One of the most exciting restaurant trends in Paris right now is the revival of the affordable-dining scene. If, for many years, the low-cost end of the spectrum has been drifting towards an ever-greater mediocrity based on industrially prepared foods of dubious quality, all of a sudden a flurry of tables is renewing the city’s reputation as a place where you can eat well on a budget.
There are many reasons for this welcome new wave of easy-on-the-wallet tables in Paris. Prominent among them are a decline in middle-class French buying power and the relentless appeal of Paris to travellers from all over the world. There’s also what I would call the Airbnb effect, which has shifted the way many travellers want to experience the capital. Authenticity is the catnip now, which means living like a local – even for many people who have the means to indulge in the luxurious hotels and restaurants for which Paris is internationally famous.
A new generation of Parisian restaurateurs is responding to these evolving tastes with an ever-growing flock of exceptionally good-value tables of respectable quality. Among them is a pair of savvy young restaurateurs, Victor Dubillot and Charles Perez, whose new brasserie on a street in the 10th arrondissement has proved a big hit.
Their mission was to reinvent the Parisian brasserie for a new era while respecting certain visual and gastronomic traditions. So the dining room presents a sepia-toned but updated version of what a Parisian brasserie should look like – i.e. it comes with a black-and-white honeycomb tile floor, red-velvet upholstered bentwood chairs and a menu that runs to dishes like marinated leeks, steak-frites and an excellent Paris-Brest (a choux pastry filled with hazelnut cream).
To tempt younger Parisians who don’t have the same allegiance to traditional French food as their parents, they also offer modern dishes like avocado toast, a very good cheeseburger and a vegetarian risotto.
Service is charming, and the inexpensive wines served by the carafe are pleasant quaffs that take no prisoners. Easily accessible, this easy-on-the-wallet table is a short walk from both the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est.
Brasserie Bellanger, 140 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, Paris 10th. No phone, no reservations. Open daily.
From France Today magazine