If you’ve already been here, say 20, 30 or 40 years ago, you’ll notice that almost nothing has changed. Even some of the waiters seem to be the same!
Here’s our review.
Now a listed monument, Bouillon Chartier’s dining room is one of its biggest attractions – it’s huge, with a high ceiling and cream paint (or perhaps that’s nicotine yellow from back in the day?). Even the wood is antique, as – apparently – are some of the waiters 😉
If you’ve never been, take a quick look at the Google 360° visit and see what you’ve been missing.
Chartier is a real success story, meaning that at times you’ll have to queue to get in, but it’s never long (we were in line for around 15 minutes at peak time).
Another idea is to go either at lunchtime when there’s almost no queue, or turn up for a late lunch or early dinner – the kitchens are open non-stop from 11.30am until midnight, so you can eat at any time.
The restaurant is very deliberately retro: Duralex glasses, square drawers that used to be for regulars’ napkins (all tightly closed now), a paper menu with the date on (hint: can undoubtedly be taken home if you ask the waiter nicely) and a paper table cloth where your order will be written (allowing your waiter to tot it all up afterwards).
Service is speedy, slightly stressed but surprisingly cordial.
It’s a charming place that attracts both tourists and real Parisians, perhaps because the prices are extremely reasonable (click here to see our menu or here for a list of what’s on offer most days).
What you’ll find here are essentially the classic French bistrot dishes, with prices starting at 1 euro for a little soup starter!
No dish is priced at more than 13.50€ and even the wine is astonishingly cheap. We didn’t feel at all guilty ordering starters – prawns, a tomato salad, grated celeriac and avocado with prawn salad, accompanied by the ‘wine of the month’. Usually this is a ruse to make you pay more than you were expecting, but here it was just 13€ a bottle (something quite rare in Paris). Our order arrived very smartly indeed.
As you may have guessed, these low prices mean accepting a few compromises. The food at Chartier make be generously served, but it is certainly not fancily presented.
Their website says “A restaurant doesn’t become a legend by accident, and it certainly can’t stay that way by resting on its laurels”, but our food arrived only lukewarm and wasn’t particularly tasty. Even the cheap prices and our waiter’s smile couldn’t make up for that. It’s rather a shame.
The desserts were in a similar vein – canteen favourites with little or no finesse or taste. Are we not allowed to complain because they cost less than 5 euros? We didn’t really dare…
One thing that Chartier has definitely understood is that the restaurant’s name is now known around the world, and just like museums that make you exit through the gift shop, exiting the restaurant now takes you through their store where you can buy a Chartier plate, a Chartier mug, bottle opener, wine glass, etc. etc.
Luckily, the prices are reasonable here too. Perhaps someone you know would like an unusual gift from Paris?
As long as you know what you are getting into, Chartier is something that every visitor to Paris, even those on a budget, can experience. Just remember that you are going for the experience more than the food, and the experience won’t disappoint.
Bouillon Chartier (here) is open seven days a week from 11.30am until midnight non-stop
Telephone: +33 (0)1 47 70 86 29 (no bookings)
To see all our photos of Bouillon Chartier, click here.