Here’s a quick look at a quick lunch at Allard, a picture-perfect Parisian bistro in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Lunch with the frangin and belle soeur took me there, drawn partly by Allard’s recent new owner, Alain Ducasse.
Incidentally I’m stupidly excited to be interviewing Monsieur Ducasse next week at Spoon in Hong Kong, but for now a prix fixe lunch at Allard proves two things: why they have lasted more than 80 years serving French classics and why he added it to his restaurant empire. The prix fixe three course lunch came in at 32 euros per head – under HK$300. It’s a steal. There’s just a simplicity and honesty to what they do at Allard. The dining room extends on two sides on the ground floor of an old building, the two connected by a narrow corridor. It looks like an 80 year old Parisian bistro, probably because it is an 80 year old Parisian bistro. The mismatched chairs, old prints and mirrors are ideas which have been stolen by a thousand wannabes. Here, they’re what it has always looked like: The slightly cramped corner table – when is it not in Paris? – is first graced with a small cut of vegetable terrine, a little freebie to start from the kitchen. It’s colourful, not particularly delicate, but takes serious time and technique to allow the individual flavours to shine:The bread – oh that bread – with an enormous slab of butter. Our communal appetite for it impresses even an old school French waiter. Pour moi, la salade de champignons de Paris. Great quality local mushrooms, huge amounts of black pepper, crème fraîche and some ciboulette – chives. It’s not culinary rocket science or innovation, just doing simple things really, really well.Ensuite, chicken from La Landes with spuds. The Landes region guarantees unimpeachable quality, complete with a ‘Label Rouge’ stamp of quality. Reared outdoors, corn-fed, fattier than the average chook these are simply sensational birds. Roasted slower and lower, they sit beautifully in jus to make you weep. On the side, rarely have potatoes been so good. And that’s saying something.Before dessert, a note to acknowledge the lady next to us, straight out of central casting, who tucks into two plates. Snails to start, frogs legs to follow. Seriously. Good on her. Allard is that sort of place where mamie pops in for her gastropod fix. Part of me wondered if she wasn’t related to ‘Marthe Allard’, the woman who founded Allard in 1932, a peasant from Burgundy who traveled up to Paris carrying her ‘sincere and generous family recipes’ with her.The choice of dessert was either apricots roasted in honey with pistachio ice cream, or crème brûlée. There could be only one winner in this fight:I don’t need to describe it, except to say that it was another perfect rendition of a classic. With a cheeky bottle of Bandol Salettes, lunch for three came to 160 euros. There can be few finer ways to spend ninety minutes of a Parisian summer’s afternoon.
Allard, 41 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006 Paris, France. Tel:+33 1 58 00 23 46 http://www.restaurant-allard.fr/en