L’Avant-Comptoir: they’re not tapas, they’re little bites of French love

Credit: Alexander Lobrano

It went like this: my friends were running late, and I had a half-hour to kill before dinner in the Odeon neighborhood. So here I was, Les Editeurs right in front of me – a tried and tested cafe where I could order a Perrier while I waited. And right across the street, l’Avant-Comptoir, pocketsize bar, beckoning me with its tapas menu and rave reviews. The pull was too strong. The Perrier never stood a chance.

To be precise, it’s not a tapas bar, exactly. If you ask the owner – bistro chef extraordinaire Yves Camdeborde, who also owns the Comptoir du Relais next door – he’ll say it is an “hors d’oeuvre” bar. I heard one diner get gently corrected when he asked for the “croquetas”: they’re croquettes, came the cheeky response. You can say it in French. And Camdeborde does rustic French so well.

What l’Avant-Comptoir is, is the perfect place to grab a refined aperitif. The idea for this little annex is to eat standing up, eat while you wait (for a table next door, for your movie to begin at a nearby cinema, for show-time at the Theatre de l’Odeon down the street)…

So there are no seats, and it takes some maneuvering to find a bit of standing room in the tiny space – but who cares when there’s such a good vibe? Small groups of friends happily chatting away, elbow-to-elbow, everyone jumbled together in a few square meters. Lots of good mood behind the counter, too – the guy at the bar noticed I was wrangling a bit, got me the menu in a snap and addressed me in the familiar “tu” (you). In some circumstances, it would be rude; he was just friendly and informal.

Credit: C. Mellerand for L’Express Styles

The result: lots of French loving, in the form of a delicious glass of white Macon Villages; a perfect, plump artichoke to dip leaf by leaf into olive oil and a touch of salt (by then my buddies got there and quickly proceeded to dip along). Lots of success around the bar for the pig’s foot croquettes; I also spotted a delicious-looking tuna tartare… And wished I could try the rice pudding for dessert – alas, a table and a meal awaited us somewhere else.

Restaurant experiences in Paris can often be clouded by bad service, long waits, and too much attitude. The most charming thing about L’Avant-Comptoir is its simplicity and straightforward goodness. And the food and wine are really a cut above. Definitely adding it to my black book of Paris favorites – and you know our black book is your black book!

Footnotes – L’Avant-Comptoir is at 9 Carrefour de l’Odeon in the 6th. It takes no reservations and is open everyday. Glass of wine between 2-5 euros, hors d’oeuvre between 3-6 euros.

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Comments
3 Responses to “L’Avant-Comptoir: they’re not tapas, they’re little bites of French love”
  1. This place sounds lovely. Thanks for making a note, I’ll be saving it for future trips. =)

  2. Christiano says:

    My new favorite in Paris. The best “tapas” ever…and is right there, in the heart of St. Germain. Last week I was in Paris for 4 days and went to L´Avant Comptoir twice.

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