One of the great pleasures of a weekend in Paris is a leisurely morning treasure-hunting the stalls of the flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt. As any real market hound knows, you have to arrive early, which means that you’re usually pretty hungry around noon. This has always been a problem, since aside from a couple of picturesque but not very good luncheonettes in the market, there hasn’t been anywhere nearby to get a proper meal — at least until Ma Cocotte opened last September.
Parisian friends told me about this new place, noting that it was designed by Philippe Starck. As I have a tempered appreciation of his work, this didn’t exactly drive me through the doors. On a cold, wet Saturday at noon, however, Mrs. Harper and I were hungry, so we made our way there, and to my surprise, we liked it right off the bat.
Many Philippe Starck-designed restaurants in Paris proper serve mediocre food and employ staff who are too impressed by their stylish workplaces. Happily, this wasn’t the case in this warm, pretty dining room. The staff, mostly from the surrounding suburbs, were blushingly eager to do their jobs well and were very charming.
While we didn’t come here expecting a gourmet meal, I was pleasantly surprised by the food. My lentil salad had fine flavor, and Mrs. Harper enjoyed a plate of smoked salmon to start. Next up was a nicely seasoned steak tartare for me and steamed cod with a sauce vierge for Madame. Both were good, and aside from the food and a nice bottle of Crozes-Hermitage, it was fun to people-watch in a place with a real upstairs-downstairs crowd — grand old French antiquaries mixing it up with hip-hop kids from the neighborhood. So we liked this restaurant a lot, for the décor, food and service, but also because we can now make a full day of it at the flea market.
Ma Cocotte. 106 rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen. Tel. 01-49-51-70-00. Metro: Porte de Clignancourt. Open daily, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Prix-fixe lunch menus, 24 euros and 29 euros; average dinner, 40 euros.