As a food-loving resident of Paris for more than 30 years, the recent trend that makes me personally happiest is the revival of the French capital’s glorious brasseries – and not just for their cooking, but because they incarnate the blowsy joie de vivre of the capital more than any other restaurant category.
A meal at a Paris brasserie is often a sort of de facto invitation to a public party, since these are places where people let their hair down and come as much for a good time as they do for a good feed.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of my favourite establishments right now is one of the city’s oldest, Le Gallopin. Founded in 1876, it reigned for decades as the place where the suit-wearing bankers and brokers who worked at the neighbouring Bourse, the Paris stock exchange, went for lunch.
When the stock market departed to new headquarters in a suburban location some years ago, this brasserie lost its native clientele and momentum. But now a new owner, Mathieu Bucher, has rebooted this profoundly Parisian address for a new era, with a subtle renovation of the dining room, which makes it more comfortable without diminishing its historic atmosphere as a preferred table of that caste of Parisians who comprise the pulse point of the entire French economy.
Even more gratifyingly, Bucher has updated the menu by turning back the clock to offer a full range of beautifully prepared traditional French dishes, including the superb pâté en croûte (pâté in pastry) known as l’oreiller de la belle Aurore, as well as prawns flambéed in absinthe, salmon à la parisienne with a macédoine of fresh vegetables, and the classic crêpes Suzette.
The produce used by the kitchen is of outstanding quality and the cooking here is admirably excellent in the context of everyday dining. And so it is good news that this restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day.