Review: Pavillon de Paris, District I
Located in a fine building that straddles the old city walls, Pavillon de Paris sits in the minute French enclave in Buda’s main street, just opposite the French Institute. It has recently moved from its summer quarters in the garden (with its heated pavilion) to the inside dining room, a few steps down from the street. The seasonal transition comes with a change in the cuisine, with the summer, gastrofood offerings complemented by a new, weekly bistro-style menu
With French owners and a Hungarian chef trained in Spain and the UK, the menu is essentially southern French with a few Spanish touches. Theme menus are sometimes organised, from Breton food to Beaujolais nouveau wine dinners.
The freshness and quality of the ingredients, brought in from France on a weekly basis, is easily tasted in the mussel soup, with its thick stock, served at the table on a bed of mussels and wild mushrooms. The combination makes for an excellent and intensely flavoured seafood soup.
The beef casserole en terrine is difficult to picture just from reading the menu, and the result is testimony to the chef’s imagination. Round helpings of rich, meaty oxtail are served on a bed of cooked beetroot with a few capers and a dash of beetroot sauce on the side. The accompanying sauce gribiche – made of eggs, mustard and capers – is more of a dumpling than a sauce because of its firm texture, but its sharp taste well complements the more earthy meatiness of the oxtail.
Among the mains, the farm coquelet pot-au-feu is a whole young cockerel served as a light stew with the accompaniment of fresh vegetables (carrot, turnip, radish, potato and celery), lightly cooked to retain both shape and texture, and a bed of mashed potatoes. The meat is extremely tender and flavoursome and served with a well-concentrated gravy for a delicious take on a French classic.
The turbot, a fresh, firm seafish, is served with a roasted hazelnut crust with a southern French twist in the shape of a socca, a thick, pancake-like speciality made of chickpea flour. An extra layer of flavour is added with the endive (chicory) cooked with orange juice to remove the bitterness of the vegetable. This makes for an interesting and varied combination of ingredients, though it is not easy to tackle the firm endive leaves if armed with just a fish knife.
A cheese plate is available, with a good selection including blue cheese bleu d’Auvergne, mild, semi-soft morbier, a more mature, nuttier comté and soft-rind camembert, made either from cow’s milk or in an interesting, leaner goat version. It is served with nuts and a tangy onion marmalade. Especially worthy of note is the bread selection: olive bread for the cheese, and a delicious, crusty baguette and seed-studded bread earlier in the meal, served with semi-salted butter, or olive oil with sea salt.
The dessert selection is especially appetising, whether it be the sophisticated green apple millefeuille or the homier floating island. The latter comes as a trio of baked tonka bean meringue with custard. The subtle, multifaceted flavour of the bean well echoes that of the vanilla in the custard. The meringue is very sticky, which makes it rather a conversation stopper, and undermines the delicateness of the taste, but the custard is deliciously light and makes for an overall pleasant dessert. Wines can be chosen from a relatively short list presenting a mix of French and Hungarian.
Service can be solemn and would need a little more of a natural feel to it, to make the guest entirely at ease. But waiters are nonetheless pleasant, efficient and knowledgeable about both the contents of the dishes and the origins of the ingredients on offer.
Overall this makes for a well-priced, well-proportioned and top-quality meal in pleasant, calm and spacious surroundings.
Starters & soups: HUF 1,400-3,400
Mains: HUF 3,200-4,500
Cheese: HUF 1,900
Dessert: HUF 1,400-1,600
Wine (1.5dl): HUF 900-1,400
2- or 3-course menu: 2,900-3,500
Pavillon de Paris
District I, F? utca 20
Open Tuesday-Saturday 12noon-11pm (food served 12noon-4pm, 7pm-10pm)
(+36) 20 509-3430