Ju and I really love going out to eat, and he’s especially critical of any major flaws in service or cooking. He’s the son of a butcher and he is especially ready to knock a restaurant for serving bad quality meat or canned vegetables. But when we find a place we like, we go back, and we try to talk it up to everyone we know. After two years together and three years in Poitiers, I have something of a list in mind whenever anyone asks for a good restaurant.
I went to this restaurant for the first time with my parents in March of 2010 and it’s a favorite of our lecteur crowd. It’s tiny and is known for having local cuisine. The thing that gives Les Bons Enfants character is the fact that, apparently, it used to be a school, and so there are strange pictures of children everywhere in the decor—the placemats, the walls, the windows. It’s a bit weird. There’s a five-course menu option and they have a real cheese menu, as well as really yummy duck confit.
2) The Magenta
This one is also an expat favorite. The Magenta, on rue Magenta in Poitiers, is now owned by the same person as the Vingélique and the Bistro de l’absynthe (see 3 and 4), though it is not the same type of restaurant. Magenta is better-known for its pizzas and Italian food. I have to say, the pizzas are pretty good, and they only cost around 11 euros, though this restaurant no longer tops my list. We went there for Valentine’s Day last year and my meat was inedible. They’ve also served me melted ice cream before.
So, instead of going to the Magenta, we head across the street to Rue Carnot and go to the Bistro de l’absynthe. This one used to be an absinthe bar, so all of its walls are decorated with absinthe ads. The menu is 21 euros for very good food. Last time I went, though, during the Expressifs 2012, the waitress spilled my kir all over me and didn’t bother to bring me a new one, so my experience has been just the tiniest bit soured. Still, highly recommend.
Literally across the street is the Vingélique, which, with its fancy name and its fancy decor, is a step up from the Bistro de l’absynthe. It’s still within our budget, but I’m guessing a spilled kir would be handled with finesse here.
Beyond being horribly difficult to pronounce, I don’t really know what to make of this place. I generally don’t go there anymore, though I used to really like it. The back of the dining room still shows the locksmith tools that the place gets its name from, and the decor has a certain special charm. Every foreign lecteur I’ve known loves this place. And yet I really prefer to avoid it. Ju has told me that their meat is questionable, and though I’d never really noticed that, I’d been disappointed too many times, notably with their pad thai, to keep going there. They do have a huge brunch on Sundays which was pretty tasty, but their “pancake” (yes, in the singular) was truly pathetic. I mean it was tiny and flat and tasteless. It was served as a desert as an accompaniment to sticky rice. I was so dismayed (and, to their credit, so full) that I didn’t waste my appetite eating it. So I can’t necessarily say the brunch is worth it either. On the other hand, I do still like The Gazette, which is owned by the same people. (One main advantage—it’s open Sundays.)
The Caribou is on the street I used to live on, a pedestrian cobble-stone road smack in the center, and it is a quebecois restaurant. Having never been to Quebec, I don’t know if it’s at all accurate, but it is tasty. They recently renovated the upstairs of the building and built a staircase, so that the bar is now downstairs and the restaurant is upstairs with the stuffed black bear (not kidding). Ju doesn’t like this restaurant because it doesn’t have the traditional French “menu” option. What a French problem. The bar serves different types of alcohol with maple syrup, which can be surprisingly good. This place is swamped though on weekends, so it’s best to reserve and if you want just a drink, it’s best to arrive before 9.
Taking a moment to step outside of the centre ville, you can find this restaurant a bit closer to where we live, and still accessible by bus, though I don’t know how late. It is really excellent and I can’t recommend it more. I went there first for Valentine’s Day with Ju a couple of years ago and we were stuffed when we left. The food is really delicious and well-presented. It’s the kind of place where we tell people what we ate afterward. We never worry about what we’ll find when we go here. For lunch you pretty much have to reserve ahead.
8) Le Cafe Pop
Ahhh the Cafe Pop. What can I possibly say to sell this restaurant well enough? I LOVE the Cafe Pop. I didn’t notice it till living in Poitiers from almost two years. It’s tucked next to the Mairie and looks so much like a bar that I didn’t really even bother checking it out. Then one evening Ju and I were looking for a place to eat and decided to try it. It’s a bar-restaurant, so the atmosphere is what you could call “convivial” in French. The menu is only 18 euros for the cheapest option, though it’s hard to stick to that when a 3-euro supplement will get you a fancier starter or main dish. With three courses you have more than enough to eat, and their tiramisu “façon Snickers” will probably stay with me forever. This is, without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in Poitiers and I would recommend it to French people and foreigners alike. (Also open Sundays.)
For anyone looking for sushi in Poitiers, Yakido is the place I’d recommend. It’s a little further out from the main center, but it’s still within easy walking distance, right next to Parc Blossac. The sushi is simple but very good, and very reasonably priced. They also have massive yakitori menus that will make your stomach explode. Go for the smallest one if you don’t want to die.
10) Restaurant India
I know, Indian and Japanese food isn’t really what people are typically looking for when they visit a French city, but for those who live there, it can be good to know where to go for these things. I love Indian food, and there were some good Indian restaurants to be had in Texas when I was growing up. So my standards are fairly high. But then, I live in France, where spicy flavors aren’t really in fashion, so I know sometimes I have to settle. This tiny restaurant on the corner of Grand’rue in the center is really very good, I think. Since it’s France, you should feel free to order the spicy option if you want the heaping of flavor that Indian food generally implies. The place, like I said, is very small, the servers (probably the owner and his wife) are very polite, and the price is cheaper than the new flashier Indian restaurant across the street. Ju actually managed to eat one of the same style dishes here as he’d eaten in India. As for the other Indian restaurant in Poitiers on Rue Carnot, well, my friend Dan got sick afterward, and aside from the samosas, I found the whole meal sort of bland. (I think Restaurant India is open on Sundays as well.)
So! If any of you ever come to Poitiers, you’ll know where to go now… heh. It’s not that there aren’t other restaurants that are totally fine, it’s just that these are the ones where I’ve consistently had good meals and good experiences. And of course, we haven’t tried everything. There are some to be avoided: the Taverne de Maître Kanter, Au Bureau unless you just want a croque monsieur, and possibly even the 16 Carnot though it’s been redone recently. If I can prevent anyone from going to Maître Kanter and lead them to the Cafe Pop instead, my life will have served an important purpose at least once.