Dinner at Chartier

Picard butternut squash soup

These days, dinner is usually a romantic tete-a-tete of microwaved Picard meal-in-a-bag, eaten from the dining table that pulls out from under the desk in our room, while watching BBC World News.

However, beware of becoming too engrossed in whatever you’re doing in France (or anywhere in Europe, really) on a Sunday or holiday. Suddenly you find it’s 8 o’clock, your bijou of a bar fridge is empty, the few stores that were open are now shut, and open restaurants are very thin on the ground. Yet your stomach will not shut up.

Insert Chartier, a no-frills traditional French restaurant open 365 days a year. It looks like a Hollywood movie-version of a French restaurant, but this is the real deal. Opened in 1896, you can still see banks of little drawers scattered throughout the restaurant where the regulars kept their napkins.  Brass gleams, waiters bustle, bills are tabulated on the paper tablecloth. Service is brusque, but competent.

People queue outside the restaurant, as if waiting to enter a movie theatre. We were the 5 & 6th in line, and within 2 minutes there was a 30-person lineup. Once you get in, if your party is less than 4, you’ll be sharing a 4-person table with another couple or group of 3. The food is fine, just your usual meat-heavy French bistro standards; it’s the price & atmosphere (and operating hours) that appeals.

Here is a video I found from YouTube (commentary in French):

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