Travelling to Paris just for lunch may seen a little extravagant, but when you can get a three-course meal with wine and coffee to finish for only €35 a head, plus a chance to soak up some Parisian culture, it’s worth the trip. It was my first time taking the Eurostar – my only previous experience of the tunnel having been a school trip way back when, crammed on a stuffy coach in the Eurotunnel. I was stunned at how quickly we arrived in France. Blink and you’re there, sweeping across the french countryside. In just over two and a half hours, we were pulling in to Gare du Nord and, fuelled by several flutes of Champagne that had kept us occupied during the journey, we were excited to explore the city. But our first stop was lunch.
Chez Michel is conveniently located just a five minute walk from the station, tucked on a quiet corner opposite the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in the 10th arrondissement. Its rustic bistro setting is inspired by the founder’s native Brittany. Inside, diners are immersed in province – there are exposed brick walls, dark wood tables and stone floor tiles. We were seated downstairs next to an incredible wine cellar with rows of wine bottles thick with dust stacked in an elegant wrought iron cage.
The restaurant menu concentrates on the quality of its produce and the exceptional skill of its chefs. While there are no fancy flourishes as such, food is well-presented with a touch of theatre, such as our starter of traditional fish soup, which was poured at the table from a large ceramic jug into a dish adorned with rounds of scarlet chorizo, crisp croutons, a sprinkling of chopped chives and flakes of nutty aged Parmesan. The golden soup was intensely fishy and beautifully velvet in consistency. The combination of sea and land, salt and sweet, piquant paprika and fresh chive, smooth soup and crunchy croutons, was masterfully devised.
Between starter and main, we munched on more irresistible sourdough bread spread with creamy butter sprinkled with crystals of rock salt. Our main course was an extremely generous casserole of roast chicken with new potatoes, Brussel sprouts and mushrooms, decorated with pretty pink strands of pickled onion and a vibrant green snipping of chive. Every part of the chicken had been used and there was no need to fight for a drumstick – there were more than enough to go round. The meat was succulent, the potatoes soft and comforting and the gravy richly flavoured with garlic and thyme. Simple, satisfying and the perfect dish to warm the soul ahead of stepping back out into the cold and rain outside.
For dessert, I chose a whole poached pear, served with a dark and silky homemade chocolate sauce, caramelised flaked almonds and a squirt of sweet Chantilly cream – a light and fruity end to my meal. Others chose the rice pudding. Much unlike the English version, often associated with school dinners or dinner at Grandma’s house, Chez Michel’s is served chilled accompanied by a delicious homemade spiced fruit compote of apple, pear, raisins and sultanas. The pudding itself was light and creamy, and spiked with fragrant vanilla.
Chez Michel’s most celebrated dessert is its Paris-Brest, which was named one of the top ten dessert dishes in Paris by Time Out magazine. It features flaky puff pastry, whipped cream, a sweet and nutty praline mousse and crunchy caramelised nuts – indulgence at its best.
Friendly service, a solid wine selection and hearty, authentic food make Chez Michel a fine choice for no-fuss, tasty dining in the French capital. We ended the meal with a strong shot of coffee before heading out to explore Paris.
10 Rue de Belzunce,
T: +33 (0)1 85 15 25 86
Open 11:45-14:30 & 18:45-23:00 Mon-Fri; closed Sat & Sun