Dining in Paris: Le Sergent Recruteur on the Île Saint-Louis

Dining in Paris: Le Sergent Recruteur on the Île Saint-Louis

Surrounded by the Seine, and a discrete, intimate, slightly mysterious place, the Île Saint-Louis is one of the most charming neighbourhoods of Paris. For years it also had one of the city’s most fashionable restaurants, L’Orangerie, owned and run by the late French film actor Jean-Claude Brialy. This table, once as famous for its spectacular flower arrangements as for its classical French cooking, was a favourite of Paris fashion designers, socialites and lm stars; all of whom enjoyed the attention of the gallant Monsieur Brialy, who frequently oversaw the dining room. After his death in 2007, the chic crowd mostly moved on, though the restaurant is still in business today.

Now, however, an updated version of another famous local restaurant, Le Sergent Recruteur, is attracting fashionable Parisians to dine on the island once again. This is because many of the loyal customers of the exceptionally talented chef Alain Pégouret, the eatery’s new chef-proprietor, have followed him to his new table from Laurent, a major Paris power table in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées where he cooked for 18 years.

“I loved working at Laurent, but I wanted a restaurant of my own,” says Pégouret, a native of Cannes and a gifted gastronomic classicist who enlivens his dishes with dashes of culinary wit.

Alain Pégouret is the chef-proprietor at Le Sergent Recruteur. Photo: Stéphane de Bourgies

Working in an open kitchen at the back of a contemporary dining room designed by Spanish interior architect Jaime Hayon, Pégouret’s menu also evolves with the seasons but everything we ordered during a recent dinner here was impeccably executed, refined and delicious. The chef’s foie gras poached in sangria with garnishes of grapefruit and rhubarb was a perfect example of the elegance that is his signature. The sea bream ceviche with coriander sorbet and seaweed was very original too. Chicken roasted with black garlic under its skin was umami-rich and succulent, while veal sweetbreads sautéed with basil were impeccably cooked, with a golden, slightly crispy exterior that contrasted with the velvety interior.

Don’t miss the ginger-infused chocolate biscuit with cocoa sorbet for dessert, and note that the young sommelière has created a very good wine list. This is also a useful address for anyone wandering the Île Saint-Louis and wanting a lighter meal, since they serve small-plates like sautéed girolles mushrooms, cod ceviche and vitello tonnato in the bar at the entrance to the restaurant. The lovely Île Saint-Louis finally has the destination table it so very much deserves.

Le Sergent Recruteur, 41 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’ÎIe, Paris 4th. Tel. +33 (0)1 43 54 75 42.

From France Today magazine

Le Sergent Recruteur, foie gras poached in sangria

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Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until its closing, and has written about food and travel for Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. He is the author of HUNGRY FOR PARIS, 2nd Edition (Random House, 4/2014), HUNGRY FOR FRANCE (Rizzoli, 4/2014), and MY PLACE AT THE TABLE, newly published in June 2021.

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  • Michael James
    2019-11-30 08:56:01
    Michael James
    Brings back memories. Not because of the dining experience but because I lived at that address (#41 same as the resto), whose entrance was between Sergent Recruter and Nos Ancetres Les Gaulois. Both were rather dubious tourist dives back then (late '80s). In fact I believe it was that rare thing for Paris, an "all you can eat" place and it mostly catered to American and English tourists. In 2012-13, I read that Le Sergent Recruter changed proprietors and it was given a complete makeover such that it won a Michelin star in its first year of operation. Online I can't verify if it retains that star but I see it was listed in the Zagat guide of 2014 (as it happens the very last edition of that guide, 'disappeared' after it was purchased by Google!). Incidentally I don't know if it is common to retain the original name when it is sold but that is what happened here even though everything about the restaurant changed. If any tourists were relying on an old guide they would get both a culture and a bill shock if they went along. Alas, though I did try many of the restaurants on the island, I never did try it and suspect I won't the new one either as Michelin-starred restos are a bit out of my purview, alas. I suspect I couldn't afford to live in that building either!


  • Jacqueline Harmon Butler
    2019-11-27 19:52:43
    Jacqueline Harmon Butler
    Years ago, a couple of friends and I dined at Le Sergent Recruntur. I can't remember just what we ate, but I do remember we dined well. I'd love to visit the restaurant again to taste the delicious sounding sweet breads.