The art deco-inspired Bistro Volnay, situated between Opera Garnier and Madeleine, has been so successful that owners Delphine Alcover and Magali Marian have opened another, Les Jalles, at the end of the road. Popular with businessmen at lunch, Volnay's little dining room comes into its own in the evening. There are Parisians in their element, and tourists who seem a bit overwhelmed at having found the perfect bistro. And it does seem as if Volnay has everything to please: a welcoming dining room done out in big mirrors, glowing lamps and a gorgeous 1930s bar, smiling efficient waiters, a well-stocked cellar and a menu which beautifully manages the balance between nostalgic tradition and ambitious modernity.
We had a beautiful light start to the meal, with an almost translucent carpaccio of octopus with lemon and shavings of bright orange bottarga, and a pretty little celery rémoulade topped with haddock and fresh herbs. What followed was an absolute contrast, with big butch flavours: a rustic pie with pheasant and foie gras, enveloped in golden crunchy pastry and surrounded by an intense sauce, like something out of a medieval feast. Slightly less extravagant, but charming in a down-to-earth, Grandmother’s-recipe-book sort of way, was a saddle of rabbit with thyme, carrots and small bell onions.
On the dessert menu, you’ll find classics like crème caramel, Grand Marnier soufflé and tarte tatin. The chef has a weakness for these staples, but they are perfect versions – the crème caramel with a little touch of orange was exquisite, and reminds us why the old French recipes are always in fashion.
This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.