I recently found myself strolling near the Place des Victoires, a business district that appeared to have closed for the day. Continuing in the direction of the more promising Galerie Vivienne, my date and I spotted a 1950s-style café with mosaic tile floors, Formica table tops, and primary-color paint. We were dubious, but hungry, so we stepped in, pleased to find that behind Le Bougainville’s near-empty café was a welcoming restaurant with a trove of pleased diners.
Moments after the waitress brought the chalkboard menu to our table, she overheard me say to my date, “Oh, they have homemade stuffed cabbage!” “Here, everything is homemade,” she interrupted. I started to get excited for the meal ahead.
The menu is refreshingly traditional. After years of experiencing trendy food, foam-decorated plates, and people regularly commenting, “It’s so good, it could be in Brooklyn,” I am tired of restaurants plating modern dishes that could just as easily be served in Melbourne, London, or Tokyo.
Our starters arrived; a herring salad for monsieur, beet salad for madame. It was all wonderfully delicious. This is not fancy food; it is grandmère-style home cooking at its most nostalgically satisfying. For the main course we both selected the stuffed cabbage. It was cooked to perfection: the leaves al dente, the meat stuffing moist, and a small puddle of a light sauce with steamed root vegetables surrounding the dish. The fries on the table next to us had been cooked twice and were still sizzling.
Even though I noticed they serve artisanal ice cream from Raimo upon walking in, we opted for the île flottante, a light meringue island in a crème anglaise sea. Worth every calorie.
This is not a lavish or fashionable address, although I imagine Jean Paul Gaultier has lunched here more than once while visiting his neighboring flagship store (now closed). The food features tomatoes from the owner’s garden, charcuterie and cheeses recognized throughout France, and hearty country bread. The perfect offering for visitors who want to sit down to a meal that reminds them they are in Paris.
Le Bougainville – 5 rue de la Banque, 75002; Métro: Bourse; Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 60 05 19; Open Mon-Sat 8am- midnight.
- Sylvia gives us the best addresses in Paris’ chic 16th arrondissement.
- Le Grand 8, a quaint bistro in Montmartre, also serves delicious and classic French cuisine.
- Check out Bon Appetit’s coverage of the “Oldies but Goodies,” the top classic French restaurants in Paris.