Le Chateaubriand, located in the heart of Paris and ranked as number 15 on the San Pellegrino list of the World’s Best Restaurants, is not as swanky-looking as one might first imagine.
In fact, this old grocer’s is a rather humble affair with simple wooden tables, high-ceilings and dimmed lights. Located in the 11th arrondissiment, the restaurant sits quietly beneath its wooden frame, beckoning customers merely by its reputation.
Head chef Iñaki Aizpitarte and his team create a daily menu influenced by the strong flavours of the Basque Country - the birthplace of Iñaki’s ancestors. Iñaki himself never knew he wanted to be a chef until he travelled and along the way picked up the basics and a fiery passion for cooking. He began to slog his way through the kitchens of Paris and the rest, they say, is history.
As we were passing through Paris overnight on a motorcycle journey from Barcelona to London, we decided that nowhere sounded more perfect than here to stop, rendezvous and refuel. Reservations back-up weeks in advance but for us mere mortals that prefer to wing it, there are two sittings. The first is at 7:30pm, which only takes bookings and the second around 9pm, where you can take your chances like we did and queue tentatively at the door. Luckily, next door they have recently opened ‘Le Dauphin’, a brightly-lit, happy bar where we lurked and slurped on a satisfying glass of champagne and sampled some of their mini tapas treats including curried octopus.
Once slightly sauced, we were shown to our seats in the restaurant by a neatly dressed waitress and promptly presented with a simple, typed food menu and offered one of their fine wines to complement the array of flavours we readily anticipated. We chose a Spanish wine to feel a little more at home. It was deep, dark, almost black with an unusual pong but a phenomenal taste.
A five-course feast will set you back around €55, not including wine. We enjoyed an amuse bouche of a thimble full of punchy ceviche, homebaked bread, an entree, two main plates and a dessert. The staff kept us so suitably wined that I can hardly remember what we ate! The emphasis was on simple flavours. I recall a small piece of melon that was presented to us at the end of the meal, sprinkled with colourful Indian seeds that tasted like aniseed to cleanse our happy mouths.
The food itself is no frills, honest and fresh with plain combinations of great tastes - their focus is the marriage of essential flavours deconstructed and put back together again with a little flair. This was followed by possibly the strongest coffee on earth and pleasant small talk with our waitress who, it turns out, was from Barcelona.
Completely affordable for its calibre and without clutter or fuss, Le Chateaubriand is certainly one of the finest places to eat in Paris. Be sure not to confuse it with the other two Le Chateaubriands of the city. This one is located near Goncourt, on Avenue Parmentier- a leafy street, tucked away in the perfect place for a very fine evening indeed.
Le Chateaubriand, 129,Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris, France. +33 (0)143574595.
Hungry for more? You can read about the other 49 World’s Best Restaurants here.
Words by Sally Rosetta Gurteen