Steak-frites might just be the quintessential French dish. A perfectly rare scotch fillet served with café de Paris butter and a generous helping of thinly sliced fries. Could you ask for more? Well, it turns out, at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, you can!
After a morning spent exploring Paris’ 6th arrondissement, lunchtime was upon us. For some reason I’d been craving steak-frites since we’d arrived, so this seemed the perfect time to go in search of some. Close by were the iconic cafés Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, but disappointingly neither had steak-frites on the menu. So we ventured a little further beyond the Boulevard Saint-Germain and stumbled upon this pretty brasserie on on Rue Saint Benoit. We couldn’t see a menu, but noticed on almost every table plates topped with sauce-covered steak and fries – we’d hit the jackpot.
We took a seat on a red upholstered bench at one of the closely-spaced tables inside and were greeted by one of the all-female, apron-clad waitstaff in black uniforms. On realizing this was our first visit to this establishment, our waitress Anita explained that they served only one dish – steak-frites. The only choice to be made was how we’d like our steaks cooked, and which wine we’d like to wash it down with.
Our order was marked on the paper tablecloth, and a starter of lettuce and walnut salad quickly appeared in front of us. The mustard vinaigrette had a sharp but tasty tang and set the scene for the main course to come – tender strips of grilled steak covered in a sublime café de Paris sauce, served with thin golden fries. Accompanied by a bottle of the red house wine from the restaurant owner’s vineyards, we thought the meal couldn’t get any better. Then Anita appeared with more steak strips on a serving platter and told us it was time for “round two”…
The Relais de l’Entrecôte was completely full when we arrived and as I looked around I couldn’t stop a huge smile appearing on my face because every table around us had a delicious-looking serving of steak-frites. It seemed like the most popular dish to order here. Then I realised it was the only dish on the menu! We only needed to decide on the cuisson – rare, medium or well done. We didn’t get to choose the sauce either.
The steak-frites arrived on a silver platter and was placed on my plate together with a yellow-brown sauce that smelled like butter and looked amazing sitting on top of the steak – I later discovered it was café de Paris sauce, the restaurant’s specialty. The steak was already cut into small strips and when I took my first bite I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – it was easily the best steak-frites I’ve ever had in my life! The café de Paris sauce was spectacular, the flavour of the butter and herbs was recognisable but there was also a complexity I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought it might be liver, but when I asked our waitress what was in the sauce, she told me that she didn’t know. Just like Colonel Sanders and his secret herbs and spices, the recipe for Le Relais de l’Entrecôte’s café de Paris butter is a closely guarded secret that not even the staff are privy to.
During our meal I’d noticed that many other diners had been receiving top-ups of their fries. I quickly ate all mine in the hopes that I’d receive a top up to accompany what was left of my steak. Just when I’d almost given up hope of being offered any extra fries, Anita appeared with another silver platter of frites and asked if I was ready for the second round. I sure was. What I didn’t expect was the second helping of grilled steak that came with it! In order to ensure the steak and fries are served at their best, it is served in two portions to ensure optimal heat and crunch right until the last delicious mouthful. It took all my self-control to not ask for a third helping!
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
20, rue Saint-Benoît, 75006 Paris