Le Comptoir du Relais, Paris

I’ve just returned from Paris. Paris is awesome. I’m sure you are all already amongst the lovers of this city. How can you not like a city filled with sunshine, macarons, French, literature and art? It’s just too lovely. We stayed in an apartment in the Marais district. I’d only been to the district once before, to visit the Picasso museum but my friend J was already a convert. Our apartment was tiny and on the top floor (five very long flights of tiny, windy stairs -“think of the baguettes” motivation was needed to reach the top) but it had everything we needed.

Just down the street was the Pompidou Centre and we were 10 minutes from Notre Dame. Much of our time was spent wandering vaguely, although we did take in the Rodin Museum, the Musee Carnavalet and St Sulpice but actually, it was so nice to be in a place without a schedule. “Let’s get coffee from that place on the corner”, “let’s walk down to St Germain”, “let’s find somewhere to eat” were all phrases that got used this weekend.

The only ‘guide book’ we had was Bon Appetit’s May 2012 issue which had a section on places to eat in Paris. We tried two places from their pages: Frenchie and Le Comptoir. I’ll talk about Frenchie in another post soon but for today I thought I’d tell you about Le Comptoir.

Le Comptoir is in the St Germain, just off the boulevard and is attached to the Hotel Relais St Germain. Advice was to go either super early or late (after 2.30pm). We arrived at about 2.45pm and queued for half an hour for a table. We sat outside, thanks must be given to B who sat on the sunny side and was therefore at least 5 degrees hotter than me and J (and it was insanely hot and sunny). The menu is intense – there is so much on offer that it’s hard to make choices. We already knew we were going to order at least 2 courses because let’s be honest, we’d sought this place out to eat really good food. I became an annoying photography person for some parts of the meal which I normally wouldn’t do but I wanted to show you some of the highlights.

For starters I ordered the pea, feta and mint tartlet whilst the others ordered gazpacho and foie gras salad. My tartlet was fantastic, easily the best thing I ate in Paris all weekend. It tasted like summer – the tiny peas marrying perfectly with the feta and mint, it was held together with a light aspic (I’m guessing here), the pastry crumbling beneath my fork.

For mains we asked the waiter for recommendations: a chicken supreme served with broad beans, pork with lentils and for me, lamb shank with couscous. I ate the lamb with a spoon – that’s how soft it was. The couscous soaked up the juices and the dried fruits (raisins, apricots, prunes) added a hint of sweetness. The pork was fantastic – the salty meat playing against the earthy lentils, the texture excellent. The chicken dish was light and more appropriate for the summer heat than the other too, the broad beans and spinach puree adding a welcome texture.

We split dessert, a chocolate mousse, light, creamy, bitter, interrupted by sour rhubarb jelly. I’m not a fan of rhubarb but in this dessert I may be persuaded to it’s uses. The cacao crumble was dark and bitter. We people watched and chatted – the restaurant is on a busy street and there is plenty happening all the time. The queue finally ebbed off at about 4.30pm and we finally finished up at around 5.30pm. It was a fabulous way to spend the late afternoon. I’d like to visit again, to order the pea tartlet and to try other things off the very extensive menu.