Seeing as most of the results on Google when you type in “les canotiers chatou” are of the famous painting of the same name by Renoir, it’s hardly surprising that this little restaurant just outside of Paris should go unnoticed (and why I should have taken a picture of it myself when I went there. Oh the silliness of me.). Nonetheless, it has been a favourite destination of ours now for a few years, and so a meal there for two seemed a natural choice for my husband’s 30th birthday as my gift to him.

Funnily enough they haven’t played on the rowing theme at all at the restaurant: with slightly old-fashioned yet plush and comfortable decor in neutral colours, there is not a nautical note to be found. As one of the first through the door, we settled for seats by the window and indulged in people-watching in between courses. For the record, we had decided to push the boat out (ba-dum-tsssh…wonder how many water-based jokes I can get into this post) and go for a starter, main, and dessert each, setting the initial bill at €64. Choosing the foie gras added an extra €2 each to the bill (though we were warned about this), but it was worth every cent: creamy, salty foie gras was served with home-made toasts and chutney as well as a green salad. Simple yet beautiful. We also could have had 120ml each of sweet wine to match it for a further €7 each, but passed on this due to having already chosen a half-bottle of 2007 Puligny-Montrachet from Chateau de Puligny, which had cost in the region of €30.

Unlike many French restaurants, Les Canotiers also offers a more interesting choice for vegetarians. Instead of munching on your nth omelette, you can tickle your tastebuds with pumpkin soup and tempura squash. Sadly this doesn’t extend to the main course menu, which offers meat and fish in various incarnations. Well, it is France after all (the country where you pick up a pack of vegetarian sausages in the supermarket and under ‘ingredients’ it says ‘chicken’. I SHIT YOU NOT.).

As it was, we went on to a monkfish brochette with courgette gratin (him) and king prawns with pilaf rice and sauce vierge (FYI: olive oil, lemon juice, tomato and basil). My main course was light yet flavourful, but a slight comedown after the foie gras, and the consensus was similar on the other side of the table: light, but let down by a slightly watery gratin.

I looked forward to my hazelnut crème brûlée, and its sugary crust and distinct nutty flavour did not fail to please. I do prefer my crème brûlée slightly warmer, though (but that’s a preference rather than a criticism), and the only real downer was that it was far too large: I could have done with half the amount and a couple of euros off the price of the meal. My husband ended up finishing the crème brulée after demolishing his Banyuls and seasonal fruit tiramisu, which also had not failed to satisfy him.

As well as chasing all of this food down with the white Burgundy, we finished with a coffee each (which we shouldn’t really do: with a coffee machine at home that grinds the beans for you, most coffee pales in comparison to what it produces). The wine list had proved reasonable and reputable in price and selection, while the quality of the coffee also stood favourably. Our overall bill came to just over €100, which on the one hand is reasonable for the quality of service received and occasional flashes of brilliance that we saw. However, once you break the €100 barrier you arguably are seeking a greater level of creativity – the same story as with Le 7.

Nonetheless, service and quality is not shoddy by any means, and thanks to its convenient location (5 minutes’ walk from the nearest station and only 4 RER stops away from our home) and good value for money, this certainly won’t be our last visit.

16 avenue de Maréchal Foch, 78400 Chatou, FRANCE

tel: 01 30 71 58 69

contact [AT]