If you only go to one restaurant in Paris, make it Le Chateaubriand. Young Basque chef Inake Aizpitarte's Parisian bistro has been much lauded (it repeatedly features on the 50 Best Restaurants of the World List, ranking number 9 for 2011) and yet it's not what you'd necessarily expect from a feted restaurant in the capital of the country of Michelin stars, snooty waiters and a national gastronomy that has been awarded UNESCO world heritage status.
Here the chef is self-taught and the cuisine is inventive - ingredients are transformed into different textures and combined with surprising flavours and there's not a French classic to be seen. The waiters are young, amiable and often a little rough around the edges (in a good way) - but very knowledgeable about the cuisine and wine list nevertheless. The setting is unassuming - it looks like an old Parisian bistro with lots of charm but no airs and graces, and certainly no white tablecloths. The wine is from independent producers, not big name estates. And the prices - rather than being more than a return ticket on Eurostar - are thoroughly democratic, with the 5-course set menu coming in at under €50 (a wine-pairing menu is also available, which is slightly more expensive, but it still wont break the bank).
The no-choice menu is seasonal and changes daily. Any specific dietary requirements are generally catered to, and without any death stares being issued from the waiters. On our last visit, highlights included sweet breads, and melon jelly, but our entire table flapped around and widened their eyes in sheer amazement throughout all five courses. Make sure you reserve in advance, as we're not the only ones who love Le Chateaubriand and tables get snapped up, unsurprisingly, very quickly.
129 avenue Parmentier
Tel: 01 43 57 45 95
Open Tues-Sat for dinner only.
Thank you to the fantastic Jacky for such a great evening.
All photos copyright Kim Laidlaw