There are some who will tell you that Paris’s best-kept secret is out. That L'Ami Louis is now clogged with British and American tourists driving the locals out and the prices up. While it’s true that pidgin French will be answered in masterful anglais, the buzzing French chatter you'll hear around you and the popularity of the post-10pm sitting indicate this is a corner of Paris the French aren’t ready to give up just yet.
The restaurant’s appearance is far less grand than its prices would suggest. The exterior is a Parisian classic - dark wood and high, chequered curtains to keep the peeping toms at bay. Inside - if you manage to beat the crowd and get a table - the long, narrow dining room is in a constant state of flux. Tables shift around like a game of Tetris - as couples depart the table arrangement may well morph without warning to accommodate a larger party, then reconfigure later to give a fresh pair of lovers a bit of privacy.
Garlic escargots on the shell were pleasantly pungent, and a slab of perfectly smooth foie gras was served with towers of pain doré. The pâte was as rich as my neighbouring diner, who appeared to have brought along his own gilded napkin chain in anticipation of a feast.
I would have been wise to follow his lead for my main of wild duck accompanied by pommes frites – the only skinny thing in the building. The meat was heady and rich but gained a lightness thanks to the accompanying roasted apple. Beef on my neighbour's table, meanwhile, looked so rare it might bolt for the door at any moment. The congenial atmosphere encouraged him to share his verdict on it: ‘Magnifique’. My sentiments exactly.