit overstretched.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the amuse-bouche – rillettes of duck and foie gras served with fabulous crusty dark bread and salted,
algae-flavored butter – would turn out to be my favorite part of the meal.
Next I had pumpkin soup with croutons, a
dollop of cream and bits of chestnuts. Good but nothing to rave about. That was followed by a
lamb steak with mashed potatoes and a green concoction on the side so tasteless that I couldn’t identify the ingredients. The lamb itself tasted gamy and rather unpleasant. My friends chided me for ordering lamb in the wrong season. They are right: spring lamb is the way to go, but I hadn’t even thought about it.
They both skipped the starters. For their main
courses, one had the sweetbreads with trompettes de mort (horn of plenty) mushrooms and the other the merlu (hake)
with baby spinach and the same mushrooms. Both were fine.
The lunch menu I had chosen came with a cake from Thoumieux’s own bakery down the street, which turned out to be a pretty lemon tart.
Very nice, but nothing more. Much better was
the rich rice pudding with salted caramel sauce ordered by one of my friends.
In spite of all the changes the Thoumieux brasserie has undergone over the years, it turns out that my opinion of it remains much the same. I’d rather go somewhere else – to Christian Constant’s wonderful Cocottes down the road, for example.