Monthly Archives: January 2017

Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

A few days ago, I took you along as I explored one of Paris’ most charming neighborhoods, les Batignolles. The area offers an eclectic mix of eateries from traditional bistros and cafés, to hip restaurants and bars popular with the younger crowd, including Bobos (bourgeois bohemians) who have discovered the neighborhood in recent years. There are established businesses and newer, trendier places. I was introduced to a local bistro by a friend, (veteran blogger Peter Olson, of Peter’s Paris,) when I visited in December 2015. The bistro was named la Bonne Heure. Le cadre (the environment,) was pleasant, and the decor fittingly consisted of a collection of antique clocks. The food was traditional, tasty, and served in generous portions. Peter goes there often, usually in good company. He is lucky to live in the heart of le village des Batignolles.

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Two bloggers meet in Paris at la Bonne Heure, December 2015

Last month, during the Holidays, I spent a few days in les Batignolles, and Peter and I returned to the restaurant for dinner. I learned it had been under new ownership since July 2016 and was curious to see what changes had occurred. The bistro is now known as Gaston. The decor has remained the same; and the plates are still named La Bonne Heure. The new manager and his partners clearly intend to follow in the footsteps of the previous owners, offering home-made, fresh, and well prepared traditional dishes at reasonable prices. One of my favorite parts about traveling is connecting with people. There are many good restaurants in Paris (and as many average ones.) What sets the good ones apart (other than the food) can be something as simple as a great memory, or a connection made with a stranger, whether a staff member, or another diner. Chez Gaston I met Rachid, the new manager, who is friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. Rachid hails from Burgundy. He has had an interesting personal and professional life, but for the purpose of this article, let’s just mention he is a trained chef who has worked in the kitchens of renowned establishments like the Bristol or the George V in Paris. He scored big time with this French Girl when he brought up he also worked in Toulouse (my hometown) for several years. Rachid heads a team of 10 people chez Gaston (the restaurant is open daily from 12:00 to 10:30pm.)

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Rachid and part of his team, Gaston, Paris

It’s easy to see most clients are regulars. The room is not big, and reservations are recommended, especially for dinner.

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Rachid, working the room, with a smile
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More clocks… and l’ardoise, with the day’s specials

That evening with Peter, I savored a favorite traditional French dish, le pot-au-feu. The meat melted in the mouth. I was not surprised to hear one of Rachid‘s partners is a wine-maker who also raises cattle in the Burgundy region (the famous Charolais breed is from that area.)

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Pot-au-feu, the stuff French expats’ dreams are made of

The mouth-watering dessert was le Baba-au-rhum.

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Pictures speak better than words

Gaston is part of an endangered species in Paris: the convivial, laid-back bistro, where friends meet over a delicious meal with fresh food, lovingly prepared, and presented simply but attractively. The icing on the cake, (especially in an up-and-coming neighborhood like les Batignolles,) there is no sticker shock when l’addition arrives, with a smile. Quand on aime, on ne compte pas. When you love, the cost doesn’t matter. I returned to Gaston once again before I left Paris, this time for lunch, with my parents. We made a few selections among les plats du jour, and a pichet of Girardin wine, from Burgundy.

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Rachid le Bourguignon promised his Oeufs Meurette were winners. He was right.
An uncommon fish, Maigre (drum fish) served with sautéed mushroom and a shellfish sauce
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Crème brûlée with lime zest

What did my guests think? Again, pictures speak better than words.

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Happy diners chez Gaston

My family and I enjoyed each other’s company (I was scheduled to fly back to the US two days later,) as much as the delicious meal and our conversation with Rachid, who took the time to chat (and connect) while delivering excellent service. Finally, l’addition arrived, with a small surprise, “un cadeau de la maison” (on the house,) une excellente fine de Souillac, the perfect digestive for guests from southwestern France.

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“Tous pour un; un pour tous.”

Gaston still feels like a best-kept secret, mostly enjoyed by locals, but the excellent reviews I spotted online are bound to attract a clientèle coming from outside les Batignolles. One always hesitates to share such special news with a large group of people. Locals will have to forgive me. I like to support young entrepreneurs, especially those who have made the challenging restaurant business their calling.

To Rachid and his team: Merci, bonne année, et à très bientôt, lors de mon prochain passage à Paris. 

— French Girl in Seattle

bistro

Gaston

11 Rue Brochant, 75017 Paris

Phone: 01 46 27 49 89

11 Responses to Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

  1. Hoping to visit your suggestion when visiting France in 2018. Thank you for sharing & yes, I hope it doesnʻt change before I go there.

  2. What a pleasure to admire those delicious photos!
    Especially that first one: you look “divina” as we say in my country and…having dinner with the proverbial Mr. Darcy, no less! 🙂

    As for the food I see, it looks delicious of course, but…very familiar…They are part of the French-British heritage in the culture of the countries that belong to the Rio de la Plata basin.

    Your narrative is impeccable, as usual. Thank you so much, Madame Veronique.
    Maria

    P.S.
    I’d like to share with you this little piece of music called “Le Cygne”, written by a compatriot of yours, the revered Romantic era composer, Camille Saint-Saëns.
    Monsieur Camille wrote the melody especifically for violoncello, with accompaniment for one or two pianos.

    Many musicians have produced arrangements for the keyboard of this sublime piece: Lucien Garban, Leopold Godowsky and Alexander Siloti among others.
    I chose Godowsky’s version because Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff liked it best.

    Camille Saint-Saëns-Le Cygne

    http://youtu.be/Cw_yDcwzuHo

    played by Wibi Soerjadi, born March 2, 1970 in Leiden, Netherlands.

    Last but not least, what an adorable couple make your “mamita” and your “papito”.

    • Dear Maria. Merci de votre visite. I have been blogging now, on and off, for over 6 years. I know my blogger friends would agree readers like you are a rare breed online today. They take the time to visit; read and appreciate the narrative; and leave thoughtful and informative comments. I am listening to le Cygne as I type this. I was not familiar with Godowsky’s version. Thank you for sharing it. What a beautiful piece! You are correct, my “mamita” and “papito” are, indeed, adorable. I treasure the time spent with them during my too short visits. You are incorrect, however, about the gentleman pictured at the beginning of the story. He is, of course, the famous Peter Olson, and like everyone who has been lucky enough to explore Paris with him, knows, the most gracious guide (and dinner companion.) Peter is not, however, Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy, you see, remains the Holy Grail, the shining and unattainable light many women – including this French Girl – can only dream about. It is my hope that Elizabeth Bennett will get distracted and look away for a few minutes one day, just long enough for me to finally approach Mr Darcy and make him my own. L’espoir fait vivre, n’est-ce-pas? Bonne année, Maria. I hope you return soon.

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Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Dedicated to Peter O. The place is relaxed, peaceful, with a real neighborhood life and feel: Bienvenue aux Batignolles. This was my home for a few days during a recent visit when I rented an apartment rue Truffaut. We are in the northeastern section of the 17th arrondissement in Paris, just west of Montmartre. Once a humble village, the…

32 Responses to Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

  1. Hello or Bonjour,
    I love your blog! It has been my dream to visit Europe, with France being my first choice of countries to see.

    My husband & I are planning a 3 month trip to Europe in 2018 & I would love to have your ideaʻs of where, how we should go about seeing France. Not as a tourist so much, but more like a local/tourist.

    I love history & feel like somewhere in time I was living in France.

    I would love to invite you to visit us in Arizona sometime in the next year, where we could spend time relaxing & discussing your love of travel to France.

    We rent our home on Airbnb so it is set up for guests & it would be the guest room that you would stay in. You would be welcome to bring a friend. Of course, there would be no charge to you for the stay. I may even be able to provide airfare (for 1). We are book solid through the end of March but there are some days in April open. Another idea would be to meet me in Wenatchee, WA where I will be house sitting in May. You would be welcome to stay a few days there in the guest room.

    Feel free to contact me through my email. Even if it is something you arenʻt interested in, I want to tell you how much I appreciate all your hard work keeping your blog current & fun to read.

    Cheers to you in 2017

    DiAnn

  2. I love the video of Ducks crossing. Just so cute.
    The area you reviewed seem quite nice. The photos were wonderful with such preey areas to enjoy. The quiet tranquility would be welcome. I can only imagine the crowds seeing all that the grand Paris has to offer. This would be a welcome retreat. I shall keep that in mind. Keep writing. I learn new things each time and I love it. Merci beaucoup.

    • Thank you for your visit, and for your support, as always, Debra. My only new-year resolution is 2017 is precisely to “keep writing,” in particular on the blog, in spite of a demanding work life. It means a lot that people like you follow French Girl in Seattle and appreciate the time, effort and passion I put into it. Merci.

  3. The secret is out: Les Batignolles is a cool place to be!

    Sssshh! We’ve really got to keep some (nice) parts of Paris free of tourist hordes (as a former decade-long resident, I consider myself a Parisian). The Parisian Bobos are bad enough!
    One has to hope that the lack of major “attractions” listed in Guides etc will prevent the hordes descending. Though let me immediately correct myself and this cliche (for your first two posters): though Paris gets more visitors (about 45m each year!) than any other city in the world, and certainly some areas get crowded, in fact I reckon it handles such crowds much better than similar cities–eg. London and Rome (not to mention Florence & Venice which are unbearable in peak summer) are awful from this point of view. Perhaps because the city is so walkable, the Metro is so terrific (highest density of lines and stations than any other) and in reality there are always calm or calmer refuges close by no matter where you are. The compactness of the city helps hugely; for example (dare I reveal) Sq des Batignolles is approx. a mere 1.5km walk from the Arc de Triumph (only ≈600m from Parc Monceau en route). And you must never be afraid to walk in Paris.

    I see that you were right in the centre of the Batignolles old/new artist district that has undergone a recent regeneration. It might be worth mentioning the huge zone that begins literally on the other side of the street to Square des Batignolles: ie. the western side of rue Cardinet. I’ve not seen this since the works began (and am not sure of its current status) but it is very interesting from an urbanist’s point of view, and on how to create more and affordable housing in an already built-up city area, without going hi-rise. Here is an extract from Wiki:

    Batignolles was supposed to be the Olympic village for the Paris Olympic Games in 2012, but Paris lost its bid to London. In its place, ancient SNCF rail fallows are redeveloped into a new 4.3-hectare district centered around new Martin Luther King garden. By 2015, it is foreseen that 3,400 apartments, 30,000 square meters of shops, 140,000 square meters of office buildings and many public facilities (school, nursery…). will be completed. Moreover the Palais de Justice court, along with the Police judiciaire (Quai des Orfèvres), currently located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris, will move to the new Cité judiciaire de Paris in a new building north of the garden.

    For map see:
    http://www.clichy-batignolles.fr/carte-interactive

    • Dear {former?} Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis. Thank you for your visit, and the thoughtful comment. You make a few good points. After spending a few days in les Batignolles last month, I would surmise the neighborhood has less to fear from “hordes of tourists” (many tourists are creatures of habit, and are too lazy, or too fearful, to venture out to the perceived “outskirts” of the city,) than from the hordes of Parisians about to descend upon the area once the construction you mention has been completed. A friend took me to the newer sections. I saw the giant cranes, the Martin Luther King park and some of the new buildings. I was not impressed. I chose not to discuss les Batignolles’ future here other than with the statement “It is a delightful neighborhood with a mixed personality, where past, present and future live side by side, fairly harmoniously, but for how long?” I also chose to ignore that change is, indeed, coming to this lovely neighborhood of Paris. It is a fact Inspector Clouseau and his friends from le Quai des Orfèvres, (not to mention their colleagues from the Paris courthouse,) are about to leave their current offices on Ile de la Cité to move to their new, modern digs outside le square des Batignolles. It is a fact public transportation to the area is about to get ramped up, making les Batignolles much more accessible. I feel for longtime residents (like the lady pictured outside the boulangerie.) Soon, I fear, they will start feeling like the heroes of Asterix and Obelix, their small village “surrounded,” with the world madly speeding up around them. This article documents life in le Village des Batignolles as it is today, evolving, certainly, (old streets and beautiful buildings lined with a few trendy boutiques and restaurants, and a popular “bio” outdoor market,) but still peaceful, still lovely, and easy on the eye. La vie est belle, aux Batignolles, and I hope it remains that way for a long time. I did add an article about the “future of the Batignolles/Clichy neighborhood” at the end of the story following your remarks. Merci, et à bientôt.

      • Thanks for the NYT article which I had not seen. The things I had read previously about the new developments did not mention that they are allowing buildings of 50m height, which is approximately twice the Haussmannian height. The thing is that they’ve tried this before in the 13th (eastern half) and the Front-de-Seine/ BeauxGrenelles, and it was not exactly a success. I lived briefly in one of those hi-rises next to Place d’Italie in the 13th and even the buildings don’t work so well; they haven’t aged well. But then that stuff was built in the 60s and 70s which is almost the nadir of building (worldwide), both in style and quality.

        The thing is that it doesn’t even achieve higher housing density because, as the pics/drawings show, they have spaced those taller buildings. So, not at all Parisian. Of course there has been pressure from modern planners and some (deluded) urbanists for a long time to do this kind of thing. They want to turn Paris into some identikit of every other city in the world!
        I should reserve judgement until I see it in the flesh but not impressed …

  4. A wonderful look at a charming neighborhood. Les Batignolles is really more representative of what people idealize in their minds about Paris, vs. the more typically touristy center.
    Great photos!

    • Thank you for stopping by. Actually, if people think of Paris in terms of impressive architecture and landmarks, les Batignolles may surprise them. This is still (at least in sections,) the Paris of the past, in the pre-Haussmann/2nd Empire days. Things are changing fast, however. See the article quoted at the end of my story, above the video.

  5. I enjoyed this especially the ducks! I have always…as many others only stayed in the city center of Paris. You have given me food for thought. Maybe staying on the outskirts would be much more peaceful, and a new place to investigate.

    As for DiAnn who wants to go and feel like a local. Do what you are doing in Arizona…lease a place, use public transportation when you can, shop the little local food markets and try and blend in with the locals. We have done that several times in France and they have been my favorite trips.

    • Merci de votre visite Janey. It pays off sometimes to stay in a quieter place, away from the crowds. I walked all day (hardly used the Metro, in fact,) as les Batignolles get you to Montmartre and other areas very quickly. It was lovely to return to my peaceful studio at night. Good tips for DiAnn as well. Thank you.

  6. This was a wonderful read. I enjoyed living with my French family in les Batignolles on rue Truffaut. My suite in a penthouse apartment was great but not over the top. The term ‘Bohemian-bobo’ is fun. Never knew this. I used to take a trolley at Cardinet to Etoile, then walk or take RER C to classes. It does not exist anymore. But I believe the tracks are still there below ground. Yes, it was a very quiet neighborhood with easy access to Montmartre, Pigalle, Clichy, Parc Monceau and over to aveue Champs Elysees and Trenes were so Paris imaginable. I adored the park in Square Batignolles and strolls through narrow streets. My host was a faithful member at St Mary’s and her grandson also attend every weekend on his returns home from boarding school in north of Paris. I was always treated like a part of the community. An unforgettable experience coming out of Harlem and Virginia. Thanks.

    • Thank you for your visit, Marvin. I *lived* on rue Truffaut too! Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your time in Paris. It sounds as if you had a very special stay in les Batignolles. It reminded me of the “best year in my life,” the year I spent in Atlanta, GA as a foreign exchange student. I, too, was treated like a part of the community. One never forgets such special experiences and the international friendships forged along the way. A bientôt.

  7. Perfect timing! I’m heading to Paris for a few days next week and Batignolles looks like fun. I’m going there! Thanks.

  8. As American Expats in Paris in our 30’s with no kids, we first landed in Le Marais (the 3rd) just below Place de la République based on suggestions of locals who expected we would want “un quartier très vivant!”. After 9 months of feeling like the neighborhood was sucking the life out of me (no offense to Le Marais-lovers, it just wasn’t my thing), I was so fortunate to find a place in Batignolles! We LOVE it here and frankly, nothing beats having Sacre Cœur as the landmark you use to guide you home. Even with the cranes in the distance, I still feel very much nestled into the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by great restaurants, certainly Parc Monceau and Square des Batignolles and that neighborhood feel in an area that is still very much adequately “vivant!”. Glad you found your way here and enjoyed it so much!

    • Bonjour Jessica. Merci de votre visite. Great to hear some feedback from “locals” as well. You do not need to say more. I can totally see why two 30-year olds with no kids would enjoy les Batignolles. The restaurants alone – and the civilized, but active nightlife – would be a big draw for me. Continue enjoying this special place, you lucky lady! I will be reviewing a great little restaurant I visited several times in les Batignolles in a few days. Would love to hear your take on it! A bientôt!

  9. I am retired and have been dreaming of renting a studio in Paris for the summer. Now that Ive read this delughtful article about Batignolles, my interest has peaked and I cant wait to start planning! What a joy to experience Parisian life in such a charming area! Would you be kind enough to let me know who I should contact about renting a studio for 3/4 mmonths in Batignolles?

    Love reading your blog!

    • I will be happy to share the information with you as soon as I have reached out to Catherine, the owner. It seems the reference number I had for the studio on the vrbo.com site does not work anymore and I need to look into it. Thank you for your patience, Pamela.

  10. I’ve subscribed to your blog for a long time, and it’s so lovely! I’m researching Manet for a novel, so les Batignolles would be perfect. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain if you’re in Seattle and have a free hour. I’m in Everett and teach in Seattle on Tuesdays, but could get down there on another day as well. (Or at the French bakery in Mill Creek with the great macarons.) I’m hoping to get to Paris in March/April and really haven’t the faintest idea where to start, as it’s been over 30 years since I’ve been there.

  11. Magnifique “reportage” sur le village des batignolles.. Les canards, très typés sont charmants.. Vifs encouragements pour continuer cet excellent passe temps!!

  12. Cite des Fleurs is my favorite “street” in Paris. I go there every time to look the homes, flowers and residents both two and four footed. Also the statue in the Park with vultures always makes me laugh.

  13. What a lovely post! My husband and I spent 9 days in Paris last year and we rented an apt in this area. Je suis tombée amoureuse de ce quartier ! If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would move there the day after! You’re right it just feels like a town within the city. If I were une Parisienne, I would want to be the sort who would call this area home. I have managed to set foot (just a tiny bit!) in each arrondissement de Paris and so far it is my favorite.

    • Les Batignolles are a special place indeed. In my older days, I find myself drawn more and more to these neighborhoods in the heart of great urban areas that feel more like villages. I find that to be true around the world for me, not just in Paris. Merci de votre visite.

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