9 rue Vauvilliers (1)
Les Halles is gone, sadly. The awful Forum de Halles is nearly gone, thankfully. (see Champeaux, 1st Arr.). But there remain vestiges of Les Halles, including numerous late night or all night restaurants originally catering to food market workers, customers and visitors.
La Poule au Pot is one. Open from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. According to the 3 waiters who run it perfectly, it remains busy at 2:00 a.m., despite there being no market anymore.
Founded in 1935 and looking more or less as it must have then, we walked past it one afternoon and wondered “tourist trap”?
Not so. Its specialty: chicken cooked in bouillon with vegetables, potatoes and a toss-in of pork served from a steaming earthenware tureen. Basic, rich, filling and a throw-back to a different time. At 8:30 on a cold January night, nearly full, all French.
Chicken namesake, lamb shank, cassoulet, beef specialties, supplemented by blackboard specials.
Wonderful tarte tatin for dessert.
Friendly, fast, professional, hardworking. No 35 hour French work week for this team.
Relatively low a la carte prices. Chicken and most plats 26€. Entrees 18 – 20€.
Same name and address, but taken over to operate with a traditional bistro menu by two-star chef Jean-Francois Piege (see Clover, 7th Arr., Le Grand Restaurant, 1st Arr.)
This is what this Diary is really about. An 85 year old market restaurant taken over by a successful 2 Star chef. And everything changes – almost.
See the last sentence of our 2017 write-up of La Poule Au Pot – the original. Most printed guides will not have yet caught up with the makeover. For Paris, where restaurants used to seem to go on forever, this “tear down” and make-over trend has become widespread, often for the better, but not always.
Piege has left intact everything physical. Even the once-ubiquitous chicken in the pot remains on the menu, probably unchanged, but the rest of the menu has changed a great deal, as have the prices.
We had warm green asparagus with hollandaise and duck galantine, a rare and sophisticated duck pate, both perfect and both expensive. We followed this with baby leg of lamb in a parsley crust served for two, sliced at the table (and slightly overcooked from the rose ordered) and served with a heaping plate of shoestring frites, a gratin dish of ethereal mashed potatoes (the familiar name does not dignify this version) and a dressed salad to share. The entire plate was covered with sliced lamb, surely the best, most tender we have ever eaten. Served simply with parsley and garlic infused jus, it was as delicious as it was abundant.
That good menu choice notwithstanding, I’m not ready to call this a triumph on the order of the new owner’s 2 Star in the 8th, where attention to detail brought forth a meticulously orchestrated experience we will not soon forget.
Here things are more casual; sometimes too casual.
The early crowd (8:00 – 8:30) was scruffy and largely tourists (like us). The staff is bilingual, but the atmosphere with the tables inches from one another is not that of an undiscovered French restaurant. By the time we were ready to depart at 10:15 p.m., people were still coming in and all French.
No room for dessert.
Friendly and well meaning, but somewhat chaotic. A long wine list without obvious bargains, but there is a 48€ menu.
Traditional French food. Unusual choices within a 1950’s space. A new life for a venerable address.