Chez la Vieille is a fun place to drink but a confusing place to eat.
Daniel Rose’s 2016 takeover of this beloved institution was motivated by love and respect for its history (read more about that here), and for the kind of classic bistro cooking that seems to be disappearing from Paris. That history is well-represented by a menu that includes an astounding bouillon, boudin Basque aux pommes, and blanquette de veau. These are delicious, but they’re hardly the sort of fare one wants to eat while standing up or perching on stools in the main-floor bar. It’s also not what one wants to eat during the sweltering summer months, and yet the menu doesn’t seem to adapt to the seasons in any way.
The upstairs dining room is far more comfortable, but it’s posh and quiet and feels like the wrong place to be. I’d much rather hang in the bar, where photos and design elements from old Paris are still on display, but I find myself wishing for more of the kind of hors d’oeuvres that Rose promised would be on offer in the bar, like the delectable rabbit kidney toasts pictured below. In reality, the menu is the same whether one eats upstairs (too quiet) or downstairs (while standing).
With just a few tweaks – an expanded selection of wines by the glass and additional nibbles for the bar – Chez la Vieille could be a real hit and a regular haunt. For now, it’s a charming but not essential place to grab a drink before dinner when you’re near the Louvre.
Chez la Vieille in photos
What people are saying
Alexander Lobrano (2016) says this reopening is “very good news for anyone who loves the earthy voluptuousness of authentic old-fashioned French bistro cooking as much as I do,” praising chef Oleg Olexin’s duck terrine that “shot me back through time in the most ruthless of ways, since this soft but firm slab of minced duck meat, organs and fat has the kind of low-ball barnyard funk that Madame Biasin always made her signature.”
Le Monde (2016) François Simon calls the cooking “opulent and generous” and loves the time-warp dish of foie gras with lentils and the “groove and swing” of the blanquette de veau.
TimeOut (2016) raves about creamy bulots with house mayo, but says the real star is the blanquette de veau, served directly in a Staub cocotte with a sauce so good they finished every drop. They find there to be a real sincerity in the chef’s approach, both in the menu and in the atmosphere.
Le Fooding (2016) says “we returned and, just like in the good old days, entered through the door that’s also used by residents of the building…. we were handed a rather large menu in the spirit of a bygone era: sardine rillettes, herring with potato salad and artisanal charcuterie from Franche-Comté for the copious appetizers; coquelet à la diable, veal kidneys in a Brive mustard sauce for the main courses.”