Luke le Heup, the owner of Bistrot du 1er, was very impressed by our capacity to take so many pictures of food in such a limited time! How can he not be? I was having lunch with a Japanese friend and a French friend living in Japan!
The truth is we were quite impressed by the quality of the food and the variety of the menu. The place is quite charming and the façade is authentic from 1820, made of wooden panels. If you see the picture in black and white you could easily believe it was taken in 1900 or before. The signs and the name of the restaurant are written as it was the Belle-époque.
Bistro du 1er, located in the 1st arrondissement near the Halles and le Châtelet, has a real Bistro flavor. The menu and the décor; the bar, the chairs, the red lights, the wooden floor, everything transports you to the atmosphere of a real bistro.
And now you want to know what’s the difference between a bistro and a restaurant, right?
Well, I heard from a guide in Paris that the term “bistro” derives from Russian “Bistra”, which means quickly. Long ago, Russian soldiers when in Paris ordered food saying “bistra bistra” because they wanted their meal or drink quickly.
A bistro as we see it now is a small and more intimate establishment like a café but that serves meals as well. The menu is limited and they stay open longer than a restaurant. You can also go to a bistro and have coffee or a glass of wine.
A true Restaurant will have set opening hours for lunch and dinner and usually you go there to eat. It’s a bit more formal.
Another term very often used here in France and especially in Paris is “Brasserie”. A brasserie will be open long hours, and have a large choice of menu, quite traditional and unchangeable. Meals will be served all day, from morning croissant and coffee to late dinner. It’s usually more spacious and you can also stop by to have a cup of coffee or a glass of beer or wine.
The owner of Bistrot du 1er is from the South of France, with parents from Wales, which explains his English accent when speaking English and southern accent when speaking French. The influence of the Southwest is obvious in the cuisine.
On the menu you can find very traditional words like rillettes, boudin, pot au feu, joue de veau, cochon de lait, but everything is prepared with innovation and originality. This is what I liked most about the bistro: authentic French cuisine but cooked and presented with novelty and creativity.
We ordered razor clams and pot au feu snacké for the appetizer. When the razor clams are cooked too much, they are chewy and not tasty at all. Here they were cooked to perfection. They were a little bit gritty though. The pot au feu was presented like a pie with a crisp filo crust and a slice of pickled pear. It was really surprising and delicious.
For the entrée, I had the Cochon de lait (baby pig) with a stew of peas and a variety of cabbage. It was nicely presented in a small pan. My friend ordered the Joue de veau (Veal chick) with artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke. It came in an individual casserole. It looked so nice!
Both the veal and the pork were absolutely succulent and falling apart; they melted in your mouth – very very tasty.
The portions were quite big so we didn’t have any more space for dessert but we still wanted to finish on a sweet note. We ordered a stewed quince with pomegranate and whipped cream with three spoons. It was light and refreshing, exactly what we needed to end this perfect lunch.
I can only highly recommend Bistot du 1er; great food and atmosphere. The service is pleasant which is always a big plus for Paris!
Prices are reasonable: Menu appetizer + entrée or entrée + dessert for 24€ – 3 coarse menu for 29€.
Bistrot du 1er
95 Rue St Honoré, 75001 Paris
Tel: 01 40 28 02 62