Spontaneously letting your travel destination lead you where your curiosity takes you is a worthwhile, and highly recommended idea in order to discover unexpected moments, treasures and flavors (case in point, stumbling upon a solo cellist playing three Bach concertos in the arrondissement in Paris you are staying in on the evening you arrive – an occasion in a small historic chapel I will always treasure).
However, there are some details I make sure I tend to before I step foot on the plane here on the west coast in Oregon and make my way to Europe, and in this case, France. Those details would be dinner plans for the first and last evening in the city.
In October 2021, chef Cyril Lignac opened his new café, Cafe Lignac, taking the place of what has been described as “the extremely popular Café Constant” by France Today’s food critic Alexander Lobrano even to suggest the change caused a bit of panic as Chef Constant, age 71, had offered a dependable, delicious and reasonably priced menu for decades (learn more about this legendary chef here.
Chef Cyril Lignac is most well-known to the French public for being a food-television star, and currently has six restaurants or cafés under his name all currently open throughout Paris, as well as a patisserie and a chocolatier shop. Yes, he is busy, well-known and trusted by the public and as such, when Café Lignac’s doors opened, the public found a new regular haunt to dine, chat and enjoy good company. Describing himself as having “a gourmet style with an assured technique, assuming both the French culinary heritage and a curiosity for the wealth of foreign cuisines”, what we had the opportunity to enjoy were classic French cuisine dishes with subtle modern or unexpected touches that elevated the dish even further.
I say dishes because yep, we dined there twice. Why? Because the café sits on the corner of Rue Saint-Dominique and Rue Augereau, which was one block (actually a bit less) from our vacation rental we stayed at with Paris Perfect in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Julien. Since I knew we would arrive in Paris in the evening, I wanted to have dinner reservations at around 9pm, and I didn’t want to hassle with a taxi, so when I read a review of the new restaurants in Paris worth checking out, and saw that Café Lignac was on the list and so close, I called them up and made reservations tout de suite! And while I would have loved to have gone to a different restaurant for our final dinner in Paris, I had a feeling, dining close to “home” (so long as we enjoyed our first dinner) would be a good idea for our early departure to London in the morning via the Eurostar. And I wasn’t disappointed because it was the final dinner that introduced me to a plat du jour that knocked my socks off – white fish over puréed carrots and white wine and butter sauce. Oh. My. Goodness. I nearly licked the plate clean it was so good.
Inspired to give it a go at home, I have played with the recipe, after chatting with the waitstaff behind the bar and asking for any tips or details about how to make the sauce, and think I have come up with something quite similar. I served it for a dinner party this past May, and it was a hit, so I included it in Season 5 of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show, episode #2 (watch the video here -or see it at the end of this post-and find the recipe too).
The café is small, but has two floors. The main floor is what you see in these images and has five two-top tables inside along with 4-6 seats at the bar, plus the outdoor seating that they place and remove each day. There is an upstairs dining room that has little to no decoration at all, but three or four longer tables, and as I popped up there (the WC were located on this floor), I noticed that the diners were quite jovial, primarily locals, and the kitchen is up here as well.
Speaking of which, the food, when ready to be served, is brought down the staircase along the back wall by the waitstaff creating a bit of a ‘tah dah’ moment which made me smile, and as we sat at the bar on our second night, all of a sudden, the bartender descends into the floor, completely disappearing. What? Do not worry. The cellar, where the wine and other items that need to be chilled – ice! – were down a hidden staircase located behind the bar, and I have to say, it just deepens the awareness to the reality that Parisian cafés are using very small spaces to do quite a bit, and they do it all very, very well.
Below are a few pics from our visit this past April – notice the framed picture of the two chefs (Cyril on the left, Chef Constant on the right). The menu is seasonal, and as I shared above, always ask what the Plat du Jour is. Susan Herrmann Loomis taught me this, and such an idea was the inspiration for her latest cookbook – Plat du Jour – I highly recommend it. The first evening we dined, because it was so late, they no longer had the plat du jour available, but it had sounded delicious (now for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was), but as we had dinner reservations earlier in the evening on our final night, the plat du jour was available, and I was eager to try and absolutely delighted with how it tasted.
The next time you are in Paris and if you find yourself in or near the 7th, I recommend highly dining at Café Lignac. A quintessential neighborhood, cozy Parisian café with delicious fare to tickled your tastebuds. Take a look at their menu here.
~You can find a map and list of places I recommend visiting, dining and exploring on TSLL’s Paris City Guide here. All Travel Guides can be found by clicking “Travel Guides” in the menu below the blog’s header.
~Visit during your next trip to Paris. Make reservations ahead of time on their website (or call).
Watch episode #2, Season 5, of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show where I share my adaptation of this recipe – pan-fried white fish on carrot purée with butter and white wine sauce.