Lunch at Les bouquinistes, Paris

Busy with the Salon du livre in Paris I hardly enjoyed French food and ate rapidly in unmemorable cafés near the Porte de Versailles. 

On the last day however, I was free to stroll and enjoy the city. It was gloriously sunny and bitterly cold. Enthusiastically, I made my way to the Quai des Grands Augustins to lunch at Les Bouquinistes, run by chef Stéphane Perraud.
It was almost two in the afternoon and the kitchen was soon closing. A young waitress politely ushered me to a table-for-one in the corner only to be told by her manager to move me to a larger table with a view of the booksellers on the banks of the Seine. The stylish high ceiling rooms were filled with light and exuded an atmosphere of hushed elegance. Green orchid arrangements decorated the tables. I noted that they matched my lime-coloured jacket and was pleased that I had made the effort to dress, as everyone looked smartly turned out.

Located along the same row of renowned Fogon and Le Relais St Louis, Les Bouquinistes offers simple and refined French cuisine. Michelin star chef Guy Savoy owns the restaurant and composes the menu. In the evening you can enjoy à la carte as well as a menu de dégustation with 5 courses for €82 but at lunchtime, the menu du marché, offers 3 courses with a glass of wine for €32.

I tasted black olives and had a bite of the crusty mini baguettes  (this is where I stopped worrying about carbohydrates). A sip of white wine and there it was: king prawns on diced beetroot with a bright pink emulsion dotted with great precision around the plate.  I liked the unusual combination of beetroot and prawn but what kicked the whole thing in place was the touch of mustard in the emulsion. 

Patricia Wells in a New YorkTimes article, once mentioned that Savoy was known for ‘a style of cooking that was light and aesthetically appealing’ and for dishes ‘with an avalanche of vegetables’. This was certainly true for the main course: pan-fried tuna with mange-tout and porcini mushrooms. From a small pan, I could spoon more of the light sauce au citron - the perfect complement.  I contemplated the slate coloured plate where the green vegetables and the off-white porcini merged into a perfect tableau and sighed: I was home!

In each mouthful of the dessert aptly named Saveurs à la mangue, I dipped into layers of fruit macedoine, creamy mango mousse topped with soft meringue, a fresh combination of textures, aromas and flavours.

As I sipped my coffee and looked out I thought contently that French gastronomy was alive and well. 

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