There are around 40,000 restaurants in Paris. 40,000! There are great ones, horrible ones, and some that you’ll never forget. Why will I always remember this little bistro on the right bank that I just happened to come upon? Certainly the food and wine were perfect. And the service was attentive and friendly. But there were a few interesting backstories to restaurant Le Petit Choiseul that had me.
Passage de Choiseul, Paris (2e arrondissment)
As I wandered around the right bank in Paris on my last full day there recently, I came upon Passage de Choiseul, another one of Paris’ covered shopping malls that was built in the late 1800s. While not as luxurious as some of the other Covered Passages it does have the classic architecture of the time period and a large glass ceiling.
The Passage also has a restaurant near one of its main entrances on Rue Saint-Augustin called, “Le Petit Choiseul”. I did a quick Google search for reviews and overall, it looked good. As I entered, I put a smile on my face and used my most polite words (in French) to see if I could have lunch. You see, it was already 2:00 pm. The bar man said, “Oui”! I was in luck!
My Meal At Le Petit Choiseul
There were three wines to choose and I ordered some wine. A Bordeaux. The barman asked where I was from. I said Canada. He said something like, “You Canadians always order the same types of wines. Gascony wine is cheaper and better.” He said this in a friendly way and suggested I have the 2015 Java, Côte de Gascogne.
He told me the restaurant orders certain, unique wines not found elsewhere and they only offer 3 reds, 3 whites and a rosé, so I went with his suggestion. I ordered the 25cl pichet of Gascony wine (7E) and the special for the day(14E): Onglet de veau, gratin dauphinois, sauce perfume au pain grillé (veal with scalloped potatoes and gravy). Simple but delicious. Just like a home-cooked meal.
Learning More About Le Petit Choiseul
When I scanned the restaurant, it looked like locals favourited this place and some just hung out having a beer or coffee. I struck up a conversation with the bar man, named Vincent, who it turns out, was the cousin of the owner.
He said the menu is small, but this ensures there is high quality. Nothing is frozen….except the ice cream. This was good to hear as I have read stories about restaurants (around the world and especially Paris) using frozen meats and prepared dishes; hence, the sign on the chalkboard, “Ici tout est fait” (meaning: everything is made here).
I was told that the sign of a good restaurant is to check the toilet. Check the toilet? Yes. Vincent said if it’s clean, it’s a good sign about the cleanliness and quality of the restaurant. Ooooookay.
Le Petit Choiseul During World War II
Vincent told me that during World War II, the owner of the Le Petit Choiseul was a woman. For over 4 years during World War II, Paris was occupied by the Nazis (June 14, 1940-August 25, 1944) and the city was forced to change their clocks to Berlin time. There was ongoing rationing of food, fuel, and clothing. German soldiers often visited Paris when they were on leave and they were like tourists, where they were provided with guidebooks and they frequented cafes, cinemas, museums, brothels, and restaurants.
I’ve seen photos of German soldiers hanging out in outdoor cafes, at museums, like the Louvre, and on famous streets like the Champs Elysée. and it’s pretty eerie.
The restaurant was located in what was considered the safe zone of Paris, the 2nd arrondissement, during the German occupation. It’s amazing that it stayed open due to the food shortages during the war; however, it was frequented by German officers and because of this, they did not destroy or take the copper counter at the bar. Copper was used in the production of bullets and equipment for the war, so any available would be taken away. Today, the restaurant has the original furnishings (ie. the original copper counter) and a new copper counter would cost at least 10,000 Euros (about $15,000).
Making A Difference In Paris And The Environment With Composting
Written in chalk on the board outside there was an interesting message:
“Nous valorisons nos restes alimentaires en composts”
—-Le Petit Choiseul puts food scraps in the compost. The restaurant’s owner, Stéphan Martinez, began composting in 2013 and the waste is “transformed into biogas to produce energy” (quote from LesEchos). Martinez’ side business, Moulinot Compost, got 300 other businesses in on addressing the problem of organic waste and it has quickly become a great success.
So, for my last day in Paris I enjoyed a simple delicious lunch turned into a memorable experience. I’d definitely return—-for the food and more stories.
Le Petit Choiseul: 23 Rue Saint-Augustin, 75002 Paris