Through a certain ironic piston, the American connection, we heard about a bistrot on the Ile de la Cité, a block from Notre Dame, 26 rue Chanoinesse, the Au Bougnat, a name which means a coal-seller turned café-owner from the Aveyron, in south central France.
Ironically, comparing then-and-now pictures of the Au Bougnat building in the 17th century and the way it looks today, one is struck by the fact that little has changed. What remains are the architectural facts: the building began as a late 18th century house whose hallways were paved with tombstones that no doubt came from the numerous churches that existed in the area.
And here’s the joyful news about our lunch. The formula was 14 euros for entrée + plat or plat + dessert. I had entrée and plat – a poireau soup that needed just a tiny bit more butter and a delicious filet of whiting served over and woven into a creamy mushroom risotto, with a drizzle of lemon white sauce over all. To drink, I had a perfectly respectable glass of Brouilly and was quite happy.
Richard, who went for the 18 euro menu so we could try the dessert, wanted the soup but also wanted to try the stuffed brioche bread for an appetizer so he bowed to scientific investigation and, voila, chose very, very well. The muffin-like brioche was full of surprises (meat and walnuts and a dark red salé-sucré sauce) placed on a bed of lettuce with a dressing that seemed to have a bit of cumin in it.
Richard’s duck shepherd’s pie was perfect, a generous round of shredded meat topped with a chantilly of mashed potatoes. We shared the dessert which we thought was going to be an apple crumble but because earlier eaters had already gobbled it up, we were given tiramisu -- just as light and yummy as it was supposed to be with a pastry bed that was perhaps a little too angel-food-cake-like for me, but otherwise no complaints about the chocolate and crème fraiche with cocoa dusting on top. Thirty-seven euros was the bill, not exactly cheap, but that included the 5% tax on food and the 19% tax on my glass of wine (I’m thinking that buying a good bottle of wine to drink at home is the better way to live these days).
As for ambiance, the 18th century house proudly and charmingly showed off its open beams, its poutres apparents, running the length of the low ceilinged room, which was elbow to elbow with French people on their lunch hour. Our waitress was friendly and energetic, solicitous and efficient. We liked her. And it was a lovely surprise to be surrounded by a 100 percent French clientele. Not a word of English anywhere, except our own (although the menu had English subtitles, no doubt for summer tourists).
26 rue Chanoinesse, 4th arr., on the Ile de la Cité
Tel. 01 43 54 50 74
Lynn Jeffress is the author of a collection of short stories The Dali Code & Other Paris Stories.
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Coming soon: Eye Prefer New York Tours
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte’s professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
Tours cost 195 euros for up to 3 people, and 65 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com