Le Comptoir

Lunch can be a wonderfully long, drawn out affair in Paris, especially if an Englishman sits down at your table and orders a bottle of champagne.

"Where are you going to put that photo?" he asked, fiddling with his cell phone.

"On the internet."

He shrugged it off. This was no shrinking violet. It wouldn't pay to be at Le Comptoir, where the teeny cafe tables in this tiny place are set so close they're literally touching. Time to get to know your neighbors.

Here was our neighbor on one side.

And our neighbor on the other.

It's a very friendly place, especially after you've had half a bottle of champagne. And the café seating is great for people watching.

But onto the food. That's why we're here, right? There are lots of comptoirs in Paris - the name refers to the bar in a café - but this is the Comptoir, the renowned gastro brasserie run by chef Yves Camdeborde, who is to Paris what April Bloomfield is to New York.

The close proximity of other people's food makes it easy to order dim-sum style by pointing and saying "I'll have what she's having." So it was with the salad with foie gras, recommended by Monsieur the Englishman's previous female dining companion, who had to leave while he lingered, killing time before the next train to a certain town in the French countryside.

"I must be as old as your father." He sounded vaguely surprised by this fact.

"How old are you?"


"Nope. My father's sixty-two."


Why have just a salad when you can have a salad topped with foie gras and sprinkled with bacon? That was my reasoning and a line of logic that worked well at Le Comptoir. When ordering here, go for the gutsiest food you can find. The buttery texture and rich taste of Le Comptoir's foie gras was mitigated by the crunch of green beans and lettuce, though admittedly these were dressed with something creamy. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Don't ask.

The daily special lasts all the way through the fancier dinner seating that begins at six, so it is a good bet to order this if you want to taste Camdeborde's finest. That day's special was tranche de gigot, sliced lamb leg, cooked medium-rare and infused with intense flavors of roasted garlic and fresh herbs, elements that appear in an accompanying sauce slick with lamb fat. As with the salad, don't bemoan the fat: it is the conduit for all the excellent flavor at Le Comptoir.

By the time lunch drew to a close, the afternoon was nearly at an end. Though Yves Camdeborde's restaurant, like the Spotted Pig, is insanely popular, it's great for procrastinators who show up for lunch at 3pm. Not only are you more likely to get a table, you'll actually be able to eat lunch when most of the cafés in Paris have stopped serving it.

Monsieur the Englishman scribbled down several numbers of various homes and left for the train, waving as he pulled his wheely bag towards the taxi stand.

Now the only thing left to do was get ready for dinner.

Le Comptoir
Hotel Le Relais Saint-Germain
9, carrefour de l'Odeon
Paris, France