Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie

News of a favorite classic French restaurant, Moissonnier, closing from a reader (thanks for the tip, Annette) reminded me of the challenges of running a good restaurant. The food was traditional French, done right, prepared with care by the chef/owner, with his wife tending to the details in the dining room. A drive-by location, and a younger generation not as interested in quenelles in cream sauce as their grandparents (and me), were perhaps factors for their closing. Or maybe the owners were just ready to retire.

Nevertheless, it was a perfect chance to visit Café de la Nouvelle Mairie with my friend Michael, who’s visiting from San Francisco, before he headed south to attend a wedding. He suggested lunch in the 5th arrondissement, where he was staying, and I suggested meeting here.

Instead of lamenting a closing, it’s a reminder that the Parisian bistro has been going through a reboot during the last decade or so. Some of the places that have sprung up in the last few years are still finding their way. The bistronomy movement, that promised a return to casual dining, and freshness, in many cases evolved into showplaces for young chefs trying to impress by audacity, rather than to satisfy. The carefully balanced plates with bits of meat, the obligatory root vegetable, a flower here and there, herbs you’ve never heard of (and wonder where they find in Paris), along with brushstrokes of sauce, works well when they’re done right. But when they aren’t, I’m left not feeling satisfied, and even a little cheated.

At Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, they’re doing bistro v2.0 right. An energetic, engaged staff, quick with banter, exemplifies the word convivialité. You’ll get a friendly welcome, and perhaps a glass of wine at the zinc bar if you’ve got to wait, from their reassuringly reasonable list of wines.

The café features natural wines, championed by some, although not to everyone’s taste. If well-selected, they can be vibrant and captivating (and intriguing). If not, you can expect some fizziness, errant acidity, or other qualities you might not expect in a glass of wine. The white Côte du Rhone we fell into the first category, and since the prices are gentle, you won’t feel bad if take a chance on something different.

I’m hopelessly hooked on œufs mayonnaise, the bistro classic of hard-cooked eggs with mayonnaise. This dish doesn’t really need much updating, except maybe using organic eggs, as they do here, topped with what tasted like house-made mayo. The other appetizer that we split while catching up (i.e.; me getting caught up on San Francisco gossip), was a rillette of fish with capers, cilantro, and lemon, with a drizzle of good olive oil, lots of freshly chopped herbs, and strips of tangy pickled red onions.

We both went with merlu (hake) for main courses atop crunchy cabbage salad and salicornes (glasswort), whose briny taste linked the salad to the salty, crisp-skinned fish, cooked by someone not afraid to give food the texture, and flavor, that quick-searing over high heat gives it.

Dessert was a soup of pêche de vigne, little red-fleshed peaches that are notoriously difficult to peel. (Trust me, I’ve peeled a lot of them.) Because peaches are susceptible to a fungus that attacks grape vines, grape growers in the Rhône planted them nearby, so they could get advance warning of any encroaching maladies.

Nowadays the peaches are celebrated for their concentrated peach flavor, and thick, rich, rosy pulp. The soup was, indeed rich, and more of a puree, and served with a spoonful of fromage blanc, a scattering of roasted cocoa nibs, and a meringue, that Michael tried to spoon up, thinking it was a rosette of whipped cream gone wrong. (Ah, jet-lag…) While I thought it would have been nice served with a contrasting scoop of sorbet, we left happy.

Café de la Nouvelle Mairie
19-21, rue des Fossés-Saint-Jacques (5th)
Tél: 01 44 07 04 41
Métro: Cardinal Lemoine or Place Monge
RER: Luxembourg
Open Monday through Friday, 8am – 12:30am (closed weekends)


Never miss a post!

31 comments

  • August 31, 2017 10:28am

    It looks delightful. Classic but current.
    Considering that mayo isn’t that hard to make, I sure hope it was homemade. I’m inspired to do up your dish today for lunch…eggs, mayo, salad. Yum. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 10:38am

    Nothing like a great Bistro meal done right and this one sounds pretty great. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 5:19pm

    Love how they add fromage blanc. Love it and think it’s just like…whipped cream! Glad you had a picture of the prices. This restaurant is reasonable and I am SO happy it’s right around the corner from where I’ll be staying in October! Thanks for reviewing it. Reply

  • susan luraschi
    August 31, 2017 5:19pm

    …But, sorry to say, still one of worst cups of coffee in the sixth. Reply

  • Annette
    August 31, 2017 5:36pm

    <> You’re welcome! Thanks for the mention in your post today…a little birthday gift you didn’t even know you were giving! hehe
    We’ve eaten at Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie only once, a few years ago. This makes me want to return! Reply

  • August 31, 2017 5:44pm

    this place saw me through a lot days while working solo, just needing a seat at a bar, with a good glass of wine and decent food, just a bit of talk. the espresso shots were not that bad, though my intent was for a meal so can’t really judge the coffee. Reply

  • Emma
    August 31, 2017 6:04pm

    “or other qualities you might not expect in a glass of wine”
    Ahh, I really love your witty understated writing !

    Regarding the bistronomie portion size, having only 30 grams of meat, a half leek and 2 carrots to eat are really a problem when you are actually hungry and want to eat. Honestly when the food is good it is so frustrating to have just four mouthfuls and then gone. I want more ! more pleasure. And not getting out of the table starving. Reply

  • stuart itter
    August 31, 2017 6:27pm

    Quite nice. And, thank you on behalf of the restaurant and ourselves. BUT, IT IS CLOSING-WHEN. OR IT HAS A CHANCE TO SURVIVE?

    ps Harry’s Bar serves a tartine or sandwich with hard boiled egg, mayo, and anchovies. Also magical. So easy, so inexpensive, so elegant Reply

  • Rob
    August 31, 2017 6:54pm

    This bistro was a mainstay for us during our annual week’s stay in Paris in January, 2017. We will be sure to return for a visit in January, 2018. We thought the cheerful service, deliciiously interesting (but not pretentious) dishes, reasonably-priced good wine, great atmosphere, and late night hours were fantastic! Let’s hope this establishment sticks around for a long time! Reply

  • August 31, 2017 7:13pm

    No more Moissonnier? I’m heartbroken, but grateful that we had the opportunity to (over)eat there in April. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 7:46pm

    I’ve just started noticing peche de vigne being sold at the marches here in the Dordogne. They are certainly cosmetically challenged, but they are so delicious. I’m not sure I would bother – or indeed be able to peel one. Reply

  • Leslie Bonner
    August 31, 2017 7:48pm

    David,
    We were sorry to hear Moissonnier is closing. Based upon a previous post of yours we had a delicious lunch there in March. The chef and his wife were certainly bustling, perhaps they just want to retire? Reply

  • Karen Ostrach
    August 31, 2017 8:12pm

    Loved your comment about “brushstrokes of sauce.” I don’t care for that trend. Sorry about this restaurant. Always look forward to your emails. Thanks! Reply

  • August 31, 2017 9:41pm
    David Lebovitz

    Annette: Before I posted this, I wanted to make sure they were closed…no offense…I just didn’t want to post it if I wasn’t sure : ) You were right & indeed they were. They were actually having a little braderie (secondhand sale) of some of their things, but the door was locked and I didn’t want to wait around. (Although it would have been nice to have a gratin dish or something like that!)

    Stuart: Yes, they’ve closed for sure.

    Karen: I don’t mind them so much, or the other stuff, but when it’s done just for the sake of “everybody’s doing it,” it usually means to me that they’re focusing more of decorating the plates than what’s on it. Some places do it well, but others don’t.

    Emma: Someone tried to start a tiff between me and a well-known (and very nice) natural wine writer, who I respect very much. It’s just some natural wines really do have some qualities that people might not like. But at €5 or so for a glass, you don’t feel too bad if you get something that is more of a “learning experience,” than the kind of wine you might have been expecting. Reply

  • Evelyn Wirsing
    August 31, 2017 9:47pm

    Am stunned and heartbroken to hear about Moissonnier closing! Can you verify when??? My husband and I have made it a point to eat there each time we are in Paris. Philippe and Valerie Mayet’s restaurant was one of Paris’s treasures. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 9:54pm

    Living in the US, I miss the chalkboard menus and great bistro-food done at a reasonable price like we’ve experienced in Europe (particularly France and Italy). I know you don’t tend to eat French food when traveling in the US, but are there any similar-style restaurants in the US that you’ve visited? Not necessarily French food, just good food done unpretentiously at an accessible price in a comfortable atmosphere? I realize that is a heavy question, just curious if you can think of any off the top of your head! Reply

    • patrick
      September 1, 2017 4:48pm

      If you are near Philly, a lovely BYO restaurant called Helm sounds like what you’re looking for. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 10:38pm

    A great review of a really fun place. Actually, even more than lunch or dinner, I like sitting here in the afternoon, working my way through a few glasses (or pichets) and snacking on classic wine bar fare…pâté, sardines, saucisson, etc. The windows and pleasant little park — not typical for Paris’ often cavernous natural wine establishments — actually make my favorite wine bar in the entire city. Not the best, but definitely my favorite.

    Worth noting, because it’s not clear: they don’t only have the wines on the chalkboard. They have an actual wine list, and it’s full of interesting bottles. But one has to ask for it…and sometimes more than once. Reply

  • August 31, 2017 10:52pm

    I love this spot. That chalkboard brings a warmth to my heart! Reply

  • Patricia
    September 1, 2017 12:45am

    I walked past Moissonnier as they were preparing for their sale. Very sad day indeed! I have enjoyed Nouvelle Mairie on several occasions and the wine is perfect. Two standbys when I am in need of tradition are Bistrot Au Bon Coin on rue Colliegialle in the 5th and Perriot on Ettiene Marcel. Both are wonderful and highly recommended! Reply

  • Karen
    September 1, 2017 1:05am

    You are such a good writer. Not just this review, but your books are delightful to read. Sorry this restaurant is closing. I’m sure I’d love it. Reply

  • witloof
    September 1, 2017 1:28am

    I was in Paris for four days earlier this month and it was four days of sheer bliss. I would get up. race out the door, and start walking. One day I walked all the way from my Airbnb at Nation to Montmartre. I used to console myself that I wouldn’t really like to live in Europe because the restaurants were hell with all of the second hand smoke, but apparently it’s been outlawed! Now I’m just sad that I don’t live there.

    Looking forward to reading your book. Reply

  • September 1, 2017 2:24am

    I second the œufs mayonnaise addiction! Reply

  • September 1, 2017 8:23am

    How delightful to read this today. It was fun getting to see you (and gossip), but I fear the spooning of the meringue was more likely due in large part to a need for a good optometrist. Reply

  • September 1, 2017 9:44am

    PARIS POPUP RESTAURANT?? in your latest September newsletter.
    For real? Miam miam Reply

    • Ellen
      September 1, 2017 11:14pm

      Yes! I wondered about that, too. Reply

  • Licia
    September 1, 2017 6:02pm

    David, this sounds like a winner in the bistro category. Looking forward to a 2 week trip to Paris this coming October and collecting all your “must-eats”… Do you have any recommendations for langoustines? I haven’t had them since I moved from Paris to the States 30 years ago, and that needs to be my birthday special. First time going back to Paris and I can’t wait…. Your posts are my guide… Would I be so lucky to take you and Romain out to dinner? Reply

  • sillygirl
    September 2, 2017 2:15am

    Well guess who we are flying to Paris on and which date?! Thanks for the heads-up in your newsletter about the strike coming up. Reply

  • Adele
    September 2, 2017 3:00am

    David

    Please come to Powells in Portland with your new book. Reply

  • Cara
    September 3, 2017 3:57pm

    Crying over the closing of Moissonnier, as I was waiting around Paris until they came off of their summer break– alas, it never will be. Any recommendations on where to get a frisée aux lardons? It’s all I’ve wanted since coming to Paris! Reply

  • Earl Dunbar (@panamstyle)
    September 8, 2017 8:48pm

    My son, who worked at nearby Ecole Normale at the time, introduced me to this bistro, and I loved it; he has good judgement.

    I concur on the oeufs dur – the mayonnaise was fresh and had just the right amount of tang.

    I also had artichaux a la grec which was outstanding – the slices of feta poised on top were absolutely amazing. I have NEVER tasted feta like that or that good. When it is available (I dined in early May,) try it. The dish was perfectly balanced and I only wish I could create it so well myself. Reply

Leave a comment

410 Shares
Pin205
Share205
Tweet
+1
Flip