Sunday, April 19, 2009

Budget Bistro Update: Restaurant Reviews, Le P'tit Canon and La Bastide d'Opio

It's the end of the weekend and I feel like I'm ready for another one. Where does the time go? I still haven't answered all my emails, finished cleaning the kitchen, or launched my consultancy business. Or completed Book 2. But I've got priorities and one of those is saving you, dear readers, from overpriced Parisian bistros serving flabby frites.

Restaurant Review: Le P'tit Canon

This is the restaurant we selected for Best Man and Miss Mousse's Parisian visit two weeks ago and I think it was a great choice. In the trendy but actually residential Batignolles neighbourhood (17th arrondissement - not on the tourist track at all but where "real" Parisians live), this is a small bistro with a traditional ambiance: zinc bar, cozy dark woodwork, vinicultural decor and... everyone's favourite... red-checkered tablecloths! Food is mostly traditional but well done: cassoulet, confit de canard, some steaks, sausages with white beans, and a signature steak tartare. We only know about this place because we met a lovely couple who live in the neighbourhood and invited us there. After our meal MCM and I went home and immediately turned on the computer to look at rental apartments in the neighbourhood. (Negatory: we'd be looking at a 40% increase in rent to have the same amount of space as we have here on the border of Paris. Oh well - maybe once I launch that consultancy).

As far as I'm concerned (and it's my blog, so ha!), I think this is a perfect bistro. It's not a Michelin-starred restaurant, that's for sure, but so what? I'm not very impressed by so-called "best" restaurants: most inventive food, maybe, but "best" for me is the restaurant that best suits my mood. As a matter of fact, my favourite dining experience in the whole world involves eating lobster from a plastic takeout dish at a picnic table while watching the summer sun set over Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard. Fine dining? Hardly. But fabulous.

Le P'tit Canon, 36, rue Legendre, Paris 75017
Food: Unpretentious, hearty bistro classics done very well.
Atmosphere/decor: Cozy and traditional.
Service: Warm, friendly, efficient. Bartender is completely bilingual.
Value for money: Very good. Starters and desserts were 5-7 euro; main courses were mostly 11-14 (a bit more for the day's special). Affordable wines. Count on 20-30 per person.
What to wear: casual. Jeans are fine.
Good for: dinner with old friends; adults of all ages - bring your parents or your great auntie; when you want a meltingly soft confit de canard with very garlicky potatoes and a crisp green salad, washed down with a light and easy red. Mmm.
Not good for: Food snobs - it's good but it's not fancy. Vegetarians.
Handicapped access: Toilets are a tight squeeze, but no steps.

Restaurant Review: La Bastide d'Opio

About a month ago MCM and I had dinner with a lovely old friend who was having a relaxing girls' weekend in Paris with her mum. I suggested we meet for drinks at La Garde-Robe and then have dinner at La Bastide d'Opio. This is partly because her mum is a fish-eating vegetarian, and I knew this place would have options.

One lesson learned: if your visiting friend might be pregnant, don't bring her to a wine bar that serves unpasteurised cheese, cured meats and, uhh, wine. I had no idea, but I still felt like an idiot when she told us her exciting news. Congratulations - get this woman some tap water so we can toast!

La Bastide d'Opio is a Provencale place in the 6th arrondissement, south of the market in St Germain des Pres. It's located in a street crowded with little restaurants of widely varying quality - and a few of them are, I know for a fact, tourist traps. So, if you find yourself in the area and hungry, this is a safe bet. It is also, by the way, a special place for MCM and me: we dined here on our first trip to Paris together, in May 2002, and had a long, lovely, last lunch: kir and tapenade toasts, then rabbit with olives for me, my first taste of bunny, which I love, finished with an orange creme brulee. Then MCM brought me to CDG Airport, where we parted for 7 1/2 months and I cried through passport control. (The passport agent just stared at me and handed my passport back silently, looking a bit freaked out: obviously they don't get training in emotional women).

Back in 2009, main courses included a lamb "crumble" for me (really a gratin - the French flirtation with crumble needs its own post), a delicate sea bass dish for Granny-to-be, and juicy chicken with herbes de provence for our friend. The flavours were strong and well-balanced. Desserts were tasty and straightforward. I suspected that my moelleux was from Picard: now I do love Picard's moelleux, but it doesn't belong in a restaurant. Service was brisk but not unfriendly and the restaurant is a bit noisy; we were tucked happily into a cozy corner, but the middle of the room would have been too lively for us.

La Bastide d'Opio
Food: Straightforward Provencale cooking.
Atmosphere/decor: Traditional, rustic, bustling.
Service: Efficient. Maybe too efficient. It's a small place in a high-rent area - they probably need to turn their tables to make money. We did, however, have to ask for water quite a few times.
Value for money: Good. Choices of menus at 23 or 27 euro in the evening. Wine available by the pitcher.
What to wear: casual.
Good for: vegetarians; affordable and tasty eating in a touristy, often pricey area.
Not good for: a romantic dinner (too hectic).
Handicapped access: Toilets on first floor (up a flight of stairs).

So, these are my thoughts. What about you? Got thoughts? Let me know. I've had half a dozen emails from people saying, "But ahh! Commenting is too hard!" These have all been from college-educated, intelligent adult women - women who understand tax codes, or teach children how to read, or speak several languages, or who are published authors. Commenting on my blog is much, much easier than doing any of these things! Just click on the "comments" button and follow the instructions. If you accidentally send a comment you don't want, I can delete it for you. You can post anonymously or by using a nifty nickname, like me... and Mel Gibson.


  1. New on your blog, I hope you like this city better than when you started. Just in case, if you like books, today is a nice day: la fête du livre et des librairies. Many bookshops are giving their customers a rose and a special book if they buy something today

  2. Thanks Martine! I love books so I will definitely check that out. I do like Paris much more than I did a few months ago, although I'm still not sure that Paris likes me. ;-)

  3. Well, sing carmen aloud: et si tu ne m'aimes pas je t'aime et si je t'aime, prends garde à toi. Have a nice week end

  4. Mel Gibson ici! I wonder if Le Petit Zinc is still there, somewhere on Le Rive Gauche? It was very good. I wish I could remember exactly where it was.

  5. I happened on Le P'tit Canon last time I was in Paris, in January. I loved it :)

  6. Ah yes! I remember this post. Sounds good. We'll book for next Friday and let you know how it goes! xoxo


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