Bistrot Belhara: Where to Eat on the Left Bank in Paris

Bistrot Belhara: Where to Eat on the Left Bank in Paris

On a quiet side street in the 7th Arrondissement, accomplished chef Thierry Dufroux has created one of the most popular new bistros to open on the Left Bank for some time. Despite the North African-sounding name, it serves a regularly changing menu of contemporary French bistro dishes which are reassuringly anchored in Gallic culinary tradition by a chef with an impressive pedigree.

Dufroux previously cooked at the Grand Hotel in Biarritz and several other kitchens in the French Basque country, which explains his restaurant’s curious moniker – Belhara is the name given to a type of large wave in the Bay of Biscay. In addition, Dufroux also worked with Michel Guérard and Alain Ducasse in Monaco before moving to Paris.

Dufroux’s restaurant nods at his affection for the Basque Country, with a cow bell here and there among the décor of the snug dining room, with its old-fashioned stencilled tile floor and simply-set wooden tables. He also uses Basque produce like Bayonne ham in his cooking. The bistro register is his culinary keyboard, however, and much of Dufroux’s inspiration comes from the excellent seasonal produce with which he works.

I joined a friend who lives in the neighbourhood, who first tipped me off about this place, for dinner on a cold winter night. We began with a velvety butternut squash velouté, garnished with fresh ewe’s milk cheese and croutons for her, and some impeccably made confit de foie gras de canard (duck foie gras preserved in its own fat) with homemade quince preserves for me.

Our main courses were also modern French comfort food at its best. Roasted sea bream came with a saffron-enriched jus de bouillabaisse, in a nod to Dufroux’s stint in Monaco, while a petit pâté chaud – a small closed tart of golden pastry filled with minced duck and foie gras – was garnished with an immaculate duck stock-based sauce.

Cheeses, including a nutty Ossau-Iraty from the Pyrénées, are supplied by the excellent local fromager Marie-Anne Cantin, and desserts run to such vieille France classics as a Mont Blanc – sweetened chestnut purée topped with whipped cream, and an impressively light rice pudding topped with pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and caramel sauce.

The service here is charming, and given the quality of the kitchen, Dufroux’s €38 prix-fixe dinner menu is one of the best buys in Paris right now.

Bistrot Belhara, 23 Rue Duvivier, 75007 Paris +33 1 45 51 41 77. Closed Sunday and Monday. Prix-fixe menus: €30 (lunch), €38 (dinner).

Based in Paris, restaurant columnist Alexander Lobrano has published a new book, Hungry for France, along with a new edition of his popular Hungry for Paris. Find these books and more in our bookstore.

Originally published in the February-March 2014 issue of France Today




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