He leaned over from his barstool and whispered in my ear "This is the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Maybe even in all of Paris."
This week I landed in Paris for 24 hours - one hour for a work meeting, the remaining hours for exploring.
While I returned to some of my old favorite stomping grounds, the reality is that I haven’t lived in Paris for nine years (le sigh) and needed to scope out some new spots.
I took a French class this past Fall to brush up on my Francais and my teacher recommended Les Cocottes. She also suggested it to two of my friends who recently went and raved about it.
Tuesday afternoon I wrapped up my meeting, said “Au Revoir” to my colleagues, and ventured to the 7th Arrondissement. Although the area is home to some of Paris’ most famous landmarks (Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Hotel des Invalides), it exudes a neighborhood/village vibe.
I made my way passed Champs de Mars, down Rue Saint Dominique, and found myself in front of Les Cocottes. I had heard rumors of the no reservations policy/long waits, but by my 1:15 arrival, I was seated right away at the bar, which actually seemed to be the prized restaurant real estate.
While some classic Parisian restaurants hold on to an infamously traditional look and feel, it was a pleasant surprise to see how a restaurant could segue into a modern era. Les Cocottes has created a comfortable, yet casual ambiance that feels like 2014, while still maintaing and serving classic, melt in your mouth, what-you-come-to-Paris-for French food.
I started with the Foie Gras (I think the salad dressing was made of crack because never in my life have I wanted to eat more plain lettuce).
Followed by Pavé de cabillaud demi-sel, ragout de pommes de terre et carottes (Cod, potatoes, and carrots).
I don’t even like carrots, but…..wow.
There are simply no words.
I only wish you could smell this photo.
As I paid for the meal and savored my last few sips of wine, an older gentleman entered the restaurant, was greeted by the staff as if he was everyone’s best friend, and sat next to me at the bar.
Monsieur obviously took pride in his appearance and the result was immaculate - tortoise shell glasses, a silk tie, and a silver napkin holder were sartorial perfection, reminiscent of another time.
He asked me if I was enjoying my wine. I replied “mais, bien sur” and that even though it was my first meal at Les Cocottes, it hoped it wouldn’t be my last.
Jean Servot proceeded to tell me that he dines here every week, always ordering something different. He confided that he’s lived in the arrondissement since the 1930’s and then he leans over on his barstool and whispers in my ear "This is the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Maybe even in all of Paris."
The next thirty minutes were spent discussing life, love, France, and the United States (his favorite state is Colorado). Although we spoke only in French, he asked me where I was from originally and was shocked to learn the answer was America. He assumed, based on my accent, that I hailed from Australia or Great Britain. This was no news to me since I was placed in the Aussie/UK group instead of the American group during my “Accent Class” at The Sorbonne. I’m still trying to figure out that riddle….
Finally, it was time for me to go. I told Jean that it was an absolute pleasure to meet him. His response was much more charming.
"Today, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande will meet, but I consider myself to be infinitely more lucky to have had this meeting with you.”
Even the waitresses swooned.
We exchanged cards and said “Until next time”, not “goodbye”.