With two women in the kitchen, an Irishman in the dining room and an American barrista, it’s clear from the onset that this former 1920’s cabaret turned art space is anything but typical.
Located just a short walk from the Place de Clichy, on a surprisingly charming impasse, it turned out to be the perfect place for Sunday brunch. Warm scones, fresh squeezed OJ, eggs over easy, real bacon (and not what usually passes for bacon in Paris) and undoubtedly some of the best coffee in Paris, made for one of the better brunches in Paris.
However, there’s more to the menu than just brunch and from all reports, Alice Quillet and Anna Trattles’s simple, British-influenced cuisine is more than satisfying with dishes like Welsh rabbit, cauliflower and cheddar soup, pork chops with roasted endive, and woodpigeon with beets. The wines get noticed as well, which is not surprising since two of those involved used to work at Willi’s Wine Bar, which also explains the charming bilingual service. You can finish up with a plate of Neal’s Yard’s Stichelton with Carr’s biscuits and chutney, a delicious looking Eton’s mess, or an excellent cheesecake, which is what we opted for.
While the restaurant itself is reason enough to cross town, I wouldn’t miss the first-rate photography and film exhibits, shown downstairs from the café. At the moment you can see Anonymes: L’Amerique Sans Nom, a depressing, albeit fascinating, look at the lives of ordinary Americans through film and photography from the 1930s till present times.
Be warned however that this address, which is barely a few months old, was swarming with middle-aged intellectual types by 13h00 who had just gotten out of the nearby Cinema des Cineastes, so if you want to enjoy your brunch, go early.
Le Bal Café
6 Impasse de la Défense
Métro: Place de Clichy
01 44 70 75 56
Open: Wednesday-Saturday 10h-23h, Sunday 10h-21h
It’s too bad that every neighbourhood doesn’t have a restaurant like Jean Marc Notelet’s recently-opened, pocket-sized bistro, Zinc Caius, which is just a few minutes walk from Etoile. The décor, like the food, is simple yet soignée with steel grey tones and a hip, industrial feeling.
Notelet, who once worked at the three-star Boyer Les Crayeres before opening the since closed “Le Troyon” in the 17th and the more grown-up Caius up the street, is known for his judicious use of unusual spices and original take on traditional French cuisine.
The food here is simple, yet very good. I am not really a boudin fanatic, but this house-made boudin noir Bernais with Bordier’s beurre au sel fumé was delicious, as was the warm salad of Puy lentils garnished with Lardo di Colonnata, walnuts and tarragon and the Piquillos peppers with creamy goat cheese, basil and yellow pepper coulis. Mains were equally good with a perfectly seared Simmental strip steak and hand-cut steak tartar served with crisp, fat polenta fries. Desserts didn’t disappoint either with a crème caramel, nage de rhubarb with fromage blanc ice cream and mint, and chantilly de semoule with Amarena cherries.
A lot has been written lately about the demise of French cooking and how it’s not all that easy to find exceptional cooking in France these days, but thankfully inexpensive neighbourhood bistros like this, with high-quality products and cooking at affordable prices, continue to pop up and prove the naysayers wrong.
Entrees: 7€-12 €
Desserts: 5€-8 €
11 rue d’Armaillé
Telephone: 01 44 09 05 10
See the map here
Open daily for lunch and dinner, except Sunday.