Memere Paulette: A la Rechere du Temps Perdu, B-

October 31, 2008

A crisp October day and a brisk walk down the rue du Faubourg Montmartre, one of my favorite streets in Paris for its being so guilessly eclectic. This ancient rue presents a classic Parisian cityscape before gentrification and luxury brand names disrupted so much urban turf. First, the wonderfully gemutlich windows of A la Mere de Famille, a first-rate confiserie, or candy and sweets shop that first hung out a shingle in 1761 and which sells the best marrons glace in the world, and then Les Pates Vivantes, a wonderful Chinese noodle shop. I notice a HALAL crepe maker—now there’s some fusion food for you—and stop to read the chalkboard menu at a very good wine bar, le Zinc des Cavistes at No. 5. This street, which always makes me think of New York with its density and vitality, offers up a lot of great eating.

Finally I reach the rue Paul Lelong (a name that would be perfect for a detective or a marathoner) and Memere Paulette, the tiny bistro where I’m meeting a friend for lunch.

John is already a table and quite sensibly enjoying a nice milky glass of pastis when I arrive, so I join him, and take in the setting. Our table is covered with a sheet of that old-fashioned oil cloth that once graced many French kitchen tables and used to be cut from a long roll in quicailleries (hardware stores). The fanciful design of perfect apples, pears and plums on a red background sends me traveling back a good thirty years. With its wooden chairs, cruet set, old-enameled stove, pretty waitress with a strong jawbone like those you see in Toulouse Lautrec drawings, and an advertisement for L’Alsacienne beer (a young, blonde Alsacienne woman in a lace cap and flashing her comely pink buttocks), Memere Paulette immediately reminded me of the type of restaurant I used to go to when I’d visit Paris from London as a seriously pecunious student.

In these economically anxious times, 23 Euros for a three-course meal is appealing all over again, and best of all, the food here is not only served in nearly impossible abundance but is also very good (I’m also always very happy to find any restaurant with a large assortment of good wines on its list for less than 20 Euros).

So we ordered, and we ate. And ate. And ate. John started with an excellent salade de museu de boeuf—fine slices of beef muzzle in a light vinaigrette, and I had a hefty chunk of pate de campagne served with a delicious mustard of lightly crushed mustard seeds marinated in mout de vin (unfermented grape juice). Next, braised oxtail with sautéed potatoes for John, and a fondue de vacherin (a whole Mont d’Or cheese baked in its round pine box) with three slices of delicious jambon de Paris and a massive mound of grenaille potatoes for me, a mad choice at lunch, perhaps, but absolutely delicious. Somehow we also managed dessert—an excellent lemon-meringue tartlette and a massive baba au rhum, and given the monumental quantities of this feed, I was very glad of a long, slow walk home. With its low prices, friendly service and good quality for enormous quantities of food, Memere Paulette is a recession era address par excellence.

Memere Paulette, 3 rue Paul Lelong, 2nd, Tel. Metro: Grand Boulevards or Sentier. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

  • Scott Brinker

    Wow! Alexander, you sure put it mildly when it comes to the portions at this place! Of all the restaurants we’ve been to since we came to Paris–thanks a lot for your terrific book–this is the one that knocked us out. Delicious food, huge quantities, friendly service. We just loved it! Scott