Le Bistro d'Henri, St Germain
16 Rue Princesse, 75006, Paris
V took F and I to the cute St Germain district with it's maze of little streets for our first dinner in town. She had her eye on this particular Bistro which was small and packed full. We were told we would have to wait 30 minutes for a table so we repaired to a hip looking bar on the corner for apperitifs. Dark woods and purple banquets looked urbane and stylish but the music they were playing was so uncool I seriously wondered what the staff were thinking by playing it. Maybe the very unoriginal version of "One Day I'll Fly Away" was chosen because it reflected the bar's name "Birdland"? I am sure the addition of a DJ, or at least some more loungey tunes in keeping with the visual mood of the place would have increased the number of clientele.
A few doors away at Le Bistro d'Henri, they had the opposite problem and and we ended up having to wait a little more than 30 minutes before there was room for us in the restaurant. But this wasn't a problem as we waited for F's other friend's F2 and T to arrive and F was able to catch up with the news, as it was 18 months since his last visit.
When our time finally arrived to eat we were squooshed into a little table in the corner. The squiggely handwritten menu was presented to us on a small chalk board which V had very kindly helped me translate earlier when we had been waiting outside by the door waiting for our coveted spot. For a starter, I chose an octopus salad. I actually thought it was going to be squid, but this reminded me I certainly still had some way to go with my attempts to understand French. In France, I always find that the presentation of salads is rustic, they never look particularly special or stylish. Huge tentacles of the fat, purple octopus were interwoven with a mix of grated carrots, peppers, cubes of boiled potato and frisee leaves. The thing that lifted the salad to a level of superiority was the strong mustardy shallot dressing which bound the other, diverse ingredients into a powerful and mouthwatering melange.
For my main I had chosen Maigret Canard with miel. This was a juicy pink duck breast cooked with honey. The resulting meat, in a rich, velvety, sweet brown sauce was accompanied by this bistro's specialty - a mound of pommes dauphanois which weren't as creamy as versions I've encountered outside of France. Nonetheless they were the perfect, comforting accompaniment to the tender flavoursome meat.
V kindly let me try her lamb dish which had been cooked for seven hours until it was deliciously tender. F's Hachis Parmentier was an amazingly tasty mash of pureed potato and shredded duck served with a side of sharply dressed green frissee.
3 bottles of a young, fresh, (served slightly chilled as in the custom in France in the summer), red wine later, we retire back to Birdland for a night cap before wending our way home.
The waiter had been wonderful throughout our meal, humourous and lively. V remarked "It's not the best food in the world but it's definitely one of the most fun places to eat". I agree that it was not what we would call "fine dining" but the food was certainly satisfying, wholesome and tasty and the experience was a blast. Le Bistro d'Henri, St Germain