LE COCHON A L’OREILLE
Dating back to 1890 this ancient bistrot oozes charm, character and atmosphere of a bygone era.
The family run business with only six-eight tables, a zinc bar, tiled murals adorning the walls, friendly service and hearty traditional fare.
One of Paris’ charms is her hidden secrets and unlocking one is always exciting.
Whether it be a beautiful courtyard tucked behind a large austere timber door or a pretty quiet cobbled passageway, it is always a treat to be savoured.
And finding a charming traditional Parisian bistrot beneath a common red awning with good food and a relaxed friendly atmosphere is a delight!
You could be forgiven for walking pass Le Cochon à L’Oreille’s narrow unassuming yet heritage listed façade on Rue Montmartre in the vibrant Les Halles area but step inside and you will be pleasantly surprised!
The area of Les Halles, in the 1st arrondissement was once home to a large central wholesale market, dating back to 1183. Local industry developed accordingly, especially cafés and restaurants to serve the tired, hungry merchants.
Since 1977 when the markets were moved out of Paris and the hungry merchants with it, this saw a decline in the once bustling cafés that had served them. Some adjusted their businesses to cater for tourists but unfortunately some had to close their doors. This resulted in a change of atmosphere and a change in the market café’s culture.
Cochon a l’Oreille didn’t look like it was doing a roaring trade from the outside, the Saturday afternoon I visited with a friend but when we tried the door and were greeted with a warm cheery welcome and asked where we would like to sit the choices were not abundant in the tiny relaxed bistrot.
The local patrons had already secured their favourite tables.
A very small blackboard menu was placed on our table and we both decided on steak and some red wine.
The wine is served from the bottle ‘à la ficelle’, on a pay what you drink basis.
A full bottle of your choice will be left on your table and later you will pay for what you have consumed.
This harks back to a time when a ficelle or piece of string with knots would be placed in the bottle to measure how much you had taken from the bottle. Very rarely will you find this old fashioned method in Paris anymore but that is part of the charm of Cochon a l’Oreille
We sat back and relaxed admiring the original tiled murals depicting streets scenes from the old Les Halles markets and observed the friendly attention given to a young Dutch couple who arrived not long after us.
They had no French but English.
Who speaks English, Madame asks her regular diners. Between them they managed to translate the menu for her guests.
My friend could have helped out but I think he enjoyed watching the playful way in which the owner and her diners went about coming up with the English for chestnuts and making swimming motions to describe the fish. All the while, with her arm fondly draped across the young man’s shoulder.
It is nice to see, that despite the upheaval of the area, Le Cochon l’Oreille has managed to keep its old fashioned charm and decor over the years.
Oh! and the important thing to mention is that apart from the wonderful murals and cozy atmosphere, the food is good and the service is supremely kind and friendly!
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