Update 25 July 2011:
Retraction: Unfortunately my last meal at Le Floréal was a big letdown. They obviously spent a lot of effort on the renovations but would do well to spend more time thinking about the food. The burger, which I loved on my first visit, had a strange texture and was average at best. The fried calamari, thick chewy rings, heavily coated in batter, were a disappointment. Given that my brunch there was barely edible, it’s not a place I can recommend any longer. It’s in my neighborhood, so I’ll give it another try, hoping they change their business model and decide to be more than a money making hipster hangout serving mediocre food.
What was once a non-descript spacious corner café, the kind where you go to buy cigarettes and men spend their day playing PMU, has been taken over by the team who turned Chez Jeanette in the 10th into one of the most talked about cafes in Paris.
They’ve kept much of the décor the same (although Figaro reports that they’ll be getting a facelift in March) except for a few disco balls and a retro juke box which turns out some pretty good music. With its long bar, 1950-style furnishings, and red banquettes it has an unintentional diner-like feel. I stopped by for a coffee and cheesecake shortly after the change of hands and wasn’t impressed. The coffee wasn’t great, the cheesecake too sweet, leaving me in no hurry to return. So it wasn’t with great expectations that I did return last week, wanting something quick and easy in the neighbourhood.
Settling into a comfortable booth, my guy and I both ordered the blue cheese burger made with bleu d’Auvergne. Our plates arrived and things looked good. Our burgers were rapped in white paper and came with a mound of French fries. I took a bite and was pleasantly astonished that this was a serious burger and exceptional by Paris standards. The roll was excellent and the burger itself sufficiently greasy.
Beef in France is typically grass fed and extremely lean which may explain part of the French paradox, but it doesn’t make for a very good burger. This burger on the other hand was especially juicy in a very un-French burger way. I told the waiter how impressed I was and he explained that they grind the meat themselves, making sure it is 30% fat. Typically ground beef in France, or steak haché as they call it here, is only 5% fat, which explains the difference. The bun was homemade, as were the fries, making it one of the best burgers I’ve had in Paris. It may even have been the best burger I’ve had here, especially for the price (the cheeseburger and fries is 12€, blue cheese burger 13€, hot dog and fries 9,50€).
They have other dishes as well—a lobster roll, steak frites, spaghetti “little Italy style” and a strange sounding not very authentic Caesar salad made with iceberg lettuce. This is probably also the only place in Paris where I’ve ever overheard a table of chic looking Parisians order hot-dogs for dinner. I tried to explain the humour of this to my French guy, but I guess you have to be American to get it.
I returned over the weekend to try the Sunday brunch, which is a choice between eggs Benedict or a bagel and lox, both served with salad, potato pancakes, fresh squeeze orange juice, pastries and coffee. All I can say is—go for the burger.
73 rue du Faubourg du Temple
01 42 08 81 03
Open daily, service non-stop