A Well Kept Secret, a stones throw from the Place de La Victoire.
Some cafes in Paris are picturesque, but simply not good; some just “wannabes” with yards of tables stuffed with tourists who are there for the “atmosphere”. Each cafe has its own intended audience so when you are traveling and eating in Paris, its important to know what you are getting into. Best sign at lunchtime in Paris: a cafe filled with the French who are like food radars so they know the good ones when they find them. Be advised that must also read the menus for the “formule” or the “prix fixe” before walking in. These menus can be very misleading, so read with care and ask questions before committing. You’ll discover the lunch formula menus can be great deals and will provide you with some delicious simple meals while you traveling and touring. Perhaps the worst thing to happen in Paris, is what I call the 24/7 cafe, which now serves things all hours and with speed. Who goes to Paris for that? I would suggest you simply walk by. Sometimes, the smaller French cafes, hidden in “plain site” can sometimes yield a surprise.
LE REGENT CAFE
Just past the Place Victoire, where King Louis sits atop his horse (he has no doubt been watching the major refurbishment which has been going on) there you’ll find this cafe, just off the plaza as you head east.
I had never noticed this cafe before, so I popped my head in. I saw two happy Frenchman resting after finishing their late lunch. Two glasses of Armangnac were in progress and the owner greeted me. After a few friendly words, they insisted I sit down, have a glass of what they were drinking and it just became a delicious food festival and one of the best “Cafe experience” in Paris I have ever had filled with home made “typique” french dishes that were outstanding in their quality and execution. Both French and English spoken simultaneously during the meal was a plus for my French vocabulary, too.
Now, on to the lunch…
The first course of “Veal” was cooked to perfection, the artisanal red wine a delicious Merlot (from a small vineyard in the south) to the delightful selection of country cheeses created by local petite dairies around Paris and selected by the Chef/Owner. Then, the “Tarte au Pomme” made with big chunks of sweet apples much like an American style apple pie. My two French companions assured me that this cafe (aside from being very good by French standards) was quite unusual. The high quality of the food and talent of the chef were a well kept secret. I told them I wanted to write about my meal; they hesitated since they didn’t want a lot of people to find the restaurant; they relented when they realized it would be helpful for their friend to have some mention in the blogosphere. Though I don’t consider myself an expert on food or wine, I learned to shop on the rue Moufftard, the famous market street on the Left Bank with my mother. Alas, the small boulangeries, patisseries and specialty shops are now gone; but the traditions of fine fresh market ingredients are still part of the experience there. Perhaps this give me some qualifications since I saw it first hand watching my mother who is an excellent cook. Like many American housewives, Julia Child was her teacher and so my early experiences with good food were distinctly “Julia’s” and her extraordinary eye for fresh flavors. This meal was rich unique blends of flavors with each part from a small selection of hand-grown ingredients chosen by the Chef himself. Glasses were filled and re-filled; the experience of good company made this all the better and if anyone tells you the French are snobby, think again. There was nothing pretentious about this meal, though it could have been in another setting.
Out of courtesy to the owner, I naturally share the information but please promise me you will not tell too many people. I won’t get a table next time as this small comfortable cafe will be filled.
And…It will be all your fault.
Bar: “Le Regent” – 7 rue La Feuillade Paris, 1er. (*off the Place de La Victoire on Right Bank) Photo: ARTIFICE French Boutique Cheese Varieties.