Monday, 6 July 2009

Essex Eating in Paris - Le Baratin

It's said that time spent planning is never wasted. I take this sage piece of advice seriously when it comes to eating abroad. Your only there for a few days and life's too short for bad food. A couple of weeks before any trip you'll find me with my head in a guide book or on the computer reading review after review planning, plotting....and errr....pondering.

My recent trip to Paris threw a slightly new consideration into the planning process - cost. Paris is always expensive, and what with the Pound to Euro rate being so abysmal, it's currently eye wateringly so. Therefore, not only did I have to find quality dining options, but they couldn't cost an arm and a leg. Easier said than done.

My research flagged up Le Baratin, a small Bistro in the Belleville area of Paris. The Chef, Raquel Carena's style is French home cooking with an Argentinian twist. apparently Pierre Herme the pastry chef superstar eats here regularly, as do foodies from all over France. It's also considered to be a bit of a bargain, so reservations are advised.
My French is pretty abysmal, I tried to book - really I did, playing my trump card to the hilt
"Bonsoir. Parlez vous Anglais?"
Works a treat if the answer is "Oui".....but if it happens to be "Non" - I'm shafted.... I ended up asking a French work colleague to book the restaurant for me because I couldn't be sure they'd understood my mangling of their language (Thanks again Lucie).

So, last Thursday I climbed the Pyrenees Metro station steps, emerging into an extremely balmy Parisian evening and made my way down the street to Le Baratin with my girlfriend in tow.
I was pleased to find your absolute classic Bistro, battered and worn but with bundles of character, a small bar and chalked menu boards. At 7-30pm we were the first customers there, which was a bit disconcerting - as was the realisation that my abysmal French was to be met with some almost equally abysmal English, which is always fun when deciphering the nuances of the menu.
We were waved to a table, our wine order was taken (A rather excellent bottle of Mathieu Cosme vouvray), and a large chalk board was placed on a chair for us to study.
I decided to order Gazpacho as a starter, it was swelteringly hot and the idea of eating ice cold soup really appealed. The GF went for an aubergine and mozzarella Gateau.

Orders taken, a basket of excellent bread was brought over, and we noticed other customers starting to arrive in a steady stream.

The starters were placed on the table, and my Gazpacho was excellent - ice cold, with a quite smooth consistency it was really tasty. I ate the lot along with most of the bread. My partner was equally happy with her choice, although she was initially slightly worried that they'd got her order wrong, It arrived as a perfectly pressed cylinder of aubergine and mozzarella - she was imagining it to look a bit more rustic and thought she'd been proffered some kind of unidentified fish dish. No photos of the starter I'm afraid, to be honest I felt a bit intimidated at first taking photos, - but I loosened up a bit after necking a fair old quantity of the excellent wine.

Next we were onto the mains, I went for Oxtail a l'orange with haricots beans and herbs. My GF chose a Fish dish, the subtleties of which we couldn't quite grasp with our limited French skills.
The Bistro was really buzzing now, packed with people. The Bartender was taking his wine serving extremely seriously, decanting the wines into glass vessels, swirling and then taking a sniff before serving, something you don't often see in the UK.
The food arrived, and it looked pretty good. I got two portions of meltingly tender Oxtail, falling off the bone at the touch of my fork with a selection of vegetables which were cooked perfectly(supposedly not that common in France where overcooked soft veg is the norm). Again, I ate the lot and couldn't have been happier.

Finally onto Dessert, we both chose the Fondant au Chocolate, imagining it to be the hot, soft in the middle chocolate fondant we all know and love. Instead we got a slab of rich soft chocolate, falling somewhere in between mousse and chocolate proper in consistency. It was not quite what we expected but tasted gorgeous.
With an espresso drunk, the bill paid and feeling slightly worse for wear, we offered cheery au revoirs and spilled out into the street to get the Metro back to the center of town.
The verdict - Excellent. Your authentic Paris Bistro, seriously good food (Pierre Herme can't be wrong!) and the bill for two, with wine coming in at around 120 Euros, which for Paris, is very cheap.

Le Baratin
3 Rue Jouye-Rouve.
20th Arrondisment.


Boo said...

Ooh, this looks great Dan, I'm off to Paris in August, I also speak very little French but luckily am visiting a friend who is virtually fluent. I love the look of the oxtail and think rustic dining is definitely the way to go.

Anonymous said...

"falling off the bone at the touch of the fork" that oxtail sounds fantastic! This place sounds like a proper find, must look it up when we go back. Lovely write up!

The Ample Cook said...

Ooh your research paid off didn't it? Well done. The food sounded really good. How romantic too, strolling around Paris in the warm night air. How was your hotel?

Graphic Foodie said...

I love Paris! Will note this one down for a future visit. Oxtail can be divine, I've really got a taste for it at the moment.

Oh and how beautiful is the writing on the chalk board!

Ollie said...

Your photo of the Eiffel tower could be on a postcard!

Loved your description of the oxtail. I love the stuff quite indecently.

Dan said...

Boo, funny thing was - I did a bit of French at school and the longer I was out there, the more it came back. I've always found, no matter where you go - as long as you know a few key phrases you get by pretty easily....
I don't understand.
Give Me
How Much is it?
The Bill please

That's all you need really.
As for rustic dining - agreed, I love to eat earthy simple food, the stuff the locals eat - I always aim for those kind of places.

Rejina, Thanks. The Beef was good here, but I had 20 hour cooked Beef cheeks at the restaurant you recommended L'epi Dupin - and if anything the meat was even more tender. Gorgeous stuff - I'll be blogging it later this week.

Jan - Hotel was lovely actually, quite posh but reasonable - right opposite the Panthenon on the Left Bank - "Hotel Des Grand Hommes" The Jardin de Luxemburg was just down the road.

Grafoo - Oxtail is lovely - funnily enough last time I went to Paris I ate Oxtail as well. Agreed, The writing on the chalkboard is lovely. What was also quite cool, the owner added up the bill by hand, and then wrote it out in the same excellent handwriting.

Ollie - Thanks, I spent ages taking that photo - in fact I took loads, more is better! Nightshots are really hard without a tripod.

Hollow Legs said...

While sometimes it's great to discover a new restaurant off your own back, when the euro is so weak and you need to watch the budget, it's definitely a good idea to do some prior research - I always do!

I've only cooked oxtail once, but it was delicious. I must make it again.