Pâté en croûte at Le Repaire de Cartouche
Though it has spent a long time out of fashion, the pâté en croute (a sort of gourmet pasty) has come back in full force in recent years, and the version at Le Repaire du Cartouche is formidable, with a thick crunchy crust, strongly-flavoured seasonal ingredients and a light refreshing jelly. It’s at its best in autumn, a mix of game and truffles. A good, solid bistro classic.
Pot-au-feu at La Gauloise
The ultimate in comforting stews, the best pot-au-feu is a cauldron of treasures: boiled beef and vegetables, ideally with a marrow-rich bone. Generous, full of flavour and unostentatious, at La Gauloise it’s served in its own little black casserole with bouillon, carefully-chosen meat from Aubrac and a pile of baby vegetables. With this dish, you’ll outlast the winter.
Onion soup at Brasserie Mollard
If Parisian nights turn blue, this is the dish to bring the colour back into your cheeks. The version at art nouveau-themed Brasserie Mollard comes without frills in its plain white bowl, thick, steaming, garnished with big croutons and covered in a pillowy layer of grated cheese that’s as comforting as a hug. Best for states of extreme hunger and/or nostalgia.
Beef entrecôte at La Pulpéria
If bistros had a muse, it would be the entrecôte. At La Pulpéria, it’s revisited by a talented Argentinean chef and takes on some of his fiery temperament as the ‘churrasco de pampas’, an arresting, magnificent, bloody steak served with rissole potatoes and herby, garlicky, spicy chimichurri.
Calf’s head at Ribouldingue
Famously the favourite dish of former President Jacques Chirac, it’s easy imagine the entire face of a baby cow arriving on your table with a flourish. Don’t worry, at Ribouldingue, famous for its offal, it comes rolled and fried, with the grilled brains and an exquisite sauce gribiche. So if you’re up for giving it a go, head here.
Veal blanquette at Jadis
The pearly whiteness of the butter sauce, lifted by lemon juice, gently enfolds carrots, Paris mushrooms and slow-cooked meat – all the secrets of a good veal blanquette. A lovely dish, a bourgeois extravagance that was served as a starter in the 18th century. At the end of the Second World War, blanquette with a side of white rice became a main dish. At Jadis, it’s made with the veal cheek, making it exceptionally tender.
Pheasant and foie gras pie at Bistro Volnay
Just the name alone is almost enough to sate an appetite. A royal dish that takes two of the most valued fowls in French gastronomy and put them together in a whole that’s crunchy, firm and fine all at the same time. The version at Bistro Volnay is beyond perfect.
Veal liver at Caméléon
A divisive dish in France, some think of veal liver as a buttery creation with the comfort of childhood, while other regard it with the same school-dinners-induced horror as they do beef tongue. Still, this is an unmissable delicacy. For a seriously high class version, head for Caméléon. The king of liver in Paris will never lose his crown, and for good reason: the liver, from Corrèze, is first glazed in wine vinegar before being served in a thick slice accompanied by a royal macaroni cheese.
Tentation de Saint-Antoine at Au Pied de Cochon
Enough to tempt even the most asetic of medieval monks, this legendary dish is as calorific as it is delicious. The pig snout is breaded and soft, the muscly tail fibrous and full of flavour, with crunchy ears and a tasty foot that needs to be patiently picked apart (it's got 32 little bones). It comes with chips and béarnaise sauce, which push the indulgence to extremes – there’s nothing catholic about this ‘temptation’, but we’re not saints.
Saddle of hare at Chez L'Ami Jean
It’s best not to think too hard about the rear end of the hare from which the ‘saddle’ is taken, and to just appreciate the flavour when it turns up on your plate. It’s easy enough at Chez L’Ami Jean, where this is the speciality, among other game. The recipe is constantly reinvented, and the dish cooked in all seasons and with all sauces. In winter, for example, it is prepared with hops, vanilla and a spike of cocoa.