Allard – Disappointment of the Decade

My wife and I had discovered Bistro Allard in the Saint Germain area of Paris, close to the Latin Quarter and Saint Michel, on one of our first trips together to Paris as a couple. To this day we both believe that the meal we had back then was the best meal we’ve ever had in Paris, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

I remember that we had to-die-for escargots, prepared to perfection. As mains my wife went for grilled seabass, one of her favourites, while I had medium-rare grilled veal roast. The piece of meat was gigantic in size and tasted like it was from another world, so juicy and tasty, pure culinary bliss. My wife was very pleased with her fish dish, too.

The cheese platter we shared to finish the meal contained some of the best cheese I’ve had in France (and I like my cheese).

I remember that we felt that the prices were quite steep, coming in at around €200 for the two of us, including a bottle of claret, but we were convinced that this had just been the best value meal we have had. Infinite perfection for a very finite price. We were planning on coming back on every single Paris trip of the future.

However, it had been a very long day and we had forgotten to write the name down or to take photos, so when we came back to Paris a year later, neither of us even remembered which side of the river it had been on, such a shame. We spent hours googling French bistros, hoping that we’d recognise the restaurant from the photos or description, but to no avail.

Only a few years later, when Alain Ducasse had taken over Allard, we recognised it from a newspaper article and decided to book a dinner table for four for our upcoming trip, where we were joined by an old friend of mine from uni and his girlfriend. And boy was it a disappointment. It wasn’t bad, but the sparkle was completely gone. Ducasse, who had disappointed us on more than one occasion before, turned the world’s best restaurant into a pretentious, unimpressive bistro with good, but not outstanding cuisine.

We read that Ducasse, following serious concern among regulars, some of whom coming here for many decades, instructed chef Laëtitia Roubah, who he had already worked with at London’s Dorchester, to complete a transition period with the previous chef where she would learn the recipes and cooking methods. Even Ms Roubah admitted in an interview, though, that many regulars did not return.

The escargots were very unexciting, the main dishes were decent. I enjoyed my Beef Bourguignon, my wife her fish soup. Despite the fact that the food was nice, we will not be back, it’s just too painful to be reminded of what Ducasse has destroyed. Shame.

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