Months ago, we struggled to remember the last time we’d been on holiday together, not including visits to parents. It was a sufficiently long enough time ago to mortify us and cause us to hastily go onto the Eurostar website and finally book that long weekend to Paris that we’d wanted to do for a while. Last weekend was that date and we had such a lovely time away together. Never underestimate the restorative properties of a proper holiday!
For our first night, I wanted to find a lovely restaurant for us to see what Paris could offer. I’d seen many good reviews for Mon Vieil Ami, a modern little restaurant on the Ile St-Louis, and its central location made it convenient to get to from wherever we would be that day (it turned out that we would be at the Centre Pompidou, only about 12 minutes walk away). On their website, they say that they focus on vegetables. Do not be alarmed; there’s meat on the menu too!
When we got there, we were seated very promptly at one of the individual round tables (quite a choice spot as the rows of tables along the walls were quite crowded) and then offered an aperitif – juice or white wine. I chose the juice which was a mixture of watermelon and grapefruit. It was red and tart and sweet and quite refreshing.
For my first course, I chose the pâté en croûte de Mon Vieil Ami, céleri façon rémoulade et compote de d’oignons rouges (pâté en croûte with celery remoulade and red onion compote). The remoulade tasted more like celeriac than celery (am I translating incorrectly?) however but both it and the compote went very well with the pâté en croûte. I thought the pastry was a bit soggy though and the meat a little bland. The foie in the middle was a nice touch – I saved that for last!
Blai chose the mijotée tiêde de légumes de saison, aux raisins et aux amandes, tartine de poivrons confits (mixed seasonal vegetables with raisins and almonds and a tartine with pepper confit). The vegetables were all very well cooked, as one would expect from a restaurant whose main focus is on légumes. However, Blai thought it was all a little blah, a bit dull.
For our main course, we decided to order the dish for two – blettes et pommes de terre Grenaille en fricasée, côte de cochon rôtie et jambon de Bayonne (chard and bite-sized potato fricassee with roasted pork and Bayonne ham). I think we quite like ordering these dishes as if we’d been eating alone, we never would be able to try them! What arrived were two empty plates for us and a large casserole filled with the chard and potatoes topped with the pork and ham. The sauce was good but we got a little tired of it by the end – it was so red that I thought it looked like barbeque sauce at first. I liked the tenderness of the young chard and the potatoes were very tasty though some were veering on the side of rawness. But the roasted pork was dry and sometimes hard. I know this restaurant puts its focus on vegetables but if you’re going to serve meat, serve it well cooked!
Luckily, things picked up during dessert. I chose the rhubarbe en clafoutis, sorbet rhubarbe-basilic (rhubarb clafoutis with rhubarb-basil sorbet) while Blai chose the poires au caramel, crême de pralin et sorbet poire William (pears with caramel, praline cream and pear liquor sorbet). The tartness of the rhubarb went well with the sweet eggy batter and the basil sorbet kind of worked with the whole thing though I preferred to eat the two parts separately. Blai enjoyed his and I recall that the creme de pralin was quite unique, that familiar caramel and nut mixture but in a different texture.
Would I recommend the restaurant? Well, it’s hard to say as I wonder if we just ordered poorly. The desserts were innovative and if I was able to just order those, I would, but the execution of the main dish was not as I would expect for a restaurant with such a good reputation and with such a price tag (41€ for three course). Service was very professional and nothing of that could be faulted. The restaurant was absolutely packed that Sunday night and it looked like half were locals and half were tourists. I’d say that if I lived in Paris, I would give the place another chance but as my visits to Paris aren’t often, I’ll probably eat elsewhere the next time I visit.
Mon Vieil Ami
69 rue Saint Louis en l’Île
Reservations required. I booked about one week in advance for a Sunday night table. Many people tried to drop in on the day itself and all were turned away.