As much as I delight in the creativity and innovation of Parisian chefs, there are times when all I want is a good old-fashioned French bistro meal ordered from a menu that needs no explaining; personally, I find the recent Paris trend towards cartes with cryptic, single-line lists of ingredients – e.g. chicken, beets, herbs – unhelpful, provoking a peevish start to a meal.
So the other night when a Scottish friend and I decided to meet for dinner, and he signed off by saying, “I’ll let you choose the place, Alec, but no fussy bells and whistles, please – just good Gallic grub and a nice bottle of wine that doesn’t cost a fortune,” I knew exactly where we’d go: Le P’tit Canon, a warm, affordable and exceptionally friendly bistro in the Batignolles neighbourhood of the 17th arrondissement.
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You don’t come to this lively restaurant, home to a busy bar and two dining rooms bedecked with red-and-white checked tablecloths, in search of dishes using rare Asian citrus fruits you’ve never heard of, but sincere, generously served, well-made comfort
food like the salade folle (haricots verts in shallot vinaigrette, topped with a generous serving of excellent foie gras) that I had as a starter. The Scot was very happy with his marinated leeks, too, and since there was no one around to scold us about cholesterol, we also shared an order of oeufs mayonnaise (hard-boiled eggs topped with mayonnaise), a dish that delivers a pleasure that transcends its simplicity.
Our mains were excellent, too: saucisse aligot (that Aubrac treat of potatoes whipped with cheese curds and garlic and grilled sausage) and a well-made steak tartare with very good frites and a side salad. They also do a nice confit de canard (duck preserved in its own fat) with pommes sarladaises (potatoes cooked in duck fat with garlic); a skirt steak with shallot sauce; and a tender lamb shank braised with rosemary. From a wine list which reveals the owner as a knowledgeable and generous oenophile, we drank a pleasant 2017 Steeve Charvet Chiroubles for a very reasonable €24.
Finish with the tarte Tatin or a baba au rhum, and be advised that there are several good Calvados and three Chartreuses behind the bar if you want a tipple with your coffee.
36 rue Legendre, Paris 17th, Tel. +33 (0)1 47 63 63 87. www.leptitcanonparis.fr
From France Today magazine