Having recently become a fan of French celebrity chef Cyril Lignac, I was excited to have the opportunity of a meal at one of his restaurants, Le Chardenoux, on a recent visit to Paris. Le Chardenoux is one of two bistros run by Chef Lignac, who also heads his Michelin-star establishment, Le Quinzième. Located in the 11ème arrondissement, Le Chardenoux is an authentic Parisian bistro which was founded in 1908 and is today listed a historic monument. An institution in its own right, Chef Lignac took over the reigns of Le Chardennoux in 2008 and has since been serving traditional bistro cuisine in a relaxed yet lively setting.
We knew we’d arrived at the right place when we spotted the stream of prospective diners spilling over onto the terrace, sipping rosé as they waited for a table to become available. Even though we had a reservation, we also had a short wait before being seated in a very cosy dining space beside the ornate old-style counter that serves as the bar, which was beautifully complemented by the wall’s intricate cornices and the pale blue sky painted on the ceiling.
In no time at all we were enjoying a bottle of wine as we waited for our dishes to arrive. The fixed-price dinner menu included a decent selection for each of the three courses, and I started with the carpaccio of sea bream, fresh mango, avocado and pear, which was refreshingly light and delicious. The main of oven-baked codfish with kale salad and caesar sauce was a little on the dry side, but the meal finished on a high with the raspberry french toast. Usually served with a pistacio ice cream which had run out by the time we made it to dessert, it was topped instead with chantilly cream which worked well, but I have a feeling the pistacio ice cream would have been amazing….
When we arrived at Le Chardennoux we were greeted by the sounds of animated conversation and chinking glasses. The atmosphere was buzzing and the waitstaff were friendly and efficient, and obviously well versed in handling a full restaurant with high turnover – a good sign! The bar was lined with huge magnum bottles of the house wines which caught my eye. The rosé seemed to be getting the most action which made me curious, so I quizzed the waiter about it and he very generously offered me a sample.
Sufficiently impressed with the service, I then turned my attention to the food. I started with an entreé of organic egg, cherry tomatoes, grilled squid and parma ham. This was for me the best dish of the night. The perfectly poached egg sat on top of a plate covered in generous chunks of grilled squid which was nicely charred and tender, and complimented well by the saltiness of the ham. This was followed by a main of grilled sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce, the highlight of which was the side of potato chunks in a paprika sauce. For dessert I couldn’t go past the vanilla crème brûlée which did not disappoint – the brûléed top cracked loudly as it made contact with the tip of my spoon.
We managed to while away a good few hours over this meal, before realising we’d have to make a run for it if we were going to make the last metro back to our hotel which was over on the other side of town. As we left the still-bustling restaurant we were chased down the street by our waiter who was holding a tray of freshly baked madeleines. I’m glad he made the effort to make sure we didn’t miss out on these because not only were they delicious, they also happen to be one of my favourite cakes. They topped off the meal just nicely, and made for a nice treat as we made our way back to the metro station, through the happening streets of the trendy 11th arrondissement of Paris.
Restaurant Le Chardenoux
1 Rue Jules Vallès, 75011 Paris