March 10, 2010
Text and photos by: Meg Zimbeck
I panicked, on a recent winter night, when some friends asked me to organize a dinner. Choosing a restaurant is something that I usually enjoy, but the guests for this particular occasion were a couple of chefs. And not just any chefs, but senior chefs working in three-star restaurants.
My anxiety subsided as soon as I remembered Les Papilles. This homey little spot near the Jardin du Luxembourg is a favorite among food and wine insiders. I think it’s something to do with the simple and honest cooking, the well-priced wine selection and the likability of owner Bertrand Bluy.
Bluy worked for years as a pastry chef (Fauchon, Troisgros) before opening his own place under a refreshingly simple banner: “des beaux produits traités simplement et de bons vins . . . C’est tout, on n’est pas là pour se prendre la tête!” Bluy’s mission—to serve beautiful products, prepared simply, with good wine and without frills—makes Les Papilles a place that’s enjoyed by both big spenders and budget travelers.
The core of any experience here is the no-choice prix-fixe menu “retour du marché.” For 31 euros, diners all experience the same starter, main dish, cheese and dessert. Our recent meal began with a generous pitcher of creamy endive soup poured over a mound of croutons and smoked ham spiked with piment d’Espelette. It continued with fork-tender beef cheeks, braised in red wine and served from a gleaming copper casserole. For cheese, there was Fourme d’Ambert (a mild blue) paired with a fat and sticky prune, and we finished with pineapple panna cotta topped with caramel emulsion.
Bottles of wine, ranging from steal to splurge, are selected from wooden shelves that line the restaurant walls (corkage 7 euros). While it’s possible to order by the glass, I don’t know anyone who does this. Les Papilles is the place to come when you want to drink a great bottle without the normal restaurant markup.
Price check: The prix-fixe menu “retour du marché” is one of the best values in town, offering four no-choice courses for 31 euros. Even cheaper is the stand-alone “marmite” option for 16 euros—that’s the same main dish but without any padding.
In a nutshell: Bertrand Bluy’s restaurant near the Jardin du Luxembourg is a homey, low-fuss place to enjoy market cooking and great wine. The menu changes regularly but offers no choices, so this place isn’t for picky eaters. Wines by the glass and bottles ranging from sweet to stratospheric.
30, rue Gay-Lussac, 75005
Métro: Place Monge
Open: for lunch Tues – Sat. Closed Sun – Mon.
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