On a rainy Tuesday night this week, I made my way towards the Michelin starred restaurant Jean, in the former bohemian district near the rue Saint Georges in Paris. The interior looked spacious and warm and I was led to a comfortable banquette near the window. The two other guests soon arrived and, while exchanging the latest gossip, we started to study the menu. We asked the waiter what was offered as part of the 50 euro menu but finally decided to choose from the expensive carte. I went for the roasted pigeon, accompanied by a lovely glass of 2006 Roc d’Anglade (16 euros!). It was followed by a baba au rhum of the same standard: good but not as exceptional as to command such prices. In total, the bill came to a hefty 240 euros for three.
The ambience was very pleasant though, with reasonable noise levels. Staff were helpful and some nice extras were offered (amuse-bouche, mini-starter, petits-fours) but I would demand something more special for this price level of food.
Later in the week, come Friday night, we were out and about in the achingly trendy 2nd arrondissement, at the lively Au Rocher de Cancale. Specialising in seafood, this sociable venue (so sociable that it was difficult to get through the door!) also offers a wide variety of meat dishes (such as duck, and traditional burgers) and salads, as well as appetisers inspired by mountain cuisine and Thai food to name just a few. The only one of our party to order an appetiser (cheese ravioli) attracted looks of envy from the rest of the table, and others dug straight in to share, while the rest picked from a plate of cheeses, charcuterie and salad that we’d ordered, which was well-complemented by a red wine from Graves.
Service was patchy on this busy Friday night, with servers often too busy to welcome arriving customers well or bother to check their reservations. Food seemed to take a long time to arrive, and when it did arrive, the quality was mixed: while the duck was cooked perfectly, it was spoiled by its maple syrup sauce, which lacked any sort of seasoning or mixing with other ingredients, meaning it just swamped the meat with its lack of refinement, and we have had far better chips in England which actually taste like potato. However, others at the table liked the chips, so it’s perhaps just a matter of taste. The meat in the burger was merely average, and for the same price you can have a better burger in chains such as the Novotel.
Given the disappointment of the main course compared to the appetisers, dessert seemed a rather appealing option…rendered all the less appealing by being the only one in your party who’s considering ordering. A shame, as there’s nothing more hateful than being the only one eating dessert among a large party, and the dessert menu contained several temptations (such as salted caramel tarte tatin, and red fruit tart with pistachio ice cream). When divided up, the bill came to between €25 and €29 each for a main course, adequate coffee, and a share of the charcuterie plate and 2 bottles of wine between a party of 7. We would perhaps consider visiting again, but you need to be wary: price is acceptable, but service could definitely be improved, and quality is variable too.
After all of that we were glad to be eating homemade fare chez nous for the rest of the weekend, which culminated in a Shropshire pie and an English date pudding. Yummers is not the word.
Restaurant Jean, 8 rue St-Lazare, 75009 Paris – 01 48 78 62 73
Au Rocher de Cancale, 78 rue Montorgeuil, 75002 Paris – 01 42 33 50 29