The French are famous for their cuisine and although it seems a daunting task to find the diamonds amongst the gazillion eateries in Paris, we had our trusty mother-- with her Japanese travel guides-- who took us seemlessly from one good restaurant and bistro to another. She likes to do her research before travelling and I'm glad one of us does. Mother is not lazy. Even in August.
I've never had duck confit before because 1) I'm not such a fan of duck except Peking duck and 2) I had no idea what confit meant. In fact, none of my family did so I had to do a sneaky google search back at our hotel to check. Like all good gastronomic explorers, we put on our sneakers and walked MILES to eat the perfect duck confit or confit de canard. My mother, who likes to lounge around at home, is like a battery-powered walking machine when abroad.
We walked in single file as we've always walked over the years: my mum first, followed by my sis, then me with dad trailing and muttering about how she's always in a hurry. Holidays, such fun.
We ended up here at Au Pied de Fouet in rue de Babylone:
It's a tiny bistro filled with locals and a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. I think we were the only tourists there. After sharing starters of green salad (I don't know if it's the vegetables or the dressing but salads just taste better in France) and celery soup which was moreish, we got down to the nitty gritty and ordered their house specialty, confit de canard. My sis and dad ordered chicken in a mustardy cream sauce. The confit was incredible. Crispy on the outside, the meat was so tender it just fell off the bone. And it came with the creamiest of mash potatoes. You have my permission to drool.
My mother, who doesn't like meat much, ate the WHOLE thing. Shocking. We finished the truly scrumptious meal with an even more scrumptious créme caramel. This was really good. I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but I was born with a créme caramel (or purin/pudding as it's known in Japan) in my mouth and am very fussy regarding quality. My mother's is the best, naturally, and I measure all against hers. And this was superb. The right consistency, sweetness, egginess and caramelised to perfection. Even my sister, who's not such a fan, tried to wrestle the last bite from me.
And the perfect café express to finish off the meal.
We left the restaurant to walk back to St Germain-des-Prés and a crêpe.
We were only in Paris for three nights and four days but boy did we do a lot of walking. Seriously, I had holes in my socks. So lucky for us we stayed in a cute little hotel near the Carrefour de l'Odéon in which nestles a cluster of bistros and cafés, one of which was Le Comptoir du Relais. It looked very unassuming, but as soon as we nabbed the last remaining table, a long queue started forming for lunch. A bistro at lunch-time, Le Comptoir turns into a fine dining restaurant at night. Apart from two Japanese ladies, everyone else was local.
What was a pleasant surprise was that as soon as you are seated and ordered your wine, they would also plonk down a carafe of water just like in Japan. They had such cute carafes in every bistro and café we went to. I want some! Practically everywhere wine was by the glass or decanted.
Because we weren't so hungry, we shared a soup: a duck consommé with mint which was strangely delightful.
Because it's summer, we noticed all the ladies eating big, hefty salads, so we got one to try. Lots of boiled vegetables including artichoke hearts, pickled garlic and summer peas. Refreshing and filling.
A croque monsieur because we were in Paris and my father wanted steak.
We forgot to ask for it bien cuit as we don't really do raw meat in our family. And when it arrived, it was very red in the middle. But you know what, the meat was so soft and tender, it just melted in our mouths and we didn't even mind it being raw in the middle. Seriously amazing.
It's not the cheapest restaurant but there's a reason why it's so popular. We went away after lunch, did some shopping, had dinner and came back for late night coffee across the road and there still was a queue. Amazing.
So, have I whetted your appetite to come and visit Paris? Go on, you know you want to!
Au Pied de Fouet
45, rue de Babylone
Metro: Sèvres – Babylone ou Saint Francois-Xavier (ligne 13)
Tel: 01 47 05 12 27
Le Comptoir du Relais
5, Carrefour de l'Odéon
Tel: 01 44 27 07 97