This post is a continuation of a sort-of-annual series, January Dreaming. Click for the series, and see the end of the post for the backstory.
It was an Anniversary Trip
The Grill-Meister and I did a Paris and London trip for our 11th anniversary back in June of 2019. It was lovely, lovely, lovely. You might have seen a post or two about that trip already, like this one:
On this dreary, drizzly January Sunday in 2022, I’m missing Paris and dreaming of a long, leisurely lunch we enjoyed on a summer afternoon in the City of Lights on that 2019 trip. A bucket list item for The Grill-Meister was to have escargot while we were there. So we did. And now it’s time to share it with you, starting with our choice of restaurants.
Where to Go?
I’m all about doing online research, including consulting reviews and ratings by other diners or professional guides, but this goal was too important to trust the opinions of strangers, so I asked one of my Parisian colleagues for guidance. He didn’t hesitate for a moment, just blurted out “it has to be L’Escargot Montorgueil in Les Halles”. He was adamant, certain, unequivocal, firm. This was THE place to go. I loved that unambiguous response and knew we were in for a treat once he started to describe the restaurant and where it was located. We were delighted that we were able to get a reservation, and the web site photos increased our anticipation. See what I mean?
I wrote a little about our sojourn at L’Escargot Montorgueil in this post from 2019 about the wonders of tomato bread. But this post is about the restaurant itself, and the snails.
A Wonderful Walk to Rue Montorgueil
Les Halles is a great area to walk in! (Like so many other parts of Paris, of course.) Rue Montorgueil is a cobblestone pedestrian-friendly street, creating three perfect blocks for walking, shopping, sightseeing, enjoying an anniversary trip with someone you love. It was urban and village-like at the same time. There were shoppers, tourists, Parisians with baguettes under their arms choosing fruit at an open-air market, restaurants galore, dogs on leashes and lovers lingering on steps and against buildings. It was a warm summer day with a pastel-blue-wispy-cloud sky that was the perfect backdrop for the cream-colored 19th century buildings.
I wish I had taken more pictures on our walk to the restaurant, but during that whole Paris-London trip, I mostly just lived the anniversary experience in the moment rather than capturing it. I tend to take a lot more photos when I’m alone and can meander. The pics you see here were snapped quickly with an iPhone 8, my work phone. But I think you’ll get the idea, at least enough to do some January Dreaming with me.
You begin to feel the ambiance of L’Escargot Montorgueil as you approach it.
A giant golden snail is perched atop the sign. There’s no doubt about the restaurant’s specialty!
A Leisurely Meal
We had a perfect long lunch, the kind of meal you remember for a long, long time (and hey, maybe even write blog posts about!). The service was exquisite. Anything and everything we wanted arrived right when we wanted it – not too soon, which makes you feel rushed, and not too late, which makes you feel forgotten. It was juuuuuussssst right.
The meal started with wine, of course, a nice, vibrant, fruity Chablis from J. Moreau et Fils, who have been making wine since 1814. I would say “French Chablis”, but that would be redundant, as only chardonnay grapes grown in the Chablis region of Burgundy are allowed the appellation of Chablis. Chablis grapes are the only grapes allowed in that region, and the magazine Wine Enthusiast tells us how Chablis is special in this 2018 article, Why Chablis is the Purest Chardonnay.
After our order was placed with our very agreeable waiter who approved of our wine choice and didn’t mind our English and less than 20 words of broken and incomprehensible French, the escargot implements were delivered. All of the silverware was heavy, solid, serious. Just as its more enjoyable to drink wine from crystal glasses, there’s something very pleasurable about eating with nice tools. You feel more special. (Do I sound like a snob? That’s ok, I’ll embrace it. Food and wine are serious business around here.)
We started with the tomato bread and jamón ibérico, a delicious dry-cured ham that’s sort of like prosciutto and is produced in Spain and Portugal from acorn-fed stock. (I didn’t know that little fact until I did the research for this post.) I was just able to snap a photo in the seconds before The Grill-Meister went for it.
The presentation of the jamón ibérico was new to me; it was arranged in slices atop a hollow dome, making it easy to select the delectable pieces, one by one.
We showed restraint in ordering our entrees… I hope you’ll agree. While escargot is definitely the main event, there are other almost-irresistible classic French bistro dishes on the menu at L’Escargot Montorgueil, like fois gras, brie or country pate in a beautiful crust, gravlax with blinis, filets, risotto or sole meunière. It was the true definition of that old phrase, “spoiled for choice”! But we came for the escargot, so that’s what we chose, the traditional treatment with garlicky herb butter and parsley piled atop meaty broiled snails.
We only ordered six snails to share, because my colleague had warned us that they are HUGE. Check that out, my friends! It’s a big, meaty, multiple-bite escargot, not a wimpy little puff-pastry topped eraser-textured garden snail like most places here in the US serve. This is escargot as it should be. Traditional. Perfect.
Along with our delectable snails, we enjoyed a salad of a whole artichoke, the leaves beautifully arranged around chunks of the heart, which was tossed with a rich, dark balsamic vinegar and hazelnuts. The sweet acidity of the salad was a perfect complement to the rich, earthy, buttery snails, the wine was great with everything, and we were very pleased with our “how to order the right things at a French bistro” skills that day.
L’Escargot Montorgueil is the Real Deal
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the snails – the restaurant was packed! We weren’t the only ones snapping a few pics, either.
The decor of the restaurant is charming; it has an old-school feel with a little quirkiness, or maybe even sassiness. I snapped these pics on the way out.
It was easy to see how L’Escargot Montorgueil has been serving snails to hungry, appreciative patrons since 1832.
And I think you can guess that we’ll be going back the next time we’re in Paris. Right now, I’m just dreaming about it in dreary January.
About the January Dreaming Series
The inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series. Read more about it in the post that kicked off the series in January of 2019, or check out the whole series here.