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In the Latin Quarter, down the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg, this quaint little bistro is a safe bet for lunch or dinner in an otherwise touristy neighbourhood. It has a playful yet old-world ambiance, with colourful mosaic floors, wooden curios and a zinc bar. The 38 tables crammed between the bar and a wall of wine are filled with English-speakers early on in the evening, but that doesn’t detract overly from the experience.
Unpretentious, jean and T-shirt-clad servers rattle off the menu, then invite you to choose your bottle of wine from the wall. Wine aficionados will have a field day; wine amateurs, ask for help. A €7 corkage fee is applied to each bottle. Then the food comes in four steady courses, including cheese and dessert, with no choices and no variations. Since the menu changes every day, it’s best to check if your dining partner is finicky, but expect seasonal tastes like carrot soup poured over crispy bacon and sour cream, cod with capers in a sizzling hot copper dish, and salted caramel and poached pear panna cotta.
Reserve a seat if possible, but early diners popping in at 7pm might be able to snag a table. If you have a reservation, sit back and relax. There’s no rush to get through your food and no pressure to turn tables. It gets crowded and the noise level picks up, but it’s all part of the fun. Once the bill comes, €33 per person plus about €30-€40 for wine makes for a reasonably affordable evening.
Doubling as a wine shop, Les Papilles sells their bottles, with more reds than whites, but also a selection of snack food to go with your chosen vintage. Fatty rillettes, aged sausages, or meaty terrines slathered on a crisp baguette are the perfect company for a hearty glass of red.