It is one of my greatest pleasures to slowly meander around the streets of Paris like a modern day flaneur, exploring its backstreets, soaking in its sights, its odours, its very essence with a sense of almost childish wonderment at everything I see. Following the tradition of the “nightwalker”, the prolific 18th century French writer Restif de la Brettonne, I often take leisurely walks across the city from Pigalle to the Louvre before crossing the river to the left bank, taking in the delightful aromas emanating from the many small restaurants and cafes along the way.
One such meander then ended with me exploring the streets around the rue du Buci, a neighbourhood first introduced to me on a book hunting trip with the legendary Martin Stone back in the early ’90s. It was once a street packed with second hand bookstores, which have gradually been replaced by cafes and stylish boutiques. On turning the corner into the rue de Seine, the murmur of conversation grew louder as I heard Parisians finishing their late lunch sat outside a cafe.
This specialist seafood restaurant has been serving great food to hungry locals for decades. Ideal in summer for outside dining, this place is always packed for lunch and again from late afternoon with the after work crowd until late at night. I went during the mid-afternoon lull to sample their special “Jac a dit” an offer of six plump Normandy oysters, crusty bread and a glass of refreshing chilled Muscadet, all for a mere €15.
I sat at the bar, watching our server pull oysters from a wooden box, fresh from the ports of Normandy that morning, shuck them and place them neatly, like precious glistening jewels, on a bed of ice. These were served accompanied by raspberry vinegar with shallots, lemon wedges and a generous serving of the French staple of sliced crusty baguette, with more bread available on request. A simple appetising dish with an elegant presentation. My only extra request was for a bottle of Tabasco to add a little heat.
I tend to judge a place that gets the really simple things right. Huguette had many other dishes on the menu, but on this day I only wanted to graze on a light snack.
The ghost of Restif is always with me, inspiring me to keep my eyes and mind open, always ready make new discoveries; and, who knows what I will find on my next wander through the streets of Paris, in some hidden backstreet or courtyard. Another trip to La Huguette is certainly on the cards.
La Huguette Bistro de la mer
81, rue de Seine
Tous les jours de 8h à 2h
01 43 25 00 28