Paris, Part One.

This year, our annual trip to Paris was not defined by our annual trip to our favourite restaurant in the world, E.R.H.  It was not defined by what would have been my first visit to the Louvre.  Instead, it was defined by a nasty dose of food poisoning that trashed our plans for a Saturday of sightseeing in the City of Light, followed by dinner at our amazing French-Japanese restaurant.

I don’t know where we picked up the bug.  Everything we ate up to that point, we had eaten the same, or at least picked off each other’s plates. One place we went to was Aux Crus de Bourgogne, just off the very foodie thoroughfare of Rue Montorgueil.  We love it there, so even if – that’s if, for legal reasons – a dodgy chef or a mangy piece of cow made our stomachs do a can-can that would make the performers at the Moulin Rouge blush, I’m one hundred percent certain that I would go there again.

Aux Crus de Bourgogne is one of those incredibly authentic Parisian bistrots that not only looks the part, what with its mirrored walls and creaky floors, it’s gone the distance too, having opened in 1932.  You enter to organised hubbub, where waiters in pressed white shirts, perfectly knotted ties, and black aprons dance around the tightly packed tables.  You’ll hear a smash or two as the occasional wine glass is knocked off the bar by one of them spinning around a little too quickly, but it’s all under control. 

As you sit, you’re served sliced toasted baguette and rilletttes.  You could do a runner at this stage, having not paid a dime and having a reasonably full stomach, courtesy of the best bread in the world and this glorious pot of shredded meat cooked and churned in fat.  Of course, you stay for food so ostentatiously Gallic, you can close your eyes and visualise your fashionably late arrival to La Belle Époque

This being our second visit to Aux Crus de Bourgogne, we ordered the same food as before, for old time’s sake, starting with six snails and a couple of generous pucks of foie gras, served with toast.  We continue with hearts of beef filet dressed with a creamy morel sauce and copious frites on the side, matchstick thin.  I’m getting more graceful at eating snails – The European doesn’t laugh at my cack-handed use of the pince à escargot and the fourchette anymore; I can scoop them and swallow them in one reasonably graceful movement.  I am lambasted though for spreading my foie gras too thin.  “You’ll run out of toast!” She cries.  (I soon ran out of toast).  I have not much to compare to when it comes to snails.  The European assures me that these are good, and I agree, savouring the buttery and herby explosions as I lifts them, still sizzling, into my mouth.  The foie gras offers richness from another world.  You need the fig compôte and the toast to cut through this buttery onslaught.  When I run out of the latter, the dish beats me.

The filets are a perfect medium rare.  They have been seared on a high heat, before being finished long and low for a perfect consistent redness. The meat is unctuous, and the sauce is so buttery and rich it would make Escoffier proud.  The whole dish is dressed with bloated, whole morels that the two of us fight over. Despite their lack of girth, the frites are perfect for mopping up the plentiful sauce.  They outnumber us, and though we fight valiantly, plenty are cleared away by the waiter at the end of the meal.

We finish with a whipped chocolate mousse that tastes so rich it must have been made in-house (no responsible supplier would let something this bad for you pass their quality control).  It’s served with a couple of madeleines, which are sadly quite dry.  Luckily, we still have a good few slurps of the fantastic Pinot Noir we ordered, to end on a high.

Read up on Aux Crus de Bourgogne, and you’ll see online write-ups trending along the lines of either ‘tourist trap’ or ‘overpriced’ (and often both).  The restaurant is a little on the dear side, I’ll give the naysayers that.  I don’t see how it is overly touristy.  The first time we went, a year ago, a British couple next to us were clearly not having a good time in Paris and having an equally hard time asking the server if they offered a burger (the answer is, and will always probably be, “Non”).  This time out, on a weekday lunch, we were surrounded by very local ladies that lunch, and assorted businesspersons.  Given that the restaurant’s location, it will inevitably get lot of passing tourist trade (this is exactly how we discovered it), but, like anywhere, I guess it depends on when you visit. 

Also, given that Aux Crus de Bourgogne opened almost a century ago, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt; it’s stood the test of time.  Regardless of what you take away from the first two paragraphs of this blog, if you’re in the city, you must make this a priority for a meal.

Visited on 17th February 2023.

Starters, mains, a bottle of good wine and dessert came to around €one hundred and ninety.

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