€18.50 Apparently restaurant Au Boeuf Couronné is the last bastion of old school meatiness in Paris' old meat quarter, La Villette. Go visit!
It's no secret that Paris has been enjoying the gourmification of the burger for a number of years. And while I made it my mission to visit Blend when in the French capital a month or two ago (the restaurant's cookbook is AWESOME), it's actually a far older establishment's burger I wanted to write about most...
By complete chance the hotel I was booked into on a work trip to Paris was up in La Villette - right opposite La Grande Halle de la Villette, a massive steel and glass structured music venue. However, the Grande Halle wasn't always a cultural centre, it used to be the Grande Halle aux Boeufs (Great Hall of Cattle) - an enormous slaughterhouse built in the 1860s to be the beating heart of Paris' meat industry. La Villette, apparently used to have the somewhat gruesome nickname, la Cité du Sang (city of blood).
Until 1974, the area used to be awash with butchers and restaurants that made the most of being so close to the main supply of fresh meat, particularly beef, in the city. Why am I telling you this? Because one of those old meat-specialist Parisian restaurants remains steadfastly in business, and it just happened to be about three doors down the road from my hotel. Naturally, I had to check it out!
You enter Au Boeuf Couronné through a wooden revolving door off Avenue Jean Jaurès (slap bang opposite La Parc de la Villette / La Grande Halle) and the interior of the place is wonderful - untouched for about 100 years with high ceilings and an impressive sense of spaciousness with leather banquettes and leather chairs. It's quite grand yet somehow feels informal and relaxed.
The menu has nearly a dozen different cuts and sizes of beef - there's a pavé des mandataires steak (300g), "Chateaubriand des bidochards for two" (700g) and an enormous rib roast to share (1.2kg). These meaty delights are all served with fluffy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside roast potatoes and if you want to explore more traditional meaty offerings then the more adventurous among you might order "old-style French" veal's head, or a whole grilled veal kidney. Oof!
I scanned the menu hungrily not really expecting to find a burger but lo and behold, there it was: a signature burger with "farmers brie de meaux". I ordered it and happily awaited its arrival whilst helping myself to the crusty bread, salty yellow butter and smoked salmon pâté that arrived at the table almost as soon as we had been seated.
Then the burger arrived. Oh mama, it really was the real deal. Not so much a patty of beef mince as a chopped steak of distinction, it sat on a slice of beefsteak tomato and shredded lettuce in a super light, perfectly toasted seeded bun.
The brie was melted on top of the thick, perfectly à point patty with crispy fried onions scattered all over. The inside of the bun had been spread with caramelised onions. It was, for me, an absolutely flawless French take on a cheeseburger. After taking a few pics, I inhaled it in about a minute. SO GOOD!
Yes, this place is a trek from the centre of town but it's well worth a visit for a steak, a duck breast or one of these deceptively simple but mega-awesome burgers. The deserts are pretty damn special (I mean indulgent) too. I had a warm apple tart served with vanilla ice cream and salted-butter caramel. I can see myself making a weekend out of a second visit in the not too distant future.
Au Boeuf Couronne
188 avenue Jean Jaurès
Open seven days a week:
12noon - 3pm / 7pm - 12midnight
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 39 44 44