Posted by: mikeydude | July 31, 2009

Fontaine De Mars Paris Restaurant Review (7/10)

This place has been made world famous by a rather unexpected one-off visit from the White House this summer. It has subsequently been a huge hit among the American tourists and so bookings at this place have rocketed. I booked it before it made the headlines based on its recommendations as the classic no-nonsense bistro that served up the best of traditional french fare.

fontaine table

The building itself looks ordinary from the outside, but bustling on the inside, just like all the other bistros we tried on this trip. However today we had just had some torrential weather and so it was very uncomfortable to be sat so close together. Nevertheless we were welcomed by friendly staff who were quick to lead us to our table. I loved the classic checkered red and white tablecloths stereotypically french bistro. They even had an English menu.

Most striking though were the prices. They were definitely a lot higher than the other bistros we had visited. Fine I thought, if the cooking lives up to it. Quick to catch my eye was the foie gras pan fried. After the disappointment of Regalade, I needed to eat foie gras at least once more before I left Paris. However this was priced at 28 Euro!!!! That’s steep for a starter, but I rather grudgingly ordered it to satisfy my cravings. For the mains, they have the cheaper option of a ‘Main of the Day’ which is still 19 Euro! That day they were serving a veal stew, so I thought we’d give it a try and see what 20 Euro can get you at this establishment. Anyway…. on to the meal.

fontaine bread

Complimentary slices of brown bread was standard fare, although this time it was completely on its own. I’ve noticed the french rarely eat butter with their bread like we do in the UK. I guess that’s how they maintain their curvy figures lol. Well we couldn’t resist and asked for some butter which made the bread just so much nicer!

Starter #1: Pan seared Foie Gras with caramelised peach

fontaine foie

Wow. Foie gras cooked in its classic form with pears. I was eying it enviously as my wife was tucking in. This was more like it… I could see her knife just glide into the tender lobes of liver revealing a soft pink centre. And then I had a taste. Absolutely delicious. I cannot possibly recommend any other dish in terms of pure sinful indulgence. The creamy velvety texture of liver coupled with the sweetness and moisture of caramelised pear. There aren’t many matches in the world of cuisine that can beat this pairing. It was sublime. Hardly a highly technical dish, but then you wouldn’t expect that at a bistro; which represents pure traditional french food.

Starter #2: Calves head salad

fontaine calves head

This was different. The menu describes it as a salad, but this seemed more like a stew with potatoes, parsley and capers. I liked the way it was served in a sauce pan… nice change. Anyway I was quick to forgive the rather misleading name as it was a glorious starter. The calves head meat was so succulent and tasty. The parsley and capers gave it some sourness and it was another perfectly matching dish in terms of ingredients. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it and I mopped up the sauce at the end with the bread it was so tasty.

Mains #1: Veal stew with mushroom sauce and rice

fontaine veal stew

My expectations for this dish was already quite low given that it’s their bargain dish of the day. The dish itself looked almost a bit ‘canteen’ like, chunks of veal braised and served up in a mushroom sauce and boiled rice. On a positive note, the meat was tender and seasoning was adequate. But that was it. Nothing really blew me away and it was all rather ordinary…. I would be expecting to pay around £5 for it in the UK, so rather disappointing there.

Main course #2: Loin (fillet) of beef with fries and bearnaisse sauce

fontaine fillet

At 32 Euro this was one of the most expensive items on the menu, so the pressure was on!

Well…. I am pleased to say that this was a perfectly cooked piece of beef. In terms of cuts I’ve always been a fan of rib-eye due to its marbled texture which makes it that extra juicy. I’ve always found fillet more dry and unvaried in taste. However this dish completely changed my perception of fillet steak. It was cooked rare, and it was absolutely fantastic. Very evenly cooked throughout, and exceptionally juicy thanks to its rare texture. And I must re-emphasize the quality of french beef is far superior to beef I’ve eaten in my lifetime so far (which I must admit is rather limited at present anyway). It was unbelievably good, and I won’t write off fillet steak anymore 😉
The chips however was soggy and uninspiring, although dipped in the bearnaisse sauce it was quite nice. Call me boring, but I’ve always been a fan of the crunchy chip like McDonalds (haha). The best chips I must add however are cooked by England’s very own Heston Blumenthal, AND Wale’s Stephen Terry in Abergavenny – who learnt the recipe from him.

Dessert #1: Rhum Baba

fontaine rum baba

This is an interesting dish comprising of sliced sponge cake accompanied with orange slices finished with a splah of rum. The waitress left me the whole bottle of rum, which I mistakenly drenched my cake with! It was still deliciously sweet and the rum really elevated the taste superbly – even though it was totally saturated in it.

Dessert #2: Flottante

fontaine flottante

Another interesting dish – their signature dessert. It’s a marvellous site featuring a cone of ‘omelette’ textured caramel with a cream ‘moat’. You have to see the image to know what I’m talking about as I’ve always been rather poor with my descriptions. It was a very nice dish – nice and light and a great way to finish off the meal.

So in total the meal came up to 119.50 Euro without wine. That is phenomally expensive for what we had and I don’t think the quality of the food; good that it was, fully justifies it. Quite humerously there is a framed up copy of their very first menu dating back to the early 1900’s I think. Prices seemed a lot more reasonable back then… :p

All in all then… the food here was very good, but just way too expensive for a bistro that offered quality that was equal at most to the other bistros we ate at. Don’t think I’ll return unless they drastically reduce their pricing. That foie gras though….. mmmmmm…. I will continue to dream about for a long time to come…



  1. […] mignon? The last time I had this was in a french bistro in Paris called La Fontaine de Mars (review here) and their fillet mignon was out of this world. I never actually tasted the dish, but I could see […]

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