So this was probably the most insipid restaurant meal I have eaten in Paris in 32 years. Yes, that’s saying something. I walk past the 6th arrondissement Chardenoux des Pres almost every day on my way to work, and have eagerly watched its transformation from a tired old bistro into a chic, must-go-to restaurant run by TV star chef Cyril Lignac. OK, I am not kidding. Our lunch trio waited 20 minutes for someone to notice us and take our order. Our wine came, a few drops were poured into my glass for approval, and then the bottle was set on the table as the waitperson disappeared, on to better things. We were happy to pour our own. Every dish was a disaster, void of taste, texture, personality. No one ate more than two or three bites of each, it was that bad. I have never eaten Picard prepared frozen food, but I have a feeling that the Picard food across the street on Rue du Dragon may be more delicious. A bowl of girolles tasted as though the mushrooms had sat in water for days, and yet they were still gritty. Peas and broccoli were on the menu in August. Perhaps the most dishonest of all was a dish billed as chipirons – now rare baby squid from the Atlantic – which certainly seemed to be the less desirable cuttlefish, cut into rubbery French-fry-like strands (photo). Overcooked and limp ravioles of langoustines had that 1980’s nouvelle cuisine sauce that, sorry, tasted canned. Wonder of wonders, the chic, well-heeled crowd seemed oblivious to the disaster, and ate on with abandon. The local Le Monde newspaper vendor -- always the comedien -- came in shouting this headline: "DSK fathered the maid's son!" Need I say more? Run, don’t walk away from this place!
LE CHARDENOUX DES PRES, 27, rue du Dragon, Paris 6. Telephone : 01 45 48 29 68. Métro: Saint Germain des Prés, Saint Sulpice, Mabillon, Sevres-Babylone. Open daily. 25-euro lunch menu. A la carte, 45 to 60 euros, not including beverages.