We gave you an illustrated tour of the Buttes Chaumont recently, and mentioned that this place was on the verge of re-opening. A couple of months later, with the summer weather in full swing, we couldn’t resist returning to see whether the food is as magical as the setting…
There’s something endlessly enchanting about the Buttes Chaumont park that keeps you coming back. Perhaps it’s the cute little streams, or the shady corners perfect for lazing around, or the incredible views over the city, or the suspension bridge, or the waterfall… need I go on?
Le Pavillon du Lac was where we used to go for a Sunday afternoon hot chocolate yeeeeears ago. Back then, it was filled with old ladies and nicotine-incrusted wallpaper, both of which looked extremely fatigued. The one day, it was closed. Permanently. That was over a decade ago, so we were very pleased to hear recently that the place was to be renovated and reopened, which it did in June 2010.
The setting really is amazing, with that refreshing blast of pure oxygen that you don’t often get in a city…
The building had been respectfully renovated, at least the outside still looks a lot like it did back in the day, except with windows that now open at the front. A terrace has been added to the left (for eating) and front (for drinks), and a space on the right is due to serve tapas area in the near future (as soon as they find a decent chef, they told me!)…
Once inside, the changes are more obvious. Gone are the long benches (and the old women too). Say hello to exposed brick, designer lighting and dark wood furniture. There’s no stopping progress I suppose…
Rooms that were previously closed to the public have been opened upstairs. The main dining area up there can also be used for private dinner and functions. There’s also a smaller room at the back with just one large table, if you’d like to have a private family meal for example, and this also gives onto the terrace at the back of the building.
Each space can be privatised alone or together with another, depending on the event you are organising. As most of the windows open, there’s a great feeling of freshness to the place, with plenty of air…Not having booked, when we arrived around 8pm it was impossible to get a table outdoors, so we agreed to a table in the ground floor room by a large open window, which was almost as agreeable. The restaurant was starting to fill up, and we were given our menus for both food and wine. There was no rosé left, so we ordered a bottle of white. Within two minutes the waiter returned to say that it was out of stock too. Not great. So we changed wines and started deciding on what to eat.It’s a very short menu: a grand total of four starters, three salads and six main dishes. We decided on the polenta patty with olives, and the wild salmon in a crispy green tea casing. They both arrived incredibly quickly, so quickly in fact that we could hardly believe that they had been cooked to order, and yet there’s a window at the back of the room that looks onto the kitchen, and you can see them all running around…Strangely enough, but our dishes looked almost exactly the same. The salmon was fairly greasy but well seasoned, with crunchy vegetables. As for the taste of green tea, let’s say it was subtle to the point of being unnoticeable.The polenta was soft and textured, but rather greasy and fairly tasteless. It looked better than it tasted.After the main course we wanted to order dessert, but as the place was filling up rapidly the service was becoming increasingly random. Catching the eye of a waiter to clear the table, bring the menu and take the order took a good 15 minutes. Luckily, we had a great view of the park joggers to keep us entertained, plus the intriguing position of an abandoned Vélib bike…Finally our desserts arrived, and they turned out to be worth the wait. The soft-centred chocolate cake with a crunchy Daim filling was perfectly warmed (although the Daim was mostly in the sauce, not the cake), complemented perfectly by the ice cream and beautifully presented.However it was the millefeuille with cream of pistachio and raspberries that really wowed us. Huge, sculpted, crunchy but delicate, my companion was very impressed. Once again, presentation was stunning.By now the restaurant was packed. Getting the bill took a while. After only a few weeks of being open, the restaurant is already packed thanks to its great location, and despite food that is well presented but not that tasty (and a little overpriced). We think that the location makes it worthwhile, but don’t expect subtlety… or rapidity!
One bonus – if you eat early enough and go during summer – is that you can walk in the park afterwards to try and get rid of some of those extra calories! During the summer months they close at 10pm, and the view from the pergola in the centre of the park is beautiful and romantic when the sun is going down over Paris, the perfect end to a dinner en tête à tête…We though we’d drop by the park’s other main food and drink venue, Rosa Bonheur, opened just over a year ago, but it too is victim of its own success. Originally open until 1 or 2am, they have had to curb their hours after complaints from the neighbours, and no-one is allowed entrance after 10pm. They have a restaurant in the winter, but in summer there are just too many people, so they serve just light food and tapas.
They have also had to put barriers around the terrace to stop people wandering into the park at night, and security guards are posted here and there to make sure nothing gets out of hand. Places like this are rare in Paris, which explains why it’s so packed, but with people actually queuing up to get in, we think it’s just too busy to be comfortable in the evening.They have a DJ at the weekends… as does the Pavillon du Lac ! Rosa Bonheur is for ‘the kids’ and the Pavillon du Lac is more for the adults who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere (and a seat).
To check out all our photos of the Pavillon du Lac, click the play button on the slideshow below, followed by the four little arrows bottom right (for fullscreen mode). Don’t forget that we have another article about the Buttes Chaumont park here. Recommended!
Le Pavillon du Lac is in the Buttes Chaumont park (here). Enter via the main entrance opposite the town hall for the 19th district, turn right and walk up Avenue Michals.
Open every day except Mondays from 9am – midnight (10pm Sundays). If the park has closed, you’ll need to tell the guard that you’re going to the restaurant.
Tel. +33 (0)1 42 00 07 21 (booking adviseable)
Official site (only a splash page for the moment): www.lepavillondulac.fr