Would love some help with this constant first night dilemma. We will be arriving back to Paris (at last!) on a Friday afternoon in late April. We will be staying on the Rue Honore Chevalier right above the Luxembourg Gardens. As always, we’ll be jetlagged and stupid by dinner time and so need recommendations for someplace easy, gentle, but with a solid-traditional French meal and a nice bottle of wine. Anything fancy or precious would be totally wasted on the wasted, so to speak, and it would also be great to find a spot about a 10 minute or so walk from our apartment. On that night we’ll be the first ones in to dine and sawing logs by 9:00. You get the picture I’m sure.
If you like seafood, Huguette on rue de Seine is flirty, laid-back, buzzy, fab terrace, continuous hours so an early jet-lagged meal possible.
Although overpriced, La Table du Luxembourg inside the park is also good for an early meal and many tables outside for a bit of fresh air so badly needed when jetlagged. But depends on the weather.
I think we had a good meal at Restaurant Georgette, which is nearby. it’s been a while, though.
I’m always looking at your recommendations to others as they plan their own trips. Huguette looks like a perfect place for one of our afternoons. Their selection/pricing of oysters is exactly what we generally look for and, when looking at their instagram photos, I noticed a plate of “Friture d’éperlans”. Is this commonly found at seafood places in Paris? I grew up eating fried smelts (or the similar, called “baitfish”) here in Brooklyn & can still get them in one of my local Italian (well, Ischian) restaurants here at home. Thanks (as usual).
Yes, “petite friture” is a very common northern Mediterranean dish popular from Lebanon to Spain. A bit difficult to find in Paris though and one of the reasons I like Huguette. My most memorable plate of “petite friture” was on the beach at Byblos Lebanon.
At one time, “blanchaille”/ whitebait used to be the fish of choice for “la petite friture” but their stocks are now depleted and very small éperlan/ smelt has become the standard.
@SteveR, and yeah, I’m pretty sure Huguette is your kind of place. Go ! I’m a little surprised that it has not yet registered on the tourist radar because it’s located in St Germain des Prés and so quintessentially parisian. Maybe just not enough English-language reviews to create the monkey-see/ monkey-do effect.
Great thread! We are going this fall ( fingers crossed, after deferring twice!) and “can’t hardly wait”.
Two years ago my husband and I enjoyed dinner at La Rotonde on our first night. The menu was easygoing as was the setting.
Drumming my usual drum, and perhaps stretching your walk to 15 minutes, I suggest you book at Les Papilles. The food is what you describe, the ambiance comfortable. No choice super-approachable menu. Sit back, swoon over each course they bring to your table, drink wine of your or their choice, waddle home and feel welcomed to Paris.
an old favorite for sure. I had actually reserved for another evening on this trip. But looking for something a little closer. Anyone know anything about either Bistro de Henri or Phillipe?
Thanks Trish. That may well ring the chime.
I’ve been wondering about that place for some time. May not be what we need for first night but I will certainly make it a lunch priority. love oysters and looks like the menu is quite varied. thank you.
BdH is an old tourist workhorse. Or perhaps better said, a workhorse in a tourist area. Unexceptional food. On my first of several visits, some 25 years ago, an elderly woman sat next to me on the banquette, placing her small dog between us. He/it had good table manners.
There are a few people on TripAdvisor’s Paris Forum that highly recommend Bistro de Henri, You could ask more about it there.
We all react differently to jetlag but I for one would find a heavy trad meal at, say, Bistro d’Henri a form of masochism when travel-weary or even after a hard day at the office.
A slight digression: How do certain restaurants like the unremarkable Bistro d’Henri become tourist favourites ? I’ve never been but know this little patch (aka “rue de la Soif”/ Thirsty Street because of its cluster of sports bars and popularity with drunken sports fans after major football or rugby games) of St Germain des Prés. I have the impression that Bistro d’Henri and the other identikit bistros in that area have a 100% tourist (both foreign and provincial French) clientele. How can such tourist favourites be considered a parisian experience by so many visitors when they are devoid of Parisians ?
I kind of get it. On my (not husband’s) first Paris visit, we found ourselves on rue Guisarde, maybe sent by Wells or another flavor of the month Paris guide. We went to Machon d’Henri, a sister around the corner of BdH). At that time, well before yours, the FOH was an insane guy whose huge German Shepard wandered the room, often disturbingly exploring the space behind legs/feet at the banquette. But we were treated with that inimitable sly, flirty, cosseting French hospitality. He moved on, opening a clone across Guissarde, and then on rue Christine. The food wasn’t exceptional, but it rivaled ordinary French kitchens. Stuff like roast chicken, sausage, and my choice, andouillette. We usually don’t have time to cash a dinner slot here anymore, but we always walk the alley and our waiter from some 25 years ago will, if he spots us, stop service and dart into the street to shake hands and ask our health.
Sure, far from the best food we’ve had or look forward to in France, but a treasured spot for us.
ok, fair enough. I know you are a sucker for the sort of intimacy and character that you describe. So am I. But the dynamics are probably different for us French speakers. Indeed I have such a bad impression of Bistro d’Henri because once I, while waiting for a friend, overheard one of its waiters having a smoke break on the street and discussing with a waiter from another bistro how to get tips from “les Ricains” (slang for Americans) by playing up the typical Parisian waiter role… a bit ironic because one of the waiters spoke French with a Spanish? accent.
25 years ago was before these perhaps charming types of tourist restaurants went Metro (a sort of Costco for restaurateurs) and bought their sauces and vinaigrettes in 5-litre drums and their desserts mass-produced.
With a discriminating eye, I call what you call sucker bait we call soul. It is often missing in many tourist comfortable restaurants carrying a Michelin star.
But one reason we loved tiny MACHON d’Henri was the number of neighborhood French only speaking regulars. Some pretty crazy characters we learned to identify and curry. (As I tried to subtly suggest, we did not find any of this ambiance at BISTROT d’Henr on rue Princessei.) The waiter I described may have come from central casting. But if he did, he isn’t getting paid enough.
I have a test for waitstaff and, in fact, everyone. After an enjoyed chuckle, with smiles all around, I watch as the person departs to see if the smile stays or drops. Tells a lot.
One thing I enjoyed at Machon d’Henri was sitting beside the pass and watching the sous make sauces, compose salad and put together tomorrow’s clafoutis.
LOL. Rereading this thread, I am rather sure that i could identify the waiter you quote. Charming but not too subtle. Yet a survivor.
Because Le Bistro d’Henri has a past. Back in the early 90s (the place is older but that’s when I went there regularly), it was the convenient landing ground for people crawling in on all fours from Castel just across the street to nurse their cuite. Lyonnais dishes like foie de veau-confiture d’oignons were the perfect choice for that. That foie de veau was extraordinary, and at lunchtime regular customers were employees from the many publishing companies that were all over the neighborhood at the time. The food was really good then and there weren’t any tourists yet. Now publishers are all in glass boxes near the périphérique and Le Bistro d’Henri has sunk (for one thing, the foie de veau is gone, which is unforgivable), but perhaps some are attracted by its past aura. That’s all.