Travel

Pauline Lemaire: My Top 5 ‘bouillons’ in Paris for the authentic French dining experience

My international friends were visiting last weekend and asked me to take them to a typical French restaurant. I didn’t have to think for more than a second! A Parisian bouillon it would be. With plates spinning at breakneck speed, waiters running across the place and unbeatable prices, these restaurants are mythical.

The food is delicious, and it costs around 20 euros per person for starters, a main, dessert and wine. Yes, 20 euros. In Paris. This isn’t a typo.

The menu is typically French; bœuf bourguignon, snails, profiterole ….

A bit of history

Grabbing a meal at a bouillon is a typical Parisian tradition that dates back to the 1860s. Pierre-Louis Duval created the concept. He was a renowned Parisian butcher with a wealthy clientele that was not very interested in the bas morceaux, i.e. the less noble parts of animals.

To limit his losses and increase his profits, he decided to offer them to a less upscale clientele: workers and labourers. He thus came up with the idea of creating a place where the workers of the old Les Halles market could enjoy a hot meal at a very cheap price, namely, a meat broth – bouillon in
French.

The Chartier brothers – Frédéric et Camille – get credit for creating the most lavish bouillons, which are still thriving.

Le Bouillon Julien

16, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010

Edith Piaf’s favorite restaurant. Is this enough of a description? No? Just head there, I promise you won’t regret it; Piaf said she didn’t. If you don’t get the reference you need to brush up on your French culture, pal. Julien is so beautifully decorated that it’s worth going even if you’re not hungry. Most importantly, the food is mouthwatering. Whatever you order, it can’t go wrong.

Le Bouillon Julien is open every day from 11:45 a.m. until midnight
Bouillon-julien.com
Phone 01 47 70 12 06

Le Bouillon Chartier

Three locations:

5 rue du 8 mai 1945 75010 Paris

• 7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009 Paris

• 59, boulevard du Montparnasse 75006 Paris

It is difficult to make a selection of the best bouillons in Paris without mentioning Chartier, founded by the Chartier brothers. Here, it is estimated that more than 50 million meals have been served since the institution was founded in 1896. You will be able to enjoy all the most emblematic dishes of French culture.

Brace yourself for the queue, although it is truly part of the experience. The legend says that if you grab a meal there without queueing the food doesn’t taste as good.

Bouillon Chartier is open every day from 11:45 a.m. until midnight
Continuous service without reservation

Le Petit Bouillon Pharamond

24 Rue de la Grande Truanderie, 75001 Paris

Although it was recently turned into a bouillon, the menu plays the tune of historic bouillons such as the Bouillon Chartier Grands Boulevard or the Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse, and of course, includes œufs mayonnaise and a range of typical french meals. A must-go!

Le Petit Bouillon Pharamond is open every day from midday till midnight.

Le Bouillon Racine

3 Rue Racine, 75006 Paris

Once again, an Art Nouveau style brasserie created in 1906 by the Chartier brothers.This Bouillon is a listed historic building and is frankly my favourite out of this list. The menu is quite elaborate, and the flavours are skillfully combined. Special shoutout to the tomato and pineapple carpaccio with pesto burrata.

It’s open from noon until 11 p.m. every day.

(Editor’s note: The website is down as of 12 August 2022.)

Bouillon 47

47 Rue Marguerite de Rochechouart, 75009 Paris

If you like typical French food but you’re looking for a little twist, this place is for you. It’s a modernised version of the food that bouillons serve, and the price reflects this, although it does remain affordable. Unlike the other Bouillons, the service is not continuous, and it is recommended that you book a reservation before coming. Chef Rémi Lazurowicz is truly passionate.

It’s open from noon to 2 p.m., and 7:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s open noon to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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See more of Pauline’s recommendations here.

See more about Paris here.

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Pauline Lemaire is a Digital Anthropology Masters student at University College London (UCL) and is thus currently based in London. She grew up in Singapore and Morocco, but her family has now relocated to Paris.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in French Literature and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

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