From the moment I heard it described as “Downton Abbey-esque”, a bistro called Poulette slid to the top of my to-do list. Because among my various life goals I dream of one day chilling with the Dowager Countess of Grantham, noshing crumpets and lamenting how the deafening roar of modernity drowns out the charms of the old world.
So with an extra hour between appointments I left the present and in fact traveled further back than expected: according to the friendly barman the décor is from 1890, which precedes Downtown Abbey and places it firmly in Belle Époque territory. All the better – the Dowager would’ve been younger and more sprightly then anyway.
A cup of tea at the zinc-coated bar was the price of admission as I took in the details and watched delicious plates come out from the kitchen. I would learn later that the chef is actually a transplanted New Yorker who specializes in French cuisine with an American accent. Having just eaten lunch elsewhere, I was able to stave off the temptation to order something.
As for the plate of homemade cookies cooling on the bar next to me, that struggle was much more real.
Poulette was opened just a few years ago, with the pleasant feeling of being nestled between Paris of the past and the hipster slick of 2017. The tile walls are authentic, but the lighting is straight out of Brooklyn. A crate of fresh produce destined for the juicer sits near bottles of whiskeys and liqueurs. The underground bathroom felt like part safari visit.
This quaint throwback address was a reassurance that there are still some restaurateurs of my generation who have a respect for the days of old. Call it vintage or kitsch or Dowager-Chic; either way Poulette has moved off of my to-do list and onto my growing roster of local loves.
Poulette is located at 3 Rue Étienne Marcel in the 1st arrondissement. It is closed on Sundays.