Burger mon amour


I find the current Parisian obsession with burgers completely baffling.

Like the mushrooming of crappy steak chains in the 90s (see previous rant on Hippopotamus et al), they seem to have sprung out of nowhere and in huge number.

I know that French cuisine has been criticised internationally for not innovating or evolving enough, but surely this isn’t the answer. I also get the whole “really-need-a-grease-fix” thing, but do we really need burger restaurants in such huge number?

There are at least four burger joints (five if you count McDonalds) within a square mile of where I live: Bio Burger, Big Fernand, Le Camion Qui Fume and Mamie Burger.

The latter occupies a large space on the corner of rue du Faubourg Montmartre and rue de la Grange Batelière in the 9th district. I walked past it for about six months on the way work while it was being built, naively expecting something exciting and original to materalise, only to have my hopes dashed. And why “Mamie Burger” anyway? Is the name supposed to evoke the traditional beef patties that Granny used to put between two pieces of bread? Because if your Granny is French it’s pretty likely she never did that.

Anyway, rather like the fish and chip fad that has swept Paris (see Perfidious Albion), I reckon this latest burger obsession is just a flash in the pan (ha ha).

While it lasts though I will continue my one-woman crusade against all things burgerly. And probably found the Parisian Anti-Burger Front (PABF). Or maybe even join forces with the Anti-Burger Front of Paris (ABFP).


Les Pâtes Vivantes (Paris 9)

Les Pâtes Vivantes is one of a few places in the Richer / Montmartre neighbourhood in the 9th district that makes their own noodles on-site and within full view of passers by.

This particular restaurant has had good reviews in various magazines, and as it turns out, deservedly so. Although I have to say that if I hadn’t read any articles about it I wouldn’t have bothered as it looks completely crappy inside and out, and forces you to assume that they serve up the same mediocre, monosodium glutemate-fuelled fare found in many similar looking places in Paris.

I got the traditional noodle dish with crispy duck, which was amazing, and washed it down with a Tsingtao beer because I was feeling reckless (that’s about as reckless as it gets nowadays).

A total of 16 euros for both, and that delicious feeling of not needing to eat for another month thanks to a ridiculously generous portion of noodles.

Le Petit Marcel restaurant (Paris 4)

I loved this place. Admittedly, it’s partly down to the fact that I was looking to escape the office one lunchtime and it ended up being a haven of peace and tranquillity for an hour. But also thanks to the skilled and funny waiters, the very fresh food, and the lovely terrace with very few cars.

I had the salade di buffala followed by an expresso. Nothing very original or exciting about that, but the mozzarella and salad leaves were really good quality and the dressing homemade (disappointingly rare in standard bistros). And I spent my time watching the waiters skillfully chat up the customers, including calling the female ones ‘chérie’ which I’m always a sucker for.

I’ll be going back there. Either to escape work for a bit as I did that time or at some point to have a half price mojito during their happy hour.

Porridge and stewed plums

So the first exploit with the fruit we picked off the tree is stewed plums. Really easy, and because I’m addicted to porridge (there are worse things), I decided to cook some of them up for breakfast.

I realised recently when I made an apricot puree without sugar for my daughter (she hated it and as a result I inherited it), that combining starchy oats and acidic apricots worked really well. For some reason heating certain fruits accentuates their acidity – I’m sure there’s a Michelin-starred chef out there that can explain that – the same principle applies for apricots as it does peaches and plums.

Conclusion: the porridge in the picture was delicious.

For the porridge, pour a small cup of oats into a saucepan, add double the amount of milk. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the ingredients have turned into a creamy mixture. For the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones, place in a saucepan and also cook on a low heat for 20 minutes or until the fruit are soft.

Why are croissants really Austrian?

Croissants from Le Patissier, Neutral Bay.

So it turns out that one of France’s most emblematic foods may not be French at all.

The croissant is a staple in French breakfasts, and a clue to its origins can be found in its distinctive shape. There are the ones made with butter (by far the best), and the ones without, which, like those pictured, are made in the form of a crescent. Hence the direct translation in French – croissant.

It is said that in the 17th century, following the failed siege of Vienna by the Turks, Austrian bakers created the first croissant as a way of celebrating the victory against the people whose flag brandished the crescent. Croissants were then imported to France by Viennese bakers in the 18th century, along with other delicacies like pains au chocolat etc., the collective name for which is Viennoiseries.

It’s a nice story, and even though I have no idea if it’s really true or not, I’m sticking with it.

Bento at Tokki

bento cropped 2

Salmon bento at Tokki cannot be beaten. The restaurant is at 10 Rue de la Boule Rouge (Paris 9), just round the corner from my flat. So I go there several times a month for my salmon fix which I always take away in a bento tray like the one above. Highly recommend the place.


Bachaumont restaurant (Paris 2)

bachaumont salle 1 cropped

A few weeks ago I was looking for a place near work to take a friend who’s into good food. I work near Bourse so it’s not too difficult, and happened upon Bachaumont on the Le Fooding website, pretty much always my first point of call if I’m looking for somewhere new to eat. Plus it was backed up by a really good review by Gilles Pudlowski (in French).

Bachaumont the restaurant is attached to the eponymous hotel in the 2nd arrondissement. It’s on rue Bachaumont (it must have taken them ages to think that up) which is just off rue Montmartre, in a part of town I love because it’s really central, has lots of good shops and bars, and is partly pedestrianised.

The restaurant reminds me a lot of Panache – sophisticated, spotless decor combined with hipster staff and neo-bistro menu. This was a better culinary experience though compared with Panache as the menu seemed more original and just better executed.

My dining partner and I had exactly the same meal. The starter was cromesquis with a parmesan tuile on a bed of very fresh green beans with rock salt. I’d never heard of cromesquis either, although this article (in French) gives the impression that I’m literally the last person on earth to have not eaten them. It’s a kind of potato croquette made in this case with cheese and ham. Not bad, particularly on the green beans.

Bachaumont starter cropped

Then the main course was seared tuna steak with braised vegetables. The tuna was  perfectly cooked, and very far from the stuff you get in average bistros.

Bachaumont seared tuna

And lastly the starter was one of the best tarte tatin I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten loads!). Very refined and somehow light despite probably containing my body weight in butter.

Bachaumont tarte tatin cropped

The only thing I’d say about the restaurant is that the à la carte menu was pretty limited. The 3 courses I’ve mentioned were the set menu of the day, so if you have specific dietary requirements (or are just plain faddy) you may be slightly frustrated by the lack of alternative options. Personally I had no regrets with my choice though!