Les Bouquinistes, Paris.

June 2015.

This was lunch on our fourth day of a seven-day stay in this terrific town. It’s a little part of Guy Savoy’s empire, and it just sniffs at the bottom end of haute cuisine, which is kind of where we like to be.

It’s on the edge of the lovely Isle de France in the Seine, well in the middle of Paris tourism but off-centre enough that crowds aren’t annoying. The Euro-moderne black-on-grey room has windows on two sides and is decorated with glass walls containing (empty) wine bottles. The atmosphere is a little formal for a casual lunch, and at 1230 we were one of only three tables occupied, although it was 70% full by the time we left.

Primary server in his black suit wasn’t making eye contact and asked madame if she wanted a glass of white after we had ordered a bottle of Chablis. The maître d’ had to remind him to pour the wine a couple of times, but a colleague busboy was smiling, way wider-awake and easier to get along with.

We both had a tuna item with “tomato tartare” to start and it was five or six thrilling little rich tart mouthfuls. The tuna was lightly cooked and set up with lemon and plenty of salt and pepper, just packed with a perfect balance of sour, salt, and real live fish accompanied with tiny lamb’s lettuce and a vinaigrette with some tarragon. One of my tastiest surprises in awhile.

“Madame” had dorade with cauliflower which was beautifully grilled and again done so as to present the fish itself, with subtle accompaniments that waited in the background. Mine was a little pintade breast perfectly baked and sliced with its skin on, presented with daikon, carrot, peas, and beans cooked to that perfect softness that only high class French chefs seem to be able to achieve these days, along with an effortlessly gentle reduction that pointed to the bird, not to itself. Flawlessly tender and good.

The fixed menu included dessert and mine was three little sorbets of different fruit flavours, rich without calories which of course is what everyone is looking for.

A delicious and classy lunch, happily accompanied with a bottle of Fevre little Chablis at €50 and a glass of generic red Burgundy to go with my pigeon. €133 (about C$180) . We wouldn’t spend that kind of money every day even on holiday, and although the food was very good there certainly wasn’t much of it, and some of the “value” would be attributed to atmosphere and service which wasn’t exactly our preference, although some people would love it.

Food 9.4, service 7.1, ambience (either you love it or not) 7.9, value 7.4.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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