Paris is an expensive city, no question. Where can you enjoy a quality French meal without breaking the bank? Well, there is hope in the form of the Prixe-Fixe menu at La Marine beside the Canal St-Martin.
Lunchtime in Paris is arguably the best time to enjoy a proper bistro experience. Many bistros in the city will often advertise what’s known as a ‘Prixe-Fixe’ menu – or a ‘fixed-price’ menu to quote the English translation.
This a menu featuring a handful of dishes to choose from for each course. Quite often it will be a starter and a main or a main and dessert. At La Marine, this offering costs just €18 – which is tremendous value.
La Marine is a traditional Parisian brasserie. Tables are close together, outside is for smokers, thinkers and coffee drinkers and the smell of freshly cooked French fare hits you the moment that you walk in.
The staff here are really friendly. We arrived slightly before the kitchen opened for lunch but they were happy to serve us a couple of glasses of Bordeaux red wine. English is also spoken but French is very much appreciated as multiple waiters go back and forth but not in an intrusive way.
Usually, choosing from a Prixe-Fixe menu is straightforward given the lack of dishes. This isn’t the case at La Marine. I could easily have eaten each and every item on this menu, it all sounded very tempting.
In the end, we opted for an Onglet Steak with Shallot Sauce plus a Carre de Porc (pork chop) with Cep Sauce. We ordered the steak ‘a point’ which translates to ‘medium rare to rare’ although if you like yours a little more well done ask for ‘bien cuit’.
The plat’s arrived looking typically bistro. Nothing fancy just great food and lots of it. The steak came shrouded in a sauce of finely diced shallots, vinegar and red wine with fries. The chop glazed beautifully with a creamy cep sauce, ceps and tubetti pasta.
Both dishes were hearty and filling but the meat and sauces were sublime on both plates. The steak perfectly rare and full of flavour as onglet tends to be a favoured cut in most bistros. The pork was also cooked very well, still juicy and a perfect match for the creamy mushroom sauce.
Pasta is an unusual accompaniment to a pork chop but hey, I don’t mind one bit. This could even be the way forward – it really was a rich, hearty display of French cooking. Plus, what can go wrong with steak and chips? Equally as impressive.
Desserts, much like the mains, were so hard to choose. In the end we narrowed it down to Baba au Rhum and Tarte Amandine with Pears. Both classic dishes and both old favourites of ours.
The Baba arrived swimming in rum and topped with creme patissiere. The drenched sponge is like a night out in a single mouthful. Don’t get pulled over in your car by the police after this dessert.
The Tarte Amandine was every bit as good as the first version that I tried back at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth. Buttery, rich pastry encases a rich filling of frangipane and thinly sliced pears, douse that in rich raspberry coulis and you have one of the best desserts in the French repertoire. Outstanding.
We were amazed by the food but even more so by the bill. Just €36 for the whole lot – including the wine and a carafe of ice cold tap water. This has to be one of the best lunches in the city for experience, flavour and value. Who said Paris was expensive?
– A huge thank you to Soph for recommending this restaurant, check her out on Twitter @sophisobel_
Opening Times: Monday-Friday 0730-0200 (Lunch service at 12pm)
Saturday – Sunday 0830-0200
Nearest Metro: Jacques Bonsergent