Paris Bistro, Zarifa Aliyeva Street, Baku
Tel.: +994 12 404 82 15 www.parisbistro.az
Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once!
Et voilà, here it is, the long awaited and eagerly anticipated Paris Bistro, another restaurant out of the Saffron Group stable, bringing that French ‘Je ne sais quoi’ to Baku. It’s right opposite the puppet theatre, turning the little square there with the mushroom shaped fountains where Café Dalloyau also is, into a proper Paris Central. Oh là là, and isn’t it vraiment merveilleux?!
For me, it was an instant coup de foudre. Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of ‘Allo ‘Allo, the French Resistance comedy, or perhaps it reminds me of my first ever boyfriend, super cool BCBG Yannick Leturgeon, in his casual chinos, button down shirts and espadrilles, who taught me French kissing and whispered sweet nothings (in throaty Français!!) into my ear at Le Drugstore in Arcachon, when I was 14 and he 15. We swore everlasting love during my summer holiday school exchange and discussed marriage and a golden future, all of which lasted precisely three weeks and evaporated the minute we waved ‘au revoir’ to each other at the train station. Or maybe it brings to mind the endless hours during my misspent uni years at Les Deux Maggots in Paris, dressed from top to toe in black, ‘being intellectual’. In any case, the Paris Bistro hits the spot.
The minute you step inside, you’re in France. The classic bistro tables, the black and white floor tiling, the typical opaque balloon lighting, the background chanson music, the zinc style bar, the tea towel type napkins, the charming chef, Bera Thibault, who came and introduced himself to me, requesting that I express my every wish and promising that he’d do his utmost to fulfill it. And, of course, most importantly, the menu on the paper placemats. Almost everything you’d expect is there: garlicky snails, fried frogs’ legs, steak frites, Croque Madame, omelettes, saucissons, veal cheeks, steak tartar, croissants, Crêpe Suzette and much more.
Before the bistro even opened, I popped in and was very generously treated to a very good, very alcoholic Crêpe Suzette and copious amounts of nice wine. An enjoyable welcome! On its opening day, I had breakfast there with a couple of toasted brioche slices, two jams, some runny, very intensely chocolaty sauce, served with little butter pyramids, one normal, lightly salted and the other chilli flavoured, and a thermo glass of Americano to wake me up. Disappointingly, the OJ was out of a bottle and not freshly squeezed, so I gave that a miss. I paid with a AZN10 note for my AZN8.40 breakfast and although I received an AZN1 note back, I had to chase the remaining 60 Gepik. A small oversight, I am sure. I did very much relish sitting there by myself, whiling away an hour or so, reading my book, sipping my coffee and soaking up the cosy atmosphere.
In fact, I had such a nice time there that I returned for lunch with two friends a few days later. Between us, we ordered pâté de foie gras, a goats’ cheese salad, smoked salmon with crème fraîche and red caviar, a couple of green salads and a steak tartar. The food was good and very prettily presented. The service, well let’s just say it was willing and friendly, if still a little bit rough around the edges. The nice tea towel napkins had disappeared, there was very nice bread and butter but no butter knives, meaning that I had to use the same knife I was using to cut my raw meat to butter my bread from our joint butter pat. I was not advised that the steak tartar came with a substantial green salad which made my separate salad order quite redundant and unnecessary. Tea was served in a cup without a saucer and my coffee order arrived much later than that of my friends, just as we were leaving. While I’m wearing my pernickety pants, let me also say that whoever proof read the menu before it was printed, might have made the effort to set all the accents properly and check the descriptions. Bone morrow? Cream Fresh? Mushrooms and black peppers sauce? Low cooked? Hé Mec! Everything else is so perfectly presented, why skimp on the proof reading? But that’s just minor detail and, in the greater scheme of things, not really important. Despite these little teething problems, the Paris Bistro is a lovely addition to the Baku restaurant scene and a great little place to hang out.
Our lunch for three of very generous portions and including three coffees; one tea and two small waters as well as the extra unnecessary salad; was just under AZN80.