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It’s easy to walk past this sombre-looking Iraqi restaurant on the Rue des Gravaillers. But the small dining room inside is often packed, because it’s a well-loved favourite of locals and the few tourists that stumble across it when looking for some of the trendier bars in the area. We’ll be honest: there’s nothing fancy here. But a three-course prix fixe menu will give you a whistle-stop tour of the flavours of Iraqi cuisine for only €17, with more than enough food to leave you satisfied.
The starter is a plate of meza served with flat bread, which includes salad, melon, couscous, houmous and fava beans in a tangy sauce. It’s all fairly ordinary, but exactly the kind of dish to open your appetite. For the main, we took the poached fish over sumac, which was lightly-spiced and melt-in-the-mouth delicate, and the maglouba. The maglouba came highly recommended, and although beautifully presented, the contrasting flavours of sweet candied orange and different tender meats were just a bit too strange for our palates.
The main idiosyncrasy of this restaurant is that one man, the owner, does everything. He welcomes you, seats you, explains the menu to you, offers his own recommendations, and then disappears into the kitchen to cook. As a result, service isn’t quick or attentive, as he’s in the kitchen half the time. But if you’re not fussed about having a waiter at your elbow every few minutes and you’re looking for a simple and filling meal, then you can’t go wrong with L’Aigre-Doux. Sure, the place could improve with a good clean and some fresher ingredients, but the gracious host seems truly chuffed to share his local cuisine with you, and – if you can pin him down out of the kitchen – will more than happily talk to you about his native country. It’s a calm, unpretentious place to add to your list of places to try, and the atmosphere is so homely that you’ll probably find yourself staying long after you’ve finished eating.