Plus français et tu meurs, quoi…?

…that’s what French people say when they sit down in a bistro like Astier in Paris, a picturesque little restaurant complete with chequered tablecloth, l’ardoise (that’s a chalkboard) and even original Laguiole knives on display tucked on the wall. The experienced traveller could shy away and with good reason: beware, this could be a tourist trap as well! But don’t fear: here, at Astier, in a street named after Jean-Pierre Timbaud (who was a unionist and a freedom fighter once) you’re in good hands. This is not about fake ambiance, it’s about tradition.

Chequered table indicates: tourist trap or real tradition.

Monsieur and Madame Astier opened their bistro in the 1950’s, and le cadre, the whole setting, hasn’t really changed ever since. You feel like in a time warp when entering, the waiters look like actors starring in a film adaption of a Proust novel. Fortunately, the kitchen style has changed, and it was the great chef Yannick Alléno of the three-star-temple Le Meurice who once pointed out Astier as his favourite bistro in Paris. Yes, the good old friends are all still there: foie gras and terrine de sanglier, harengs fumés and dos de cabillaud, poulet rôti and rognons de veau (veal kidneys!), but the man in the kitchen, Christophe Kestler, knows that we’re not living in the 1950’s anymore.

Welcome to the 1950's: "Astier" is a time warp.

I had a fabulous tartare de daurade as a starter today, a salad made of raw gilthead, and the pan-fried entrecôte afterwards has been a revelation, believe me, concerning the searing, frying and basting skills – although it was remarkably over-salted, as I have to add. Ah, what the heck! These things happen. Overall, it was a good, a very good and comforting experience to have lunch at “Astier” today. I felt like taking a holiday from the demanding challenges of today’s world cuisine where many chefs try to surprise and overwhelm you all the time which is quite boring in the long run, isn’t it?

Raw fish, delicious and tender: call it "neo bistro".

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