Pros: Smiling service, quality food, quiet ambiance
Cons: Food a bit too spicy
Playing the game of Chicken can be extremely dangerous, but there is little risk involved in eating at Une Poule sur un Mur, a charming little restaurant that recently opened on the Rue Marie Stuart, a short, quiet street near the bustling Rue Montorgueil in the second arrondissement.
The unusual name comes from a French nursery rhyme (“Une poule sur un mur/Qui picote du pain dur/Picoti, picota/Lève la queue/Et puis s’en va”), which the owners just happened to hear a couple of times in a row while they were searching for a name for their new restaurant. Happily, they haven’t overdone the reference; you’ll have to pay attention to realize that the subject of a few, very different paintings decorating the room is chickens. A chubby white porcelain hen with a tiny head broods in a niche, and a couple of folksy red ceramic statues perch in the window and on the bar.
Otherwise the decor is simple, modern and understated, in dark tones brightened by exposed stone walls. The low lighting and blissful quiet of the dining room make eating here a relaxing pleasure, augmented by the attentions and smiles of the waiter and waitress.
The food, made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, was as appealing as the service. For a starter, I tried the white bean soup with a generous helping of baby squid and a few slices of chorizo floating in it – no complaints there. For my main course, I had the fillet of roast beef, a bit pricey at €25, but as tender, succulent and flavorful as you could wish, served with a rich gravy and a tasty fricassee of ratte potatoes and wild mushrooms. This is the right choice for those with a big hunger.
One of my companions had a dish of bass served with mussels, artichokes and a citrus emulsion. This was one of the more subtle dishes concocted by the chef, who sometimes has a rather heavy hand with spices and herbs – my only reservation about his cooking – as in the other main course: gambas with fried risotto. The flavoring of the risotto was almost overwhelming, and we played a guessing game trying to figure out what the source of the unusual taste was. The waitress reported back to us: chives, basil, sage and more. My friend loved it.
For dessert, we attacked the lemon tart – and “attacked” is the right word, since the crust, though tasty, was rather hard – served with a cinnamon-flavored mousse. The lemon filling was excellent, but I found the pairing of lemon and cinnamon to be a mistake and the combination overpowering, especially since the crust was made with a spicy speculoos cookie. The friend who ordered the same thing enjoyed it greatly, however, so I guess this is a matter of personal taste. Our other friend was more than happy with her fig tatin (which, again, I found to be overspiced) served with a quenelle of fromage blanc.
There is no disputing the quality of the food, ambiance and service here. I will definitely go back to the “Hen on a Wall,” especially since there are so few decent restaurants in this central area near Les Halles, in hopes that the chef will lighten up a little on the spices. The Poule’s outdoor terrace on a quiet street is another big advantage.
Une Poule sur un Mur: 5, rue Marie Stuart, 75002. Tel.: 01 42 33 05 89. Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner only. A la carte: around €37. www.unepoulesurunmur.fr
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