Restaurant Review: Au Petit Riche, Paris
The world likes to think of Paris as an immutable urban jewel, but the reality is that (as is true of most big cities), it changes all the time. These can be big changes, like the conversion of the city’s former main post office on the Rue du Louvre into the glamorous Hôtel Madame Rêve, or little ones, like the sad demise of the boutique Old England, where Marcel Proust liked to buy his cashmeres (rather depressingly, this beautiful oak-panelled shop has become a luxury watch boutique).
This inevitable churn makes me ever more appreciative of those fly-in-amber places that never change, a perfect example being the charming Au Petit Riche restaurant right in the heart of the city not far from the Opéra. It opened in 1854, and it’s remained pretty much untouched ever since.
Truth be told, I hadn’t been here in ages, but when a friend called to tell me that they had a new menu and had also opened a wine bar, I suggested we go for lunch. When we met up, it was a pleasure to be here even before we’d eaten anything, because this beautiful dining room with its original brass fittings (including coat racks and overhead light fixtures which were once gas lamps) had been smartened up – with new red velvet upholstery on the banquettes and some fresh paint here and there – but not changed.
The menu had evolved but remains a monument to traditional French cooking with excellent starters like the pâté en croûte and oeufs mimosa we shared, along with other first courses like trout gravlax, roasted beetroot salad, and lentil salad with smoked eel. Since we both wanted the poached haddock à l’anglaise with baby spinach, roasted new potatoes and a beurre blanc made with Montlouis wine from the Loire, we agreed on this plate and another one of quenelles de brochet (pike-perch dumplings) with a sauce Nantua. Our choice of these two fish dishes was also guided by our desire to enjoy a bottle of one of my favourite wines, a white Menetou-Salon by Philippe Gilbert (Loire Valley wines are the speciality of this restaurant, with more than 300 references).
We concluded the meal by sharing a plate of three different Loire Valley goat’s cheeses with apple chutney and then one of my favourite desserts, the Napoleon III pudding of nougat glacé aux fruits confits, which also called out for a little pour of Domaine Aubert Vouvray Pétillant, a charming wine. The happy lesson of this meal, then, was that sometimes things have to change a little bit to stay the same. (By the way, they’ve also opened an excellent new wine bar at the same address.)
25 Rue Le Peletier, 9th arrondissement, Paris.
Tel. (33) 01 47 70 68 68
Average à la carte €60.
Lead photo credit : Miam!! © Jordan Sapally
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