Stepping into Chez Nenesse is like stepping back in time, to experience a real Parisian Bistro like they used to be, before they gained the reputation of being unfriendly hurried places where the food is thrown at you and the waiters scowl in your direction every time they pass your table. No, you won’t find that kind of behaviour Chez Nenesse, but the warm welcome of M. et Mme Leplu. Madame Leplu watches over the customers while Roger is confined to the kitchen.
The first challenge is locating the restaurant, hidden in a backstreet in the Marais, far from the more frequented streets around Hôtel de Ville. Although not far from the bustle of rue de Bretagne, once you find the address, at the junction of rue de Saintonge and rue de Poitou, you feel like you’ve been transported from Paris to a quiet backroad in a more provincial french town. And after a day navigating the stress and the noise of Paris, that’s quite a nice feeling.
Arriving in front of the restaurant, you’ll notice the quaint lace curtains hiding the interior from curious eyes of passers-by. When you push open the door (careful, there may be a table of diners behind the curtain) and enter the restaurant you’ll immediately notice the large bar on the left, perfect for an apperitif whilst waiting for your table to be prepared.
The black and white tiled floor and traditional bistro chairs around tables covered with checkered table-cloths create an atmosphere that’s profoundly Parisian. You could almost be on a film set of a 1950s black and white classic. The wood stove in the center of the room with zinc chimney pipe completes the image.
Looking at the menu, you’d be hard-pressed to find more typical, traditional french home-style cooking. At lunch time the restaurant serves a typical menu with such french classics as “Poireaux Vinaigrette” (Leeks in vinaigrette sauce), “Harrengs, pommes à l’huile” (herings with boiled potatoes), “Oeuf dur mayonaise” (egg mayonaise) as starters and main courses including “Endives à la dauphinoise”, Entrecôte, Filet de Lieu. Lunch prices are very reasonable – 4,50€ for a starter, 10,50 € main course 4,50 € Desert.
In the evening, the menu is more elaborate.. The house speciality is “Salade de canarde au vinaigre d’hydromel” (duck salad in mead sauce) although the duck is served very rare, so it’s not to everyones taste. The terrine de foie gras is home made and also excellent. Other options are “Cassoulette d’escargots” (snail casserole) or “Gratinée d’oignons” (Onion soup). The portions are very generous.
I was tempted by the “Magret de canard aux baies de cassis” (duck fillet in blackcurrant sauce) for the main course, but having already polished off the salade de canard starter I opted for the “Filet d’agneau” (lamb fillet). Luckily another member of our party ordered the duck, so I was still able to test it. Both the duck and the lamb were cooked to perfection, rosé, tender and moist. The main dishes are served accompanied by a good selection of vegetables – roast potatoes, spinnach, carrots.
With everyone choosing different dishes, it’s nice to be able to order wine by the glass to match your meal. Luckily there is a wide selection of wines available by the glass or pitcher and if you’re not sure what to choose, Madame Leplu can help you match the wine with your meal. Prices are very reasonable (whether by the glass or bottle) and the wines we tested were of a consistently good quality.
As mentioned, the portion sizes were very generous, so we skipped desert. For those with bigger apetites, choose from tarte aux pommes, millefeuille, Glace au chocolat amongst other classics.
The clientele is mixed, between the parisian regulars and tourists in search of a real taste of Paris, and if you’re looking to experience an authentic french Bistrot and french cuisine without breaking the bank, this is the place to come.
Lunchtime main course: 10,50 €
Lunchtime à la carte: 22 €
Evening main course: 20 €
Evening à la carte: 40 €
17 rue Saintonge
Telephone: 01 42 78 46 49
Metro: Filles du Calvaire, Saint Sébastien Froissart
Monday – Friday 12 noon – 10:30pm
10 best bistros in Paris (the Guardian)
List of Bistros in Paris (eat-out.net)
Chez Nenesse (Time Out)