Balzar, Paris 5th, 16/20

THERE is some salvation of having a slightly nutty name like Balzar, or at least for those of us who are having increasing difficulty with the tourists bombing well known restaurants. The great Balzar has only two reviews on Trip Adviser since lockdown. Hurrah.

The blog EatLikeAGirl tells me this is where Sartre and de Beauvoir had argumentative lunches, although the Paris authorities have given them a plaque down by Les Deux Magots – so we can all argue about that instead. Possibly as a result Les DM has a cordon currently thrown around it to direct the traffic of tourist and is really more hostage than host…like a lot of central Paris. it is all getting a bit too theme park.

The food writer Waverley Root praised Balzar some 60 years ago – actually it opened in 1886 more as a beer and choucroute caffe – but as John Whiting pointed out in 2001 if it was in any other city it might be the talk of the town. Its reputation tends to fall in and out of fashion.

What is really, really good about Balzar is the dining room, the super brilliant staff, the sense of history and a menu that knows its place well enough and, a point of issue these days, it is not overly pricey – before 7 there is a set menu at 22 euros, a daily dish of the day such a petit sale with lentils is less than that. Compared to London, or indeed a lot of other places in Paris these days, that is pretty good value. Post lockdown Balzar seems reassuringly again where to go.

Obviously, well obviously for Paris which likes a cliche, there are oysters, and foie gras but there is also also, less rarely found, quennelle de brochet sauce nantua and a curiosity with sweetbreads admittedly with morels and Dauphine potatoes at 39 euros nearly the same price as Dover sole which must be some kind of historical moment of parity. The web site also has some totally out of date photographs of how the cooking used to look.

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