I think this is probably a really easy topic for me (food obsessed) to talk about, I think the only fly in this ointment will be the only being 1 restaurant……there’s so many lovely places i’ve eaten in the past!
My favourite place to eat is actually not anywhere near my home. It’s in Paris and to be honest, it’s probably not what people would call the best as in “snazziest/poshest/best food/most expensive” but it’s somewhere that I go to everytime i’m in the city and when people go there, I always tell them that the Chartier experience is totally worth the wait.
I’ve always considered this as a family restaurant, some of the best times I’ve ever had in Paris is with my family and here ranks high up there – steak hache with Mum, Dad, Liam and Bird where dad thought he could sell me off to one of the Maitre d’s in exchange for accommodation in the city – totally ruined by me smoking….not sure he’s ever forgiven me for that. To the meal where we were celebrating dad’s birthday and actually got a table to ourselves for once. To the epic sauerkraut when I was a child in Paris before the one and only time I’ve been to Disney – seriously not my thing, I love some Disney but if I had a choice, Paris would be my go to, not the fantasyland outside 🙂
The restaurant was created in 1896 by two brothers, Frédéric and Camille Chartier, in a former train station concourse under the name “Le Bouillon” (lit. broth, or stock, but in this context, a type of brasserie; originally a cheap workers’ eatery that served stew), near the Grands Boulevards, the Hôtel Drouot, the Musée Grévin, and the Palais de la Bourse. The restaurant has had only four owners since opening
My dad told me years ago that after WW2 the French government realised the best way to increase business and spending in the city was to make sure that a family would spend less money for a 3 course meal at a restaurant, than it would cost to buy and make it at home, this encouraged people to spend money outside and get money back into the economy. I don’t know if this is true, or even if it was at the time, but I always find Chartier relatively cheap and therefore a great place to go, even on a budget for beautiful food.
In some of my photos you might see some cupboards with little drawers in them, these used to be for storage of regular’s cutlery , Msr so-and-so would eat there so often that he would have his own drawer for storing his bits and bobs, and I really love this, it shows the homey atmosphere.
I think that for me, there is far more than the food to rave about in this place. It may not appeal to everyone but the quirkiness is amazing!
Firstly, you stand and queue outside, that’s right, queue. And it’s not first come first served, but as space allows. Therefore, there may be masses of groups of 4 in front of you, but if 2 seats open up, it might be you and your dining companion walking through those doors, as everyone shares tables. You don’t want to sit where they tell you to? Tough, get back out of the door……I have seen people saying they wanted to have a table to themselves, or to sit in a “better” part of the restaurant being turned away which is novel and though some say it is unnecessary, I love the way they set a rule and have stuck to it ever since.
Once you are sat down, you are given a menu, a large (over A4 sized) double sided menu – often taken by people as a souvenir – which changes EVERY DAY…..and the waiters simply learn the menu, every day. I would say that probably lets say at least 50% of the items change (it used to be more but I have no idea if it has gotten easier in the more recent times) and the waiters have to learn it – prices and all. They write nothing down on pads etc, they simply take your order, write the info on your tablecloth and then go tell the kitchen. On the way through, they speak with Madame, she (I believe) is the owner/owner’s wife and she is in charge of the money, as they go past, they tell her the order and she writes down a bill.
As you eat and order more, the tablecloth notes get longer, and when you eventually come to pay, the waiter will total your bill (on the tablecloth) and then take your money & give you the change etc.
At the end of the night the waiters will be given a figure from the madame, they then count this out from their money belts and whatever they have over, is theirs as tip, but if they don’t have enough (their maths is wrong for example) then they pay the difference back.
Ok, that sounds harsh but I think it’s amazing and next time anyone says “being a server/waiter/waitress is easy” maybe bring this up? Shows it’s not just a job where you carry plates!
Anyway, not only is the experience amazing, I really love the food. I don’t think there’s been any time there where I haven’t had any idea what to have, I have had some of the best Sauerkraut i’ve ever eaten in my life, the steaks are (always) amazing and even a simple plate like a tomato and cucumber salad is just amazing.
I’m so pleased my dad introduced me to this place, it’s been far too long since i’ve been there but seriously, if you are ever in Paris, remember this address and go for an epic meal, I doubt you’ll forget or indeed regret this!
7, Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre – go there and enjoy!