Paris Restaurants: Le Tourette
Le Tourette Bistrot-Cantine
70, rue de Grenelle, in the 7th Arrondissement. 01 45 44 16 05.
Open Mon–Fri, noon–3 p.m.; Fri–Sat, 8 p.m.–11 p.m.
Tucked on a tiny bit of the rue de Grenelle in the 7th Arrondissement, there was a tiny restaurant facade, “Le Tourette” written across the window, some of the letters in white, others missing, a faint trace leaving a shadow of what had once been. Red-and-white-checkered curtains were drawn shut and laden with dust, exuding an undeniable nostalgic charm of Paris restaurants. I wanted to eat there, but the kitchen remained closed, the door firmly locked for nearly a decade. I was not the only one charmed by the lost-age elegance of those delicately framed windows. Designer Paul Smith took over the lease and opened a funky, vintage-inspired boutique selling limited-edition fashion, with finds from the flea market. It was all wrong; this space was meant to be a restaurant. Fortunately, the universe agreed, Paul Smith moved up the street and Olivier Mourin reopened le Tourette.
Monsieur Mourin owns a Spanish gourmet shop, Ibérique Gourmet, just up the street at 3, rue Paul Louis Courier, and he was charmed when he learned that the restaurant has been serving the neighborhood since the 1920s. On a wood beam near the original entrance, there is a brass plaque for each owner of years gone by, and a poster honoring the establishment’s less glamorous past as a coal depot. The decor is fun and stylish, with graphic ’50s-style wallpaper and dangling fixtures, the perfect frame to highlight the best from Iberia.
Joyeux is the French word for joy, and it is used to wish someone a happy birthday or holiday season. Jamón is Spanish for ham. Joyeux jamón, or “happy ham,” is scrawled in white paint across the walls, and indeed Spanish ham is the star of this very Parisian little restaurant. An expert prepares the ham in the dining room, slicing small, rectangular chips, the Côtes du Rhône–tinted flesh laced with creamy fat, the aroma evoking the acorns the animal was raised on. Each slice is so perfectly balanced it almost melts in the mouth.
Beyond the ham, this is a surprisingly good option for vegetarian dining, with starters like pan con tomate, grilled bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, and a remarkable cèpes omelet that had me making a return trip several days after my first visit. Neighboring diners were raving about the black rice with calamari and octopus à la galicienne. Simple desserts, featuring the ripest fruits, round out the meal.
In a nutshell: very simple food that features the very best of Spain in a very Parisian atmosphere.
Price check: starters, €7–12; main courses, €12–21; wines by the glass, €2–4.
If you like the sound of le Tourette, you’ll also like la Cantine du Troquet. Read the review.
La Cantine du Troquet
101, rue de l’Ouest, in the 14th Arrondissement. No phone and no reservations.
Mon–Fri, open at 8 p.m.; closed Sat and Sun.
Arrive at opening time for your best chance of being seated.