On my way back from Brittany, I had a couple of hours in Paris before catching the Eurostar home. It wasn’t really enough time to do anything more than have a quick drink and an even quicker dinner, but I was keen to check out Chez Michel, a Breton bistro near the Gare du Nord. I’ve heard good things about it and since I don’t know that part of Paris at all well, a good recommendation was enough to seal the deal. It looks every inch the part, sitting on the corner of a quiet street, slightly prettier than the neighbourhood around it, and with a deeply exciting blackboard menu in the window.
I would have loved to have had more time to eat here. They are so close to the station that I can only assume they have a lot of customers with their eye on the clock, but the atmosphere is conducive to a much more relaxed pace. Maybe I just felt self-conscious, eating alone with my crappy French and my British need to hurry my food. I didn’t feel like I was doing justice to the experience and I suspect the waiters agreed.
Still, they fed me rapidly enough when I told them I had a train to catch, and the food was splendid. First to the table was a little bowl of bigorneaux, the Breton whelk-like creatures I had been introduced to near Guérande. I think I might have been squeamish about them before that amazing seafood banquet but now I was spearing them like a pro. I’d rather eat these as pre-dinner nibbles than olives…
My starter was an irresistible salad of pigs ear and foot. Come on, how can you get past that on a menu? Both ear and foot were pressed into a rough terrine, which was then rather delicately sliced and topped with salad, vinegary pickled mushrooms and cornichons. It packed a real punch of flavour and the terrine made a lovely contrast in textures between the soft foot meat and the chewy ears.
For a main course, I had to try the kig-ha-farz, which is the Breton version of pot au feu. I’m not a huge expert on the regular version but the specificity of this rendition seems to be its central buckwheat dumpling, as well as the prominence of smoked meats. The dish arrived in a cute little casserole and I really did wish I had more time to savour it. The bits of pork I ate were meltingly soft and delicious, and there was some nice beef in there too, as well as potatoes, mushrooms and turnip. The only bit I was honestly slightly less fond of was the dumpling, which I thought I’d love. I like buckwheat a bunch but the dumpling was weirdly sweet in a kind of raisiny way. I must admit I didn’t care for it, but then I hate raisins. What was exceptional was the broth, which was perfectly clear and full of umami goodness, like a really really good ramen. I could have drank it in a glass. The kig-ha-farz gave me plenty of sustenance for the last leg of my trip home, and I napped happily on the Eurostar.
Chez Michel, 10 rue de Belzunce, 75010, Paris (M: Gare du Nord or Poissonière)