The first time I went to Paris, I hated it. I’m not sure if it was just that I was a sullen fifteen year old who hated everything (every single photo from that holiday involves scowling) or something else, but Paris just didn’t click. When I returned as a college student, that all changed and I suddenly understood the magic that makes Paris the only city in the world that is noisy, touristy, rude, expensive and romantic. Ever since then, I have been hooked, and return whenever an opportunity arises, even if it involved as many hours travel time as I would spend awake there.
Bistrot Paul Bert is a place that characterises everything that people love about Paris, and that make it special. It is exactly that kind of charming neighbourhood bistrot that you always hope to find there, but often don’t. On a quiet street in the up and coming 11th, it serves perfectly executed French bistrot classics as a reasonable (for Paris) price. The decor is quintessentially Parisian with zinc bar, tiling, pot plants, heavy wood and vintage posters.The dinner consists of a set three course meal for €36. If you want to just have a main it is €25, with starters and desserts €10. The restaurant has two sittings a night, you really do need to book in advance, and bring your appetite as the portions are generous.The menu is chalked up on an unwieldy blackboard that is carted from table to table and precariously perched by your table. The same goes for the wine list of approximately 10-15 bottles of well chosen and reasonable French wine, with several whites, reds and rose available by the glass.I also spotted a third board explaining the provenance of the meat and fish. My heart felt a slight patriotic flutter when I saw the beef they serve is Irish.
I started with an elegant leek and foie gras terrine, presented like a lovely piece of stained glass. The delicate freshness of the leeks cut through the rich fat of the foie gras, making it a delicate but substantial starter. I followed it up with an ample rendition of classic Lapin Au Moutarde, served with a creamy mustard sauce and tarragon mash. It was lovely, but I must admit at that point my eyes gazed longingly to the next table, where a couple were eating steaks the size of their faces with amazing looking chips and bearnaise.
To finish, my mum and I decided to get a dessert and cheese and share. She ordered a Paris Brest, two large hollow circles of pastry sandwiching a simultaneously rich and light hazelnut cream, so named because they resemble the wheels of the bikes on the Paris-Brest cycle race. My order of cheese consisted of the waiter leaving a large wooden board heaving with nicely room temperature aged cheeses from which I could help myself indefinitely. My dad was provided with a rum baba the size of a hat. The desserts were as good as you would find in any patisserie and there is no possible criticism you can level at an all you can eat French cheeseboard.I think if my fifteen year old self had been to this place, it might not have taken me five more years to understand the appeal of Paris.
18 Rue Paul Bert 75011 Paris, France +33 1 43 72 24 01