Mon 14 Jun 2010
Suckling Pyrenees lamb with stuffed peppers.
3, rue St.-Beuve, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 45 49 10 40. Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
I first visited this place with a couple of girlfriends more than three years ago. Our table wasn’t ready, so we waited with a glass of wine at the kitchen counter, where we tried to stay out of the way of the busy serveuse while chatting and watching the chef cook away. I was charmed.
The aptly named le Timbre is the size of a postage stamp, a single room with a tiny kitchen in the back. Every inch of space is put to use. There is a banquette along each wall, and you’ll need help getting in and out.
The words cuisine traditionnelle are written on the window, but even if they weren’t, it would be obvious. Terrine de campagne with onion jam, hure de cochon (a.k.a. head cheese), white asparagus, fennel soup: like other bistros in this genre, it’s less about creativity than quality. Those white asparagus were served with a mustard-laden vinaigrette and a green herb puree, each bright and well seasoned.
There were a few Basque touches to the main courses: rabbit was served with chorizo, and a falling-apart-tender piece of young Pyrenees lamb sat next to stuffed pimiente peppers, racy red with a hint of heat. A seasonal sensibility is apparent, asparagus popping up again in the main courses alongside girolle mushrooms to accompany duck confit.
Sweet teeth would do well to opt for le Timbre’s signature mille-feuille, a peach-and-rhubarb crumble or, in my case, Agen prunes (the best prunes in the world, maybe) in white wine and spices. I love these kinds of simple bistro desserts.
The Rhône and Loire valleys are well represented on the wine list, along with the Languedoc and Roussillon, most reasonably priced and most from small biodynamic winemakers.
If I told you that the chef of this near-perfect little French bistro was English, would you be surprised? Maybe, but if you’re a cheese lover you’ll appreciate the single nod he makes to his homeland: a plate of Stilton, that champion of blues that rarely gets its due in France, chauvinist as it is.
Because of le Timbre’s size, I recommend calling two days in advance for a table. Those 20-some seats fill up quickly with neighborhood locals and visiting foodies staying in the area.
In a nutshell: A meal at the tiny le Timbre should leave bistro lovers with a big smile.
Price check: First courses, mains and desserts are 8, 17 and 7 euros, respectively, barring the occasional supplement.
If you love the sound of this pocket-sized bistro, you’ll also love the minuscule La Cerisaie, on the other side of the Gare Montparnasse.
70, blvd Edgar Quinet, in the 14th.
01 43 20 98 98. Mon–Fri, noon–2 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10 p.m.