We all have a friend who introduces you to new things or in my case creates a princess with taste for: shopping in Waitrose, Diptyque candles, art house cinema, travelling solo, eating and drinking in fine restaurants in London etc and my princess maker is called Steve. We meet at French classes at the Institute Francaise in my early 20s and 15 years on we are still friends. He is responsible for pushing me out into the world and giving me a return Eurostar ticket to Paris telling me to spend 4 days solo in Paris in my 20s – be an individual – were his words I believe.
He also took me to Le Relais d’Entrecôte of which I have such fond memories, not actually about the food, and how we laughed at unsuspecting tourists who asked to see the menu and the snort of derision and the uniform chorus from the waitresses – we only serve steak frites. I cannot forget that one poor soul who asked if they had a vegetarian option which received a stare to rival that of Medusa.
There are a number of Relais D’Entrecôte branches doted around Paris and my two personal favourites are the ones located in St Germain and Montparnasse. This is a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ kind of place – it works and has been around since the ’20s. The serving staff, strangely all women, wear black uniform with a white apron and the tables are covered with yellow or red tablecloths with a white paper overcloth upon which they write the way in which you like your steak cooked. There is a no reservation policy and even if there is a long line, do not be put it off it moves quickly after all the only decision to be made is what you would like for dessert. It is open on Sundays and throughout the summer – hooray! The tables are packed in tightly together. Yes, here you are on top of each other and if the people sitting down at the adjoining table turn their head as you try and squeeze past into your seat you could easily have a nose up your backside – gives a whole new meaning to intimate setting.
The ambiance is akin to putting on a favourite jumper and feeling the warm, familiar feel of the wool against your skin and the smell that leaves you feeling comforted. This is what Le Relais d’Entrecôte is like, a step back in time to when things were simple, and everyone there is enjoying talking to their friends as they know they don’t have to make any decisions.
I love the steak frites served in that secret green sauce. Asking them what is in the secret sauce is akin to writing to Coco-Cola and asking for their recipe: the response is stony silence. Having said all of that a chef friend said he thinks there are anchovies in there, herbs, mustard etc. I actually don’t care what is in the sauce – it is so good. All you have to think about it how you like your steak cooked and they aren’t rude if you like it well done – having been frequented by tourists for such a long time they have accepted that cuisson. You will be served with a salad consisting of salad leaves and walnuts with a drizzle of mustard vinaigrette to start off with, followed by the steak frites and a word to the wise there will be two helpings of the steak frites so pace yourself. The most redundant question follows: are the steak frites good? The answer is they’ve been serving this dish since the 1920s of course it is good.
Usually I don’t order dessert if I am having wine, just a way to monitor my calorie intake, but here I have a weakness for their ice cream filled profiteroles swimming in hot chocolate sauce and this time was no exception:
Where? 101 boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris
How? My favourite is the Montparnasse one is located by line 4 (metro stop Vavin)
Open when? All during summer and Sundays!!