Auberge de la Bonne Franquette
2 Rue des Saules
75018 Paris, France
01 42 52 02 42
Review by Secrets of Paris Correspondent Bryan Pirolli
The French are very keen on using just about every part of the pig possible, as I experienced during five pork-inspired courses at La Bonne Franquette this past Thursday as we celebrated the Beaujolais Nouveau. I took a swig of wine before bringing the fork to my lips. Pig foot did not taste anything like I imagined the interior of a hoof would but I’m happy to know now that a pig’s foot contains so much edible material. Heather finished her hoof before venturing to ask what it was – wiser than I.
While pig parts are fun to explore, the wine was the evening’s main attraction. Every November the first bottles of Beaujolais wine start to flow as Parisians celebrate with near Bacchus-style consumption all over the city. Montmartre was no exception as the owners of La Bonne Franquette on rue Saint Rustique, rolled out its selections of the new wine in their historic restaurant.
Montmartre, the nineteenth century home to artists and singers (think Moulin Rogue with Ewan McGregor) is a postcard backdrop for a wine setting. The neighborhood is even home to the last vineyard within Paris and is adored for its scenic views and its bohemian history. La Bonne Franquette is part of this history, where the creative minds of French culture from Picasso to Charles Aznavour have chinned glasses. Van Gogh even painted in the garden in 1886 – check it out at the Musée d’Orsay.
No amount of name dropping, however, can convince a true traveler of the merits of a restaurant. I don’t care if Lady Gaga ate there. If the food is bad, there is little that can save the experience. So instead of hyping up their history, the restaurant's director Patrick Fracheboud and his wife wasted no time filling glasses and mouths with their hand-picked Beaujolais wine and charcuteries. Madame Fracheboud described their interested in the slow food movement and how the couple travels all over France to find the best smoked meats and wines as I sampled a pistachio-studded sausage. They prefer simple, local, quality ingredients over fancy cooking – a practical choice for a restaurant with over two hundred covers.
The dinner that followed was no exception. We were all a little surprised to indulge in no less than five courses devoted to all things pork – head, blood, etc. Several different Beaujolais wines were loaded on the table to give courage to those of us who had never tried pig head before. Fortunately the fresh fruity wine also tasted exceptional for such a young wine. Monsieur Fracheboud sat next to me and explained the different dishes while reminiscing together about New York and reveling in the tender mushrooms served with the pork filet.
The food, all of which is available à la carte, was hearty, simple, and a notch up from other Montmartre restaurants catering to a purely touristy clientele – where you can get away with almost anything at any price. French cuisine has an antiquated reputation for being snobby and unattainable for the masses, but at the heart these traditional dishes are the backbones (sometimes literally) of French cooking. Interestingly La Bonne Franquette offers well-prepared, quality products that shine in a somewhat cliché but playfully and unapologetically kitsch environment.
La Bonne Franquette aims to seduce a French crowd with their authentic French cuisine in hopes that they will in turn suggest it to their foreign friends and audiences. A troupe of accordion players shuffled around the room, driving this authentic experience home, just in case you forgot you were in France.
After a few more glasses of Beaujolais and a little tart berry sorbet to finish off the meal, I was just that much happier not to have class the next morning. It’s refreshing that in country renown for its time-consuming bureaucracy and it’s willingness to wait in the grocery line while customers count out their pennies, they willingly consume the first wine of the year while many others are still aging to full potential in a barrel in a cellar. When it comes to wine, there’s just no patience, but I have absolutely no problem with that!
Celebrate some Beaujolais Nouveau from now through early next year. No need to put a bottle of it away for later – it’s best drunk ASAP.