Two recent return visits to the venerable Parisian eating establishment – Au Petit Marguery – have restored the restaurant to my ‘definitely recommended’ list. Co. and I periodically dined at Marguery until a couple years ago. My growing disinclination to continue resulted from meals that I found to be progressively less interesting and an incident involving a waiter deceiving a couple of tourists sitting a few tables away from ours. (The offending waiter at the time must have been taking lessons from the crooks at Chez Michel, who regularly rip off tourists and French alike.) But Co., who often has a penchant for traditional turn of the 20th century restaurants and a soft-spot in her heart for Marguery’s famed soufflé au Grand Marnier dessert, succeeded in dragging me back there for a dinner in mid-March. The verdict? Marguery is back and so are we.
During our March visit, we were informed that the restaurant had changed ownership last September, although chef Franck Laratte stayed on. But truth be told, not much appeared to have changed since our last visit. Usually, one well-prepared, epic dish does it for me, and during this visit it was the entrée of raviolis d’escargot in mushroom sauce. The ravioli entrée has become such a mainstay of the Paris restaurant scene – perhaps most famously launched at the over-rated L’Astrance – that when one emerges from the clutter and captures your attention, you take note. I took note. This was followed by a tasty coq au vin ‘Pictavienne’ with tagliatelles main dish. All in all, enough reason to recommend Marguery as the place to meet our friends visiting last week from Texas. When asked their preferences – nice, good French food, not too expensive, with good wine – Marguery emerged as a no brainer.
According to Frommer’s, ‘menu items are based in old-fashioned traditions, especially those from the Poitou region of west-central France, with emphasis on game dishes in autumn and fresh produce in summer’. Our visit coincided with Spring, and the carte reflected a mélange of seasons. The four of us opted for the three-course 35€ menus, accompanied by a couple bottles of a very fine-tasting St. Nicolas Bourgueil (28€ per bottle). Yannick, our waiter (the tall one in the middle) diligently
tended to our needs, alternating between French and English without any hint of patronizing. Among our entrée choices were the following:
Yours truly went with the tartare, one of my favorites when it comes to openers, and Marguery’s did not disappoint. Subtle in taste and presentation, it slowly seduced.
By the time we consumed our main dishes, the second bottle of wine was beginning to do a number on my memory cells, but I do recall plates consisting of filet de sole, ris de veau, and grilled dorade, all copious and satisfying. I believe my dish was listed as an aumoniere de canard – a preparation of shredded duck and vegetables wrapped in a kind of phyllo dough pastry, not unlike a North African pastilla. Excellent and surprising, it was probably the least traditional item in this very traditional context.
For dessert, our (transplanted) Texans opted for the aforementioned soufflé au Grand-Marnier, which challenged even their hearty lone-star appetites. As for myself and Co. – despite her usual craving for the soufflé – we were tempted by the evening’s special dessert, a croustillant of strawberries. Multi-layered and rich, it definitely did the job. We capped things off with coffee, which much to my pleasure, arrived with a plate of small cakes.
All the images (with the exception of chef Franck) you see here were kindly borrowed from Marguery’s well-developed web site, and I think it would be redundant to try to describe the various rooms – and there are several. Marguery veritably reeks of Paris –its not a teen hangout, but would be a perfect place to accompany your lover, or visiting friends and family from Texas.
AU PETIT MARGUERY
9, boulevard de Port Royal
Price/Quality: 6.5+ (228€ for four, including two bottles
of wine, you can’t do much better at this level, but loses 1.5 points
by taking on two 9€ supplements. In my view, you set a price
for a menu, you don't add a supplement.)
(not for the faint of heart)
A 1995 French film, Au Petit Marguery, directed by Laurent Bénégui concerns the last night of a Parisian restaurant. Starring Stéphane Audran and Michel Aumont, it’s one of the few films I’ve never seen, so I can’t tell you anything else about it.