'You don't become a legend by accident' boasts Bouillon Chartier on their website. Certainly, the two brothers who founded the place in 1896 – heads held high and collars starched – pulled off something special. Today, the site in a former railway station expresses all the charm of Paris at its Belle Epoque best, all high ceilings, enormous mirrors and twinkling lamps.
Classic or cliché? The uniformed waiters scurry around, your neighbour at the next table will probably try to engage you in conversation, and American couples loudly discuss the merits of their saucission ardéchois. Everything required for the 'typical' Parisian brasserie is here, making it the sort of place you go to cheer yourself up and feel part of another world, a process in which the clichés are strangely important. Of course, you don't need the spirit of Joséphine Baker to dispatch a rump steak with peppercorn sauce and chips (€11.50), but all the same, the cheap glass of Bordeaux (€2.50) tastes a lot better, here in the jolly art deco brouhaha, than it would anywhere else.
The menu is vast and covers everything you could ever want from a Parisian brasserie: snails (€6), oeuf mayonnaise (a slightly unbelievable €2.50), sweet pepper salad (€5), andouillette with mustard (€11) and several types of steak frites. The affordable prices and friendly service convinced us in the end to upgrade Bouillon Chartier from an amusing, clichéd spectacle to our new regular hangout.