After mistaking the equally small and cramped little bistro across the street for the one Fergus Henderon recommended in the Guardian, I went back to test his favorite lunch place on the rue Marché de St. Honoré. My sister and I arrived there around 2:00, when the lunch crowd had already begun to dwindle. The patron shoo’ed us up the narrowest staircase I’ve ever climbed in my life to the floor above the ground level. One small room contained tables packed close together. We squeezed ourselves into the corner and considered ourselves lucky that we hadn’t clobbered anyone with our bags in the process.
Two French women at the table next to us nodded “bon jour” and, beyond them, two workings stiffs — to judge by appearances — looked at us and turned away. When we came in, we were the only non-French diners in the room. We opted for a plate of duck rillettes, saucisson à pistachés (which must be in season because they’re everywhere), and lamb shanks and flageolets, accompanied by a half-bottle, or fillette, of beaujolais nouveau. My sister moved to apply some mustard to her sliced sausage. The French woman next to her caught her eye. “Non, non.” Marcy froze. And didn’t take any mustard. The woman smiled at her friend, glanced at me, and sighed. “La pauvre.” Poor thing.
The food met my expectations, which is to say that it was good, straight-ahead traditional fare. I told the women next to me that we were following the recommendation of a famous British chef. They were surprised, but the men next to them said the place had once been renowned among Parisians for its wine. A few moments later, an altercation with another French woman in the room complaining aloud about the “foreigners” taking over the place (meaning my sister and me and a British and American couple who came in after us) put a damper on our satisfaction.
As pleasant as Le Rubis was, I preferred my visit to the nameless place across the street that I described here.