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.
1) Les Bons Enfants
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 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.
3) The Vingélique
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.
4) Le Caribou Cafe
photo from the restaurant website
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.
5) La Cuisine du comptoir
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.
6) Le Cafe Pop
Edit June 2017: We’ve actually been disappointed with the Cafe Pop the past few times we’ve gone, over a period of a couple years—slow service, and lack-luster lunch menus. So I’d have to temper my previously fervent recommendation of this place. The friendly atmosphere is still there though.
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.
8) Chez Ngim (update August 2015)
Chez Ngim serves excellent Cambodian food at thoughtful, affordable prices, that include actual spicy dishes if you ask for it. The owner or his regular servers will also explain every dish on his menu and how to eat it, when needed.
9) Les Archives (update August 2015)
Les Archives is the restaurant part of the Mercure Hotel in Poitiers, which is located in an old, um, archive. It’s a beautiful building but the food is also delicious, AND it’s open on Sundays and Mondays.
10) Le Bis (update June 2017)
Le Bis is a fancy-looking restaurant on Rue Magenta that has perfectly reasonable prices, excellent food, and impeccable service. If you go in for lunch, they can get you in and out within a half hour, and you never have to ask for your water to be refilled.
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.