Cafe Central is a French bistro located on Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement in the center of Paris. Right next to the Eiffel Tower, this is a pedestrian street lined with beautiful shops, cafes and grocers, with focus on the best products a foodie could wish for. From one of the best cheese mongers in the city, to an establishment dedicated to selling only the finest wild caught salmon, this is the perfect place to spend a few hours wandering and grazing on a lazy weekend afternoon.
Cafe Central is located about halfway down Rue Cler, and the service is classically Parisian, but more friendly. The waiters will go out of their way to make sure you have an exquisite dining experience, but remember that this is Paris and your meal will take time, as it’s not untypical to sit down for two to three hours to enjoy your Saturday lunch.
Since moving to Paris we have been coming here on a regular basis (monthly really), so I do think it’s fair to say that I’m quite the expert when it comes to the Cafe Central menu. They have specials on a daily basis which vary, and are always a treat, but here are the menu staples that you can enjoy any day at this classic bistro on Rue Cler.
1. Escargot XXL
Escargot XXL are traditional French snails served in garlic butter, but these are about double as big as the ones you’re probably used to. I didn’t used to be a fan of escargot myself, but after living in France for a few years they’ve now grown on me, and the ones served at Cafe Central are the best I’ve had yet.
2. Smoked salmon blinis with sour cream
Salmon and blinis are a starter many of you may recognize, but what makes Cafe Central’s version stand out is the incredibly fresh salmon which is presented in such a delicate and thoughtful manner. Served with sour cream, fresh lemon and dill, the only reason a person wouldn’t like this is if they don’t like fish or salmon.
In which case, they probably should stay away from this appetizer anyway and order the next thing on my list instead.
3. French onion soup
Everyone knows what French onion soup is, but it’s not always easy to find something worth writing about when it comes to a version of the classic French dish in Paris. Cafe Central, however, not only ensures that the onions in the soup are caramelized beyond recognition, and in turn, sweet to the point of tasting close to a dessert, but the cheese and bread crust is something that even Jamie Oliver would have a hard time competing with.
The cheese crust is so well ingrained in the soup bowl that you can’t see any of the savory liquid below it, and it takes a few heavy swats with the spoon before you break through the wall. And once you do, you’ll find yourself greedily wrestling with the strings of cheesy emulsion that are making their way to your deliriously happy mouth. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – this soup is addictive.
4. Confit de Canard
Duck? Good? Duck fat? Good? Duck roasted in it’s own fat, and then served on top of roasted potatoes? Damn good.
And that’s what this classically French dish is really, a simple marriage of a duck and it’s own worst (or best) body part, which funnily enough, becomes a concoction that could be likened to food heaven. Eat it with gusto, or don’t eat it at all.
5. Parmesan risotto with brown butter scallops and rucola
This is exactly what it sounds like – a beautifully creamy, cheesy risotto topped with flash fried scallops topped with rucola and balsamic reduction. Served with an extra bowl of Parmesan on the side, this meal is the epitome of all that is beautiful about all carb, protein & cheese combinations.
6. The bread – the bread – the bread
The baguette served with your meal at Cafe Central is locally sourced (I believe it comes from the bakery down the street), and it is absolutely out of this world. With the perfect crunch on the outside, and fluffy, light dough on the inside, make sure to save some for the end of your meal, to use to scoop up the soupy remnants of your main dish.
Stay tuned for more food adventures from #thetastytraveller!