Boullion Chartier is an institution, 120 years old this year, and still going strong today.
Its website boasts “a restaurant doesn’t become a legend by accident, and it certainly can’t stay that way by resting on its laurels”.
In fact the home page of the website is a succession of bragging rights, it seems, and in retrospect I am glad I did not read it before heading over (though perhaps I might have tried their “famous home-made Chantilly cream” rather than the slightly harsh baba au rhum I actually had).
I had an altogether different impression of Chartier, which I am sticking to my guns as being more accurate. Forget boasting about high quality unique french food, Chartier simply is not that, but that is OK because it is unique in another way.
The charm of Chartier does not lie fully in its food, in fact for the most part it lies in its history.
The dining room is a relic of a past Paris, the huge Belle Epoque style room was designed for the working class and as such the walls are lined with dark wood sideboards with overhead brackets, where, one imagines, was the place they kept their bags whilst they had a quick meal.
These days Chartier looks more flash than your average Joe’ but decent food cheap, at cheap prices with no frills was its original mission. But of course no frills in the 19th century is somewhat different from no frills in 2016 and the antiquated atmosphere is now rather quaint and altogether fascinating.
Whatever the website claims, the service can be pretty awful.
The waiters are used to tourists and it is more than likely that a paper menu will get shoved in your face with a vague indication of which is the fish and what wine they are highlighting at the moment.
Honestly we just ignored this, persevered and ordered our food which was terrine de campagne (€3.50) for myself and avocado with prawns and cocktail sauce (€3.50) for my friend to start, followed by steak and chips with pepper sauce (€9.70) and duck confit (€9.50), washed down with a medium sized carafe of white wine (€6).
In all cases the food arrived swiftly and was perfectly fine. Nothing extraordinary but not exactly worthy of faulting. The avocado was thankfully ripe, the terrine not too dry, the duck tender and the steak cooked well. A very standard representation of French food.
The dessert however I feel let it down. We ordered the sorbet of the day (€3.50) and the baba au rhum. The blackberry sorbet was good, albeit it a little bitter but the baba au rhum is best avoided. Not so much because of the baba but the most probably cheap rum it is swimming in.
There are no reservations, so at peak periods expect a queue, but don’t be put off by this as it moves quickly. Also it is likely that you will end up sharing a table with other people so don’t be shy. And don’t forget to enjoy the room.
By Olivia Thiessen
Address: 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris
Metro: M8, M9, Grands Boulevards
Phone: 01 47 70 86 29
Open: 11.30 to 24.00 daily (365 days a year)