Paris on a plate, how cringe worthy. I can’t bear these insipid cliches food writers use to introduce or summarise a piece.
We are on the bank of the Seine at a window table in the most charming Parisian eatery. Chez Julien is a traditional restaurant and we are watched over by cherubs dancing around a gilded chandelier that adorn the tiled ceiling. Aged glass mirrors in restaurants are very cool. I have a feeling though, these ones are genuinely old.
Champagne is served and goes down well, as we are guided through the menu by our exceptionally turned out Maître d’. I was impressed by his English and amused when he admitted originating from Hampstead. He spoke french like a native.
Modern restaurants in Britain are obsessed by a daily changing card, which our diners now come to expect. You would run a mile if handed a laminated menu. This restaurant is neither modern or British and the menu is beautifully and proudly painted on boards outside. The difference in Paris, is that restaurants often specialise in particular dishes. They are famed for what they serve, and take pride in how they make it. Customers are loyal and know what to expect.
We start with Chez Julien’s foie gras, a simple and beautiful tablet of cream, with a generous riven seam of black truffle running through. Our flutes are topped up and the fizz is the perfect accompaniment. Mains come in the form of a chateaubriand for one and veal tartare. Respective Bordeauxs were recommended and poured to accompany.
I often miss out on a chateaubriand. As with many pleasures, you need a willing partner. This small fist size piece of fillet is perfect for one and is served with a Sarawak peppercorn sauce, probably more peppery than would be served at home, but perfect with this dish and eagerly mopped up with their frites maison. The Veal is hand chopped and the patty is incased in Parmesan. Most extraordinary is the topping of “caviar de truffle.” Something I had never before experienced and could well be exclusive to Chez Julien.
I understand this is created by a process where summer truffles are pressed, with the resulting extract then milled into little pearls. This has the identical look and texture of caviar, yet with the slightly surreal flavour of fresh truffle! This makes for an exciting experience in the mouth and a mixture of flavours that perfectly compliment.
It was only fitting to finish with a creme brûlée and glass of cold white desert. Classic and perfect. Traditional french dining, with an ever present show of kitchen skill and service second to none.
Whether a plate of food can really encompass the feel of a city is debatable. If however, you are in Paris for only a day, Chez Julien would be my choice for a classic Parisian lunch.
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