I love the French and their food. Its all so intuitive and natural – like language itself.
We recently visited Paris and made a trip to the little bistro L’Os a Moelle in the 15th Arrondisement. The surroundings are six- and seven-storey Haussmann apartment blocks with a little bit of commerce thrown in but most definitely mainly residential. L’Os a Moelle is a local reasonably priced eatery. By reasonably priced I mean that we paid €42 for the taster menu.
Its a very unfussy well-lit restaurant with a welcoming feel. There is a little bar by the door for the meet-and-greet and then there are a few wooden tables. The light is quite bright – it’s not a moody, romantic setting with soft music playing in the background.The taster menu begins with an amuse bouche – bone marrow topped with a celery foam served in a little tumbler. The flavour is very rich and the celery foam has a punch to it. This is a little presage of what is to come – bold favours presented openly.
There are choices to be made. The first course is a choice of a cold mushroom soup or a hot lobster bisque. The theatre begins as both start with a bowl of things before the liquid arrives. The lobster bisque is rich and silky with a scent of saffron. I don’t think I’ve even heard of cold mushroom soup but there was enough mushroom flavour to carry it off. The initial contents of the bowl – bacon bits and tiny croutons added texture. A surprise was the sheer quantity of soup – a huge bowl that I couldn’t finish.
The starter I chose was slightly odd. I went for red mullet which came as two fillets but on a caramelised red onion marmalade. I found this contrast quite challenging but the mullet was well cooked and seasoned. My wife had a very good chanterelle mushroom dish which was cooked in meat juices served with a fried egg and a quail dish which also looked good. The presentation was simple and honest – no smears, foams or soils.
For the main I had grouse. I was brought up fairly close to grouse shooting moors in North Yorkshire and so I know the bird by sight well. I don’t think I have ever eaten it. What arrived was beautifully cooked – soft and pink. It was cooked in a red wine sauce and the flavour was very gamey. It was served with potatoes and roasted veg which went really well with it. I finished the lot but by now even I felt rather full. My wife opted for Onglet which was ultra-saignant even by my standards
While I was pondering my fullness we had a slice of soft cheese (no idea what) served with an endive and walnut salad.
For dessert, clearly not that full, I chose a rather odd gratin of banana and custard. Absolutely delicious but clearly not fine dining. The salty caramel set off the sweetness to perfection.
Including service, a carafe of white burgundy, and some well-recommended aperitifs the meal cost just over €150.
This is hearty stuff cooked with care and love and everything I like about French cooking. As a place to eat with friends I would completely recommend L’Os a Moelle. Its not cheap but as your little “gem round the corner” it would shine and you would be there every month and certainly every birthday (if you were lucky enough to live in Paris). As long as you can choose from a relatively narrow menu and can forget any vegetarian instincts you will love it. If like me, and live in England, you can hold the values dear and search for you own equivalent. I think they are very few and far between.