Gourmet Fare

The Best of the Bouillons

The dining room at the Bouillon Chartier. Photo courtesy Bouillon Chartier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Paris, France — In the kebab, hamburger and Asian noodles hub that Paris seems to be turning into, it is fortunate that traditional French fare remains and continues to emerge. And one of these traditions is the Bouillon, literally meaning bouillon or broth restaurant. Some of us at The Gourmet Gazette had our first taste of these no nonsense good French food establishments when we were students back in the early 1980s for they were and remain one of the least expensive ways to enjoy a three-course or four course meal with wine. Refreshingly the bill is still written up on your paper table cloth (which covers a real cloth tablecloth) and the simple French dishes like hard boiled eggs with mayonnaise and beef Burgundy still abound on the menu. The Joulie family, Gérard and Christophe, renowned Parisian restauranteurs, have been among those who have maintained this tradition and a new addition to their Bouillons Chartier establishments recently opened across the street from the bustling Gare de l’Est train station so if you are off to Reims and its champagne or Meaux and its Brie cheese, you can enjoy lunch on your way out or dinner on your way in.

Snails in garlic butter at the Bouillon Chartier. Photo courtesy Bouillon Chartier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

There are some of the most traditional French aperitif drinks on the menu as well like Lillet— white, rosé or red — an aromatic French fortified wine that has been around since 1872 and at Bouillon Chartier is more than reasonably priced at 3.50 euros (about US $3.70). For appetizers offerings include an excellent homemade terrine and a textbook plate of leeks in a vinaigrette sauce. But snails and a very reasonably priced foie gras are also among the standards on hand. We were delighted to find the hard to find pike quenelles in a creamy Nantua sauce on the menu while the beef Burgundy proved to be tender and full of rich taste. Another nice choice is the baked sea bass.

Oven-roasted sea bass with diced vegetables at the Bouillon Chartier. Photo courtesy Bouillon Chartier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

You can even delve into a divine cheese course ranging from Camembert to blue cheese from the Auvergne or goat cheese from Rocamadour for as little as 2.60 euros (US$2.70) a portion. We had the sinfully rich Mont Blanc — sweetened chestnut cream topped with whipped cream and a chocolate mousse. You can even order up a bowl of Chantilly cream, thick whipped cream flavored with vanilla. Excellent French table wines are available in pitchers but there is a nice wine list as well with bottles ranging in price from 10 euros (US 10.60) to 18 euros $US19.05) . All tolled you can enjoy an authentic three-course lunch or dinner with wine for US$20 to US$30 for each person.

The Profiterole dessert — puff pastry filled with vanilla ice-cream topped off with hot chocolate and silvered almonds at the Bouillon Chartier. Photo courtesy Bouillon Chartier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The Bouillons were established in the 19th century and originally served boiled beef in its bouillon which would eventually be enlarged to include other dishes. The concept was the brainchild of a Parisian butcher Pierre-Louis Duval whose first Bouillon on the rue de Montesquieu would be followed by a dozen other establishments. His Bouillons under the helm of his son Alexandre would be the first in Paris to remplace the classic garçon waiters by waitresses. The brothers Chartier —Camille and Frédéric — opened up their Bouillon Chartier in 1896 on the Faubourg Montmartre and it is still in operation today and run by the Joulie family. Despite the classic French surroundings which are classified as protected decors, the Bouillons remain relaxed with the tables being so close together conversations between strangers aren’t uncommon while the couple behind us lunched with their cat (in a carrier) which of course drew people to their table. They are also conveniently open all day from 11:30 am until midnight.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
https://www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/
Bouillon Chartier – Gare de l ‘Est
5 rue du 8 mai 1945
7010 Paris, France
+33 (0) 1 42 05 20 02

The dining room at the Bouillon Chartier. Photo courtesy Bouillon Chartier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

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