On a quiet corner in the 9th arrondissement lies modern French cuisine at its finest, just around the corner from the bustling Rue des Martyrs which happens to be my flatmate’s favourite road in Paris. Headed by the owners of Le Pantruche and named after the renowned French impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, this chic bistro pulls out all the stops, refraining from being flashy and instead being tasteful (quite literally) in every respect. After hours of procrastination in the form of foodie research, I decided on this gem for my birthday dinner after having originally stumbled upon it on one of my many exploratory walks around the city. Caillebotte doesn’t have its own website nor does it need one, with rave reviews from the press and free advertising from its fans on Instagram, me being one of those very people. Caillebotte is by no means a typical traditional bistro found on the corners of every boulevard, instead delivering a modern spin on the nation’s deservedly celebrated cuisine.
Caillebotte’s décor is simple and elegant, fitting with the effortlessly stylish Parisian clientele it attracts. Its green colour scheme begins with the radiant sign outdoors, followed by green bar stools and plush benches inside, all complemented by wooden panelling. The room is well lit with vintage-style light bulbs hanging suspended above the tables while pot plants (my favourite) frame the windows. Either get a taste of the action and sit at the marble-topped bar with an prime view into the glass-panelled kitchen or nab a table in the intimate dining room a few steps below.
I booked our table for opening time, 19.30, on a Friday night, worrying that it would be fairly quiet – the French often dine towards 20.30 – but it was already filling up and the atmosphere only got better as the night progressed. After our coats were taken and we were shown to our spacious table, we immediately ordered the restaurant’s refreshing Kir Royals, two cassis for my parents and a peach for myself. They were so good, dare I say the best I’ve ever had, that I had to order another before the meal even arrived. With this generation choosing their dishes from the online menus before they’ve even arrived at the restaurant, it was a nice change to be offered a never-before seen à la carte paired with the waiter’s wise recommendations. With the option of a three course meal for the well-priced €36, or the tasting menu featuring four savoury courses and one sweet option at €49, there’s plenty to choose from. It took us a fair bit of time to decide on our three courses, mainly because we wanted everything.
The starters were quick to arrive and each one as impeccably presented as the next. My flash-fried mullet with cima di rapa and a rich aioli sauce was sublime – the silky fish juxtaposed with the crisp-like breadcrumbs. The spelt risotto with mussels and stewed broccoli was also top notch, with the clever combination of curry-flavoured foam and the sharpness of wafer thin sliced apple. Neither dish was too heavy for a starter while the crusty bread, three punnets of which arrived at our table throughout the meal, was perfect for soaking up all the remnants. What a change from some English restaurants where you are unknowingly charged for their breadbaskets.
The mains were once again outstanding, with my dad and I opting for meaty options recommended by our waiter. The tender Challans duck in gravy was faultless with hints of honey and cinnamon, served with a few beetroot gnocchi and a black radish mousse. My mum boasted that her fillet of monkfish was the best she’s ever had, soft and tender accompanied by new potatoes, turnips and a cleansing parsley jus.
To finish off a memorable meal, we made room for the imaginative desserts. The deconstructed stewed rhubarb crumble with sage ice cream was undoubtedly la meilleure, each bite bringing new flavours and satisfying the mouth’s sweet and salty palette. Those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth should opt for the cheese plate with smoky rinds. Caillebotte’s impressive cuisine is matched by the kind staff who manage to make your experience a personal one despite the fact they are looking after sixty guests at once. When my dad, the chocolate fiend, ordered the nutty chocolate gateaux to the tune of comme toujours, the waiter remembered at the end of the night and exclaimed comme d’habitude when serving this delectable dessert. Paris might have a reputation for rude staff but this stereotype is far from the truth in this case.
Our table was needed back by 21.30 for the next set of lucky diners but our meal didn’t feel at all rushed, with the waiters even offering us a digestif at the end. Caillebotte is closed on weekends but open on Mondays, unlike many Parisian restaurants, so get booking. The perfect sized portions left us pleasantly satisfied and eager to return, knowing that their seasonal changing menu would offer another blend of innovative flavours on our next visit.
Caillebotte, 8 Rue Hippolyte Lebas, 75009 Paris