Anyone in the mood for classic Parisian bistro fare should reserve a table at the ultra-traditional and purely authentic Chez René set on a sunny corner along Boulevard Saint Germain in the 5th arrondissement. This has been a favorite haunt for decades, with copious portions of excellent preserved duck leg (confit de canard), whole beef kidneys (rongon de veau), and classic Burgundian beef stew (boeuf Bourguignon). The fries are hot and crispy, and taste of real potatoes. The cheese comes from Madame Quatrehomme, so you know that the warm goat cheese salad (chèvre chaud) will be first rate, with the greens a superb blend of lamb’s lettuce (mache) and arugula (roquette). In winter months there is a terrific starter, a gratin of blettes (Swiss chard), a recipe that uses the wilted leaves as well as the chopped stems, tossed with a flavorful Bechamel and topped with plenty of beautifully gratinéed Gruyère cheese. On my last visit, the famed saucisson de Lyon chaud pistaché left me a bit disappointed: the potatoes were lukewarn and rather tasteless, while the slices of pork sausage were dry and ordinary. But I’ll keep coming back, for the service is thoroughly professional and décor right out of central casting: regular male diners feasting all on their own, newspaper in hand and napkins tucked beneath the chin. The walls are filled with classic art show posters dating from the 1940’s. Woody Allen would be right at home here!
CHEZ RENE, 14 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 5. Tel: +33 1 43 54 30 23 Métro: Maubert-Mutualité. Open: Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday-Monday, 10 days at Christmas, & August.Lunch and Dinner: A la carte 40-55€