At Chez Omar
For a city that loves dining so much, Paris doesn’t particularly like a Monday evening — come back again on Wednesday — but there is, luckily for us, a slightly wonky old world beacon on a plain stretch of the 3rd arrondissement, a deep and slightly faded red facade and the name Omar painted gold on the side.
Wedged in-between a pharmacy and a small supermarket, Chez Omar is hardly what Time Out would call a ‘hidden gem,’ it’s been around since the 70s; theParis Fashion Week set love it, but stepping into the narrow entrance-way — chandeliers hanging low over tables draped in white linen while men in starched uniforms drift around the room, lots of dark-wood panelling — makes you feel like you’ve made a discovery. Never mind the teeming bit of theatre going on around you. There are strictly no reservations.
One of the city’s first French-Algerian bistros, opened by Omar Guerda, who can still be spotted in the kitchen and dining room, cous cous is the speciality here, along with merguez (a spicy North African sausage), méchoui d’agneau, (roast lamb), and a great, no-nonsense steak au poivre. The food is almost beside the point, though, it’s a room and space to savour. The table next door has launched into a full-bodied Bon Anniversaire, while a waiter with a cinematic face, all sharp cheekbones and thick silver hair, looms over the table. We try to order, what turns out to be, too much, a grave mistake that is met with a firm shake of the head. “It’s enough,” he says, pointedly, before disappearing into the kitchen.
In the end, of course, he was right. It was enough. And even if it wasn’t… it was enough.