22, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 55 28 75 98. Open daily, noon–3 p.m. and 7 p.m.–11 p.m.
Thanks to the néo-bistrologie movement sweeping Paris restaurants, the dark ages of rude waiters and blatant overpricing are seemingly done for. This trend, overwhelmingly impacting the 9th–12th Arrondissements, has been successfully flushing out finicky dining to accommodate establishments like la Pharmacie. With pleasant service and Christophe Duparay’s culinary savvy, this neo-bistro near République pays tribute to the revolution of simple, fresh and affordable fare.
Dialing up la Pharmacie for last-minute lunch reservations, I expected the usual on est complet, even an outraged non (last-minute 2 p.m. reservations, ça ne se fait pas!—at least not at the Paris restaurants I know). An enthusiastic bien sûr hit me like a thunderbolt. We were there before you could say j’ai faim.
Alone the perky turquoise facade lifted my spirits on a drab Parisian afternoon. The fun interior combined rustic molding with tasteful splashes of burgundy and sleek, industrial lamps. Pharmaceutical antiques commingled with wine bottles on heavy wooden shelves. About a dozen locals, conversing or hampered down with a book, were leisurely finishing lunch.
A welcoming waiter promptly presented la carte: two appetizers, three mains and two desserts, comme il le faut. I’m frankly revolted by restaurants where one or two chefs ostensibly prepare a mile-long selection “from scratch”—sorry, but that house gratin likely came straight out of a box. We ordered a comprehensive medley of the chef’s suggestions: rollmops and terrine de canard to start, followed by an order of lamb chops and a filet de boeuf, crowned with an entremet au chocolat.
I was amused by the Rollmöpse, a traditional German dish. My grandparents, living near the Black Forest, served these pickled herrings as part of a hangover breakfast well into my adolescence (essentially until I started drinking and could have actually used the extra electrolytes myself). Duparay’s variety included the classic gherkin and onions, but featured a dash of Valencian Nöra pepper, for a sweet complement to the acidic base. The onions sautéed in balsamico added a refreshingly tangy note to the otherwise robust terrine served atop crunchy toast.
In due time, our irresistible plats de résistance came along to put an end to my (mental) drooling over our neighbors’ food. The lamb, cooked to perfection, rubbed shoulders with a frothy heap of polenta, an exotic touch to this otherwise conventional dish. A pile of parsley potatoes (impeccably roasted to conserve their juiciness) accompanied my companion’s beef tenderloin, which was good, but a bit too chewy to dazzle. I had reserved the last entremet au chocolat on our wonderful waiter’s suggestion. P-h-e-w. The foamy pastry, swimming in crème anglaise, was a pleasant, if not deep, dark, chocolate pleasure that I couldn’t have forgone.
Having polished off every bit of our scrumptious meal, we had no substantive complaints—sure, the salad was a bit skimpy, and I would have welcomed a veggie side, but in the end the impeccable service and the menu’s charming (but not crazy) twists on classic dishes trumped my tendency to nitpick. A favorite among Paris restaurants, la Pharmacie amply upheld its delicious doctrine while delighting our tummies.
In a nutshell: La Pharmacie is just what the doctor ordered! Here, friendly service and delicious food collaborate to champion the three principles of néo-bistrologie: simple, fresh and affordable.
Price check: Two-course lunch menu, 14 euros; dinner, 30–40 euros per person.
If you like the sound of la Pharmacie, try Chez René, offering traditional French bistro fare that includes a range of veggie dishes.
Read the review.
14, boulevard Saint-Germain, in the 5th Arrondissement.
01 43 54 30 23.
Open Tues–Sat; lunch, noon–2:30 p.m.; dinner, 7–11 p.m.