We went to Le Repaire de Cartouche to drink, but we ate surprisingly well.
Not to mention copiously: The sablé de poire I ordered for dessert was so unnecessary, so belt-bustingly silly, that when I finished it (and yes, I finished it, because it was tender and buttery and generally delicious) I was no longer thinking clearly. Maybe this is what I get for mistaking my belly for my brain. It happens sometimes.
Then again, it could have been the wine. Le Repaire de Cartouche has a wonderful wine list, and this was actually the reason behind the reservation. My friend Sharon was entertaining some visiting oenophiles and was relishing the opportunity that a table of seven presents; that is, the opportunity to order multiple bottles. A magnum of 2005 Cour-Cheverny, “Les Acacias”, from Villemade was followed by a 2001 Grange des Pères Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, which was followed by a 2001 Cornas “Reynard” from Allemand. (Read Sharon’s write up of these wines here.)
These formidable reds were fantastic with my daube de sanglier, wild boar slowly cooked in Pic St. Loup, tender meat punctuated with what I thought were olives but were actually grapes. Another pleasant surprise.
Fungi popped up all over the menu like they do on the forest floor. Tiny mousserons were piled atop a tender veal loin. Minced champignons in mustard and cream sauced a venison chop. Fresh porcini, or cèpes, abounded: A roasted pheasant breast was handily upstaged by the mix of diced cèpes and cabbage that accompanied it. A fricassée of cèpes started off someone’s meal. My own starter was an earthy crème de cèpes, smooth and fragrant, poured over more sliced cèpes, cubes of foie gras, and croutons.
An address with a history (it was the repair, or hideout of the criminal Cartouche in the 18th century), the restaurant has been run since 1997 by chef Rodolphe Paquin. It’s the kind of place, I think, that could easily slip into that worst category of restaurant: Touristy, mediocre and overpriced. Truthfully it is a little expensive (mains from high teens to upper twenties), and the charming, wood panelled, old-feeling space will definitely please out-of-towners. But there is a thoughtfulness and generosity in the cooking that keeps it far from mediocre, and a dining room full of regulars who would probably agree.
Those who don’t agree can ease their disappointment with a good bottle of wine.
Le Repaire de Cartouche 8 boulevard Filles du Calvaire or 99 rue Amelot, 75011 Paris, +33 (0)1 47 00 25 86