Firmin Le Barbier–Ideal August Dining, B, and My Latest Vice

August 21, 2009

Since I returned to Paris from vacation, I’ve been stopped at least twice a day by visitors to the city (I loathe the condescending word ‘tourist’) who are often looking for directions and a decent place to eat. I feel a nostalgic sympathy for their quandry, too, because the first time I visited the city, en famille, we came in August, too, and were utterly oblivious to the fact that so much of it shuts down as the lucky and sensible French delect their month-long summer holidays. The August problem, in fact, is the reason that my very first meal in Paris was at a Pizza Pino (it’s still there, on the Champs Elysees)–it was within walking distance of our now long gone hotel in the rue Marignan and the six of us were hungry. Knowing it would infuriate my father, I said nothing, but I was deeply disappointed to be eating a third-rate pizza on my first trip to Paris. I mean, I’d been dreaming for months of all of the moaningly good delicacies we’d feast on the moment we arrived in Paris. Things looked up considerably after the mediocre pizzas–I still dream about the wonderful cheese feasts we ate in that much missed temple to all things lactic, L’Androuet in the rue d’Amsterdam, some amazing boeuf bourguignon, a Roquefort souffle followed by a peach one, etc.

So suffice it to say that I am always happy to help rescue the innocent, and with this in mind, I’m glad to suggest a very good restaurant, Firmin Le Barbier, that not only serves simple delicious vieille France (old-fashioned) but also has a handful of sidewalk tables with absolutely stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. The service at this restaurant is also not only charming but English-speaking for anyone who needs help with the changes-daily chalkboard menu, and the dining room itself is a small, handsome, stylish space with sleek Italian suspension lamps, terra-cotta banquettes, and exposed brick and stone walls. We went as four and all of us well. I love my oeufs mayonnaise, two hard-boiled eggs slicked with homemade mayonnaise and served with a small frisee salad, while Laurent’s sardines with roasted peppers were excellent, and the other two enjoyed their tuna-and-salmon tartare. Next, a remarkably generous serving of pork tenderloin in a light pepper-cream sauce with sauteed potatoes and fresh vegetables for me and Laurent, and cod in a light wine sauce for Carole and Bruno. The portions were so generous, in fact, that the four of us could only nibble at a slice of excellent tarte citron for dessert. Prices here are moderate, and the short wine list is intelligent and fairly priced. Also useful is the fact that this winning restaurant in open for lunch and dinner on Sundays (and closed on Monday and Tuesday). Firmin Le Barbier, 20 rue Monttessuy, 7th, Tel. 01-45-51-21-55.


And for whatever it’s worth, I must confess to having developed yet another inappropriate and nearly out-of-hand addiction. Happily, it’s not likely to be fatal, but if I keep slathering Creme de Noix on my toast every morning I’m likely to be wearing stetch-waist trousers by Christmas. I found this luscious ground-walnut-and-honey cream at the market in Cazals in Le Lot, bought three jars two weeks ago and am already down to one, so if anyone should happen to be passing through Le Lot anytime soon, please bring back more Creme de Noix. The producer is Apiculteur (bee-keeper) Le Pouget in Saint Germain de Belair.

  • John Mihalec

    August is a real problem,Alec,because so many Americans go there then. I had two sets of American friends asking for recommendations this August. One couple went to (like the Obamas) Fontaine de Mars and one of the Flo brassieres and were very happy with both. The other couple wanted to celebrate a bit more, so I sent them to the Bristol for lunch in the garden. Still waiting to hear back.Fermin Le Barbier sounds great!

  • Alexander Lobrano

    Glad your pals were happy with La Fontaine de Mars and the Flo place. Aside from Le Vaudeville, I haven’t had a decent meal in a Flo brasserie in a a dog’s age and they’ve become expensive. Le Bristol, on the other hand, is a favorite!