3, rue Sainte-Beuve in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 45 49 10 40.
Open Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
This local Vavin favorite may run low on square footage, but chef Chris Wright and his team never fail to make a huge impression. While the Manchester-born Wright isn’t a native, his culinary mastery of traditional French cuisine would fool even the savviest Frenchie. It’s no wonder that expats and true-blue Parisians alike rave about his straightforward cuisine. Unlike some of the other English taking on French food in Paris restaurants, the Anglo influence at le Timbre permeates primarily the atmosphere rather than the dishes.
As we arrived during the peak of the lunch service, the pocket-size dining room was packed with patrons. The waitress, elegantly traipsing around every inch of free space, promptly tucked us into the last two spots. The cheery clientele chatting away visibly admired Wright’s culinary savvy, made omnipresent by an open kitchen. Overall the happy scene exuded a casual vibe.
The carte du jour offered six options per course (more options than I would have expected, given the restaurant’s size), but still managed to remain succinct. A great rule of thumb on where to eat in Paris is to avoid establishments where one or two “chefs” allegedly prepare lofty menus à la carte. Wishful thinking isn’t going to make that food from scratch! Certainly, this isn’t the case at le Timbre. After all, Chris Wright, a true foodie at heart, is a regular at local marchés, where he’s known to stock up on only the freshest fare—a habit evident in every bite.
After some back and forth with our friendly waitress, we settled on sharing a croustillant de hure de cochon for our entrée. This fried terrine-like dish consists of jellied hog’s head. Wright’s version revealed a divine crunch and was served with capers and a jalapeño—creative but not crazy. With this delightful start to our meal, I could barely control my obvious eyeballing of our neighbor’s lovely pollack, served with tomato compote.
Just when my ogling threatened to offend (the intimate dimensions of the dining room were definitely not helping), our mains arrived. While my companion’s magret de canard served with onion confit stayed true to traditional French cuisine, my roasted quail dish exposed an unexpected twist. The beautifully cooked bird had crisp skin with lean but moist meat throughout and was served atop a bed of Granny Smith apple compote—a refreshing throwback that shows just how deep Wright has dug into France’s culinary past. The finishing touch, a light basil sauce, coaxed out the apples’ freshness and complemented the richness of the meat.
Out of pure lust, we ordered the quenelles de chocolat for dessert. The two oval-shaped dumplings of well-rounded chocolate were perfectly crafted and accompanied by a wonderfully nutty praline sauce.
Having regaled ourselves until the very last bite, we paid our minuscule bill. As we made our way through the small room, a warm bonne journée pronounced in an endearing English accent ensured us that we’d soon be back for more of Wright’s mind-blowingly fabulous fusion of a laidback Anglo atmosphere and traditional French dishes.
In a nutshell: Englishman Chris Wright makes the most of every inch in this tiny Vavin restaurant to serve up great value, classic French cuisine with a subtle twist in a markedly Anglo atmosphere, created by friendly service and his jovial presence.
Price check: Lunch and dinner menus are 20–34 euros per person.
If le Timbre sounds good, you might also like le Verre Moutarde. Read the review.
Le Verre Moutarde
145, rue de Saussure, in the 17th Arrondissement. 01 42 27 35 55.
Open Mon–Fri, 11:45 a.m.–11 p.m.