For any visitor to Paris it doesn’t take long to figure out the average bistro in this town likes to pack in its clientele. Very little personal space or elbow room and hearing somebody elses conversation is part and parcel of the experience. Some like it, some don’t, so when it came to eating at this little hot-spot just a few skips from Jardin du Luxembourg on the edge of the Latin Quarter, it was time to get cosy.
Les Papilles has a few personalities – bistro, deli and wine merchant. Come by day and there’s the à la carte choice of things like tartine, salads and charcuterie to be enjoyed with a glass of local vin. Dinner brings a set retour du marché menu where €33 buys you a 4 course meal that seems to follow the same formula no matter when you go; a soup starter, a marmite (slow-cooked casserole) for the table to share, a cheese course and then dessert.
No choices. You eat whatever the chef finds at the market, so diners can expect an unpretentious and seasonal menu.
A wall of wine arranged by region dominates one side of the restaurant, with a zinc bar on the other, and owner Bertrand Bluy is more than happy to lend a helping hand with translations or suggestions. You actually feel like you’ve just stepped into his home. The wine is uncorked and poured and even if you don’t finish it by the end of the meal, they gladly pop the cork back in and send you on your way.
Our table of three starts with a generous tureen of celeriac soup. The makings of the soup are delivered in a bowl – a tumble of croutons, bacon, herbs, dollop of crème fraîche and fried celery leaves – over which we ladle the delicious and creamy soup.
An impressive copper marmite is soon placed in the centre of the table, containing a bunch of vegetables and osso bucco. As tasty as it was, it didn’t fall off the bone like I’d expected. Probably due to the cuts of pre-cooked meat sitting on a tray in the kitchen before being reheated and doused in sauce; a clear observation seeing we were sat next to the minuscule kitchen.
The cheese course is nothing more than a simple glass plate holding a wedge of gorgeous and pungent Fourme d’Ambert blue that’s balanced with a juicy prune and sweet red wine reduction. Finally we have a small glass of panna cotta submerged in a layer of sticky-sweet Reine Claude plum purée. All in all a lovely bistro experience despite the dry veal.