La Bastide Odéon
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Serving a hearty Basque-influenced menu in the middle of Saint-Germain, La Bastide Odéon is a real find – while not a super high-end gourmet experience, for the area it's stunning value and makes a great destination for families and down-to-earth diners. The dining room, done out in warm terracotta tones, is split over two levels – upstairs is more polished wood and heavy drapes, downstairs more cream paint and clean lines. The lunch and dinner menus are organised as set formules (€19.90/€26.50 at lunch, €30/€37 at dinner for two or three courses), so it's easier to keep your spend down while still enjoying the upmarket atmosphere and cooking.
We visited for dinner – the downstairs dining room was almost empty when we sat down at 8pm, heaving when we left, with a clientele of mostly well-heeled couples speaking all sorts of languages – the phlegmatic staff are clearly adept at handling the tourist trade. A starter of purple and green artichoke hearts with olives and speck was an honest, generous bowl of clean flavours, while a plate of frog's legs was all juicy white meat and crisp skin tasting mostly of garlic butter and black pepper, exactly how you want it. What mains lacked in finesse they made up for in their vast size. There were four fat pink lamb chops with a heap of roasted parsnips and a giant tomato, not very exciting in itself but stuffed with a punchily-spiced mix of winter vegetables, and a plate of scallops on a bed of Sardinian fregula, a couscous-like pasta that worked well with the seafood sauce. We shared a dessert – vanilla millefeuille – which while on the dry side was notable for the drama of its volume, at least 15 inches high.
All in all, a satisfying, solid experience of a seasonal menu, in a comfortable venue that feeds you well without leaving you bankrupt – keep it in mind for when you're hungry in the neighbourhood.