After watching another glorious Rachel Khoo programme set inParis I started thinking about previous times I had visited this stunning city and places I had eaten. One of the predominant memories was that of the restaurant Chartier.
I’ve eaten at Chartier twice in my life. The first time was back in 1990 on an Arts student vacation in Paris. I went with the tutors and some of the other mature students on recommendation of Susan Croft, one of my drama tutors. I wasn’t the huge Francophile I am these days but I certainly appreciated the atmosphere in the restaurant and the history of the place. There was an element of excitement about eating in the busy restaurant and the fun aspect of the likelihood that you may have to share a table with strangers.
Quote from their website: ‘ In 1896, the Bouillon Chartier was born out of a very simple concept – provide a decent meal at a reasonable price and give customers good service in order to earn their loyalty. 50 million meals, and only four owners later, the recipe is still every bit as much a success.’
More from their website: ‘Enter the large, legendary, historically listed dining room. Have a seat at a table and take the time to admire the famous sideboards where regulars kept their own, personal napkins and the painting by Germont, who gave it to the establishment as payment for his debt there. Watch the elegant to and fro of servers dressed in black vests and white aprons, unmatched for their efficiency. And then get ready to delight your taste buds! The dishes are traditional but with a wide range of choices at frankly unbeatable prices. Enjoy leeks vinaigrette, hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, vegetable soup or snails for starters; meat, fish or stews simmered to perfection come next. The menu is a long one, the meals are authentic and the mains are around €10. You can be sure that what you’re getting is quality, too as their suppliers are consistent and always among the best. For dessert, treat yourself to the famous home-made Chantilly cream; you won’t find it anywhere else. In fact, no matter what you’re seeking at Chartier, you probably won’t find it anywhere else… because there’s only one Paris, only one 9th arrondissement and only one Bouillon Chartier.’
|this is the menu in my kitchen with original French Francs|
The second time was with my wife at the time and we were on our honeymoon in June of 1997. I had walked the poor woman all over Paris in my enthusiasm to show her the city of light which I love, and she was complaining about her blisters and after a day in and around Montmartre we finally descended on Chartier mid afternoon and had a lovely time. As well as gorging on the lovely food we also had three or four Kir Royales and wobbled out of the restaurant very happy bunnies. The Chartier menu got framed up and has all the prices in French Francs. I notice that the menus now have Bouillon at the top as opposed to restaurant was it was advertised in the past. "Bouillon" = a mixture of meat and vegetables.
An interesting aspect of the restaurant are the afore-mentioned famous wooden racks with numbered drawers laid out along the room. These symbols of Chartier, as old as the restaurant itself, relate to when every customer had its own napkin and could store it in the numbered drawers.
Alain Ducasse in his restaurant based tome ‘J’aime Paris’ says about Chartier that: ‘This reasonably priced restaurant has always had bouillon as its signature dish, a broth made from meat and vegetables served directly at the table. Chartier is popular for its unusual mix of bistro cooking and opulent theatrical décor. As if seated in a velvet lined box you can appreciate this quality by simply biting into an egg with mayonnaise. Canteen style dishes are the order of the day, with grated carrots and cucumber and cream. The menu scrawled on a tablecloth is almost worth framing.’
And I did!!!