Residing at the end of Rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th Arrondissement, you are just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower, and halfway between the Seine and L'Ecole Militaire.
From here, just outside our door, we can take a culinary journey past boulangeries, wine shops (there are three of them competing in a tight group within 10 metres of us), grocery stores, boucheries, and a bevy of restaurants. (Of course you can get your hair cut or buy eyeglass frames every 20 metres or so.)
La Tour de Constant
The kings of the restaurants along this street are three, virtually side by side, and all the brain children of Chef Christian Constant. Rue Saint-Dominique seemed to be on the verge of being renamed Boulevard Christian Constant until chef sold his neighbouring fish restaurant a few years ago.
We've frequented Les Fables de La Fontaine when that seafood restaurant was helmed by Constant, dined with groups of friends at Café Constant, spent a couple of New Years Eves at Violon d'Ingres, and, one recent day, we completed La Tour de Constant with lunch at Les Cocottes. All three are recommended in the Michelin guide and Violon has a star.
Lunch at Les Cocottes
As we tumble out of bed and rub the sand out of our eyes, we are startled by the sight of the Eiffel Tower, looming just outside the French doors to our tiny balcony. (When you sleep you tend to forget things.) We dress, drink coffee, read the news, and wander the forty-seven paces towards Les Cocottes, a restaurant we have read about, and even written about, but where we have never dined.
Like L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, it's mostly counter service here, a rather novel concept given the table-service standards Michelin restaurants are known for. A pushy Parisienne, undoubtedly meeting her lover for lunch (he actually has no interest in her but finds it difficult to get out of the obligation), muscles ahead of us in the queue, chattering for a table. The young greeter shushes her aside, acknowledging that we were were here first and guides us into the room.
The room is bustling. It's 1 PM and the whole street is intent on getting lunch. As we peruse the carte, we notice a scrawled menu on a blackboard against the back wall, too far away to read. No worries; our server tells us the specials of the day. Mark goes with simplicity itself: escargots – Burgundy snails with olive oil and pesto – followed by an omelette.
For her part, Diane chooses la formule, the menu of the day. Crevettes wrapped in basil and philo pastry, deep-fried with a mango mayonnaise dip for the starter. Her plat is magret de canard with Thai flavours and a melange of quickly panfried vegetables with an Asian flair.
Dishes arrived like clockwork. The escargots are piping hot; the pesto and oil perfect for dipping the magnificent chunks of baguette to get every last drop of flavour. Diane declares that her crevettes are the lightest and most flavourful deep-fried food she's ever eaten.
Lunch ends on another high note with a mango crumble for madame and a gooey, brioche pain perdu bread pudding for monsieur.
We reflect on the changes we – and Paris – have undergone during our tenure as visitors. Back in the early days, we were eager to jump on Metro trains, buses, and taxis to haul ourselves across town to find the perfect restaurant, or the trending bistro. Now, in autumn, we're happy to slowly stroll to the nearest, most perfect restaurant in Paris – which usually happens to be just across the street.
à la prochaine,
-Diane & Mark
photographs copyright Mark Craft