Corneil is for Carnivores, B-, and Good Eats in the Yonne: Les Bons Enfants, B+

August 31, 2009

Just before I went away on vacation, I had an excellent going-away dinner with my friend Judy at Corneil, a pleasant, friendly and unassuming little modern bistro about a ten minute walk from where I live in the 9th arrondissement, a part of Paris that still doesn’t show up often on most visitors gastronomic radar despite its very central location.

The reality, however, is that this a great part of town in which to prospect for good, reasonably priced restaurants because my worldly, affluent neighbors know and love good food and also appreciate a good buy.I found out about Corneil, in fact, from my cobbler, whom I overheard recommending it to a customer. “La viande est extra, et c’est pas cher. Il faut prendre la cote de boeuf pour deux—quel Bonheur!” (The meat’s great and it isn’t expensive. You have to have the cote de boeuf for two—what a treat!) But first I had an excellent cold roast tomato soup and Judy a fine slab of homemade terrine de campagne, which was chunky, flavorful and served with a salt-glazed crock of cornichons as it should be. Next, the rib eye, a massive piece of perfectly cooked meat that came to the table sliced on a wooden carving board with sides of green salad and sautéed potatoes. Though succulent and flavorful, we couldn’t eat more than half of it (Judy later reported making a delicious steak sandwich the following day). We finished our bottle of house cotes du Rhone, an excellent buy at 20 Euros, over homemade plum tart, and I’m eagerly looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the menu, which includes rabbit in mustard sauce and cod with a sauce vierge.

Since summer came late to Paris this year, we’re all still a bit greedy for greenry with autumn looming, so a gorgeous weekend was the perfect excuse to decide on a lazy day in the Yonne, the northernmost part of Burgundy and only an hour-and-a-half from the capital by car. I once had a friend who had a beautiful country house here, an old stone mill house on an islet in the middle of the mill run, and during many happy weekends chez elle, I got to know this charming region well.

Though the cathedral in Sens is interesting and Joigny is a lively market town on the Yonne river with several excellent antique shop, the area doesn’t have a wealth of must-see sights, which from my point of view makes it the ideal day out. I would suggest, however, that anyone visiting the area make their way to Irancy to taste the wonderful red wines made there—the best are made by Colliot and have a surprising amount of body for a light red wine. I also love the light cherry and plum notes of Irancy, which is perfect summer drinking.

Friends had told me they’d had a fine meal at Les Bons Enfants, a new restaurant Saint-Julien-du-Sault, one of the prettiest villages in the region, and so off we went for lunch. Arriving, it was heartening to see how much renovation work was going on in this delightful but previous quiet place, and indeed Les Bons Enfants is located in a set of half-timbered houses that have been restored with real art and good taste. It’s a two in one restaurant—there’s a gastronomic restaurant and a bistro, and we chose the bistro and a table under an umbrella in the interior courtyard. What followed was an excellent 28 Euro prix-fixe lunch that began with delicious cold pea soup, followed by roast cod with fork-mashed potatoes, a nice selection of local cheeses, including a locally made goat cheese and some Epoisse, and flakey cooked-to-order tarte fine aux pommes. The meal was so good and the service so charming that I’m already looking forward to sampling the gastronomic restaurant sometime soon, especially since the menu was so appealing.

Corneil, 19 rue Condorcet, 9th, Tel. 01-49-95-92-25. Avg 40 Euros.

Les Bons Enfants, 4 place de la Mairie, 4 place de la Mairie, Saint-Julien-du-Sault Tel. 03-86-91-17-38. Avg 35 Euros (bistro), 70 Euros (gastronomic restaurant).

  • John Mihalec

    Alec, at this rate you’re going to have to do another book called Hungry for (Outside) Paris. In ’99, we spent a night docked in Joigny with two other couples on a u-rent-it boat travelling the Yonne up from below Auxerre. Always wanted to return. And now we have Les Bons Enfants to try next time we are in that region. All the best,