I discovered Le Tournebièvre (named evidently because it is located on Quai de la Tournelle at the corner of Rue de Bievre) on a trip to Paris in the summer of 2017. I was wandering along the quai across the river from Notre Dame, and as I got further from the crush of people and tourist-oriented cafes around Saint-Michel, I noticed a quiet, unassuming little restaurant with outdoor seating. There was one outside table available, and I took this as a sign, and settled in for a wonderful three course dinner that seemed traditionally French, but the food also had an exciting, innovative flair…
On that visit I had a delicious French onion soup with crispy crusted French bread, red wine, an exotic main course of fish with mandarin orange and a passionfruit foam, and for dessert, a “deconstructed” peach and rhubarb tart. The food and the friendly server made it a memorable meal.
This week I arrived for a four day stay in Paris, and decided to make an early reservation for dinner, which I probably needn’t have done because no one in Paris has dinner at 6:00 PM. I knew that, but it was a beautiful summer day and I wanted to close it out with a nice meal before the evening rush. More importantly, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast!
Sure enough, there was no one in the place when I walked in, but the waitress, whose name is Laetitia , recognized me instantly, and jokingly pointed to the place I sat last summer and asked if I wanted the same table. I was astounded that she actually remembered where I’d sat a year ago, and she said that if I gave her a minute she could probably recall what I ate. With a furrowed brow, I asked whether she had had any customers since my last visit. Once she realized I was kidding, she laughed heartily. This time I changed things up and sat at a different table facing Notre Dame.
I again ordered the three course menu, which gives you a starter, main course and dessert of your choice. I started with “the Perfect Eggs”, two eggs that had been slowly baked in a low temperature oven since the morning, and they floated in a sea of creamy sauce made from gouda cheese and black truffles. Yes, it was perfect.
Next I had the Chicken Supreme, a succulent piece of meat with melted Parmesan cheese and a prawn cream sauce, served over a delicious risotto. The mix of textures and flavors was every bit as perfect as the eggs!
Dessert was a tough choice. I noticed a lemon pie with sable breton and blackberry preserves. I asked Laetitia what sable breton was, and she explained that it is a traditional, shortcake-like biscuit from Brittany. “Its main ingredient is butter.” Laughing, I said, “That sounds terrible! I want it!” When it arrived I really did not want to eat it and destroy the artistic presentation of a tangy lemon pudding, criss-crossed by bars of the sable breton, and dotted with small cubes of blackberry preserves and little meringues. I always wonder who comes up with such ideas: tiny, perfectly shaped cubes of jam… beautiful to look at and so intense in flavor when you’d get one with a spoonful of the lemon and biscuits. It was a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
I know, I have been over-using the word “perfect”, but it really was! If you are visiting Paris and want a more traditional alternative to the cookie-cutter tourist places that line the streets in this area, if you want to listen to the chiming bells of Notre Dame and watch Paris go by, make the effort to discover Le Tournebièvre. And merci beaucoup, Laetitia for the wonderful service!