24, rue des Francs Bourgeois, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
01 42 72 20 50. Open daily, 8 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
For the past several years, Paris has been getting hipper. Or rather hipster-ier. It is not uncommon to spot bearded young French men, coffee-to-go in hand, wearing plaid as they step up to a counter and order un taco, s’il vous plaît. The old-fashioned fast-food chains like Oh! Poivrier! have been replaced by Bagelsteins, Classico empanadas and food trucks. Which, to be honest, makes dining in Paris restaurants sometimes wonderful, and sometimes incredibly frustrating.
Frustrating, as there is less and less rental space available for simple, yet remarkably good, traditional French bistros. But wonderful when you find one, and even if it is in the bustling heart of the Marais district, you are very likely to get a table and be surrounded by locals.
Dressed in warm wooden tones and an amber, terra-cotta tiled floor, Camille is the perfect example: a simple Parisian restaurant serving the classics of French cuisine. A perennial favorite with local designers and fashionistas like Vanessa Bruno and Christian Lacroix, every day around 12:30 p.m. the place fills with sounds of serious eating—cutlery clatters, waiters yell orders, the coffee machine spits out steam.
Listed in chalk, on an old-fashioned blackboard, starters include butter-infused snails, a roasted cheese salad or a slice of pâté. It would be hard to find a menu less inventive, and I doubt a yuzu has ever passed the threshold of the kitchen, but the endive Roquefort salad I had last week was perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.
For mains the locals adore the dishes they remember from their grandmother’s kitchen, before chefs were working foam and dry ice: blanquette de veau, pot-au-feu, steak tartare and of course duck.
Like everything else, the desserts are all about the best basic ingredients. Pastries from Stohrer, ice cream from Berthillon and a tarte au citron that nearly brought tears to my eyes are just a few of the highlights.
Apron-clad waiters serve everything with a dash of saucy humor and a pinch of cheeky repartee, making diners feel at home, regardless of their address.
In a nutshell: Excellent traditional French cooking without the fuss of haute cuisine.
Price check: Menu, €21; starters, €11–13; mains, €20; desserts, €8.
If you like the sound of Camille, you might also like Au Coin Pasteur. Read the review.
Au Coin Pasteur
59, boulevard Pasteur, in the 15th Arrondissement. 01 43 20 79 80.
Open daily, 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.