La Fontaine de Mars is a very special place indeed……let you in on a little secret, a former president has graced this quintessential Parisian bistro with his presence. The most charming and eloquent president of recent times (in my opinion) President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle visited Fontaine de Mars in 2009 and the rest as they say is history.
Not taking anything away from this fine bistro, it made a name for itself before then but who wouldn’t want to visit a restaurant where a former President has dined!! Was this the only reason I wanted to eat at Fontaine de Mars? No, not really, I’d heard great things about this bistro in the 7th arrondissement from Parisian bloggers I know and friends in Paris. Its location is fab too, sitting on the very chic rue Saint-Dominique feet away from the Iron Lady herself. Walk to the end of the road and you will see the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the evening and delighting us with the most amazing light displays every hour.
The little square behind the Fontain de Mars – Mars Fountain.
A Little Bit About rue Saint-Dominique
By day, the rue Saint-Dominique is a bustling street around the corner from market street, rue Cler and has an abundance of charm. There are all sorts of wonderful artisan shops, bakeries, chocolatiers, patisseries and stylish boutiques taking up residence here and back in July, I paid a visit during the day when I was in Paris with my daughter.
The Mars Fountain
The Fontaine de Mars takes its name from the neoclassical fountain that sits in the middle of a tiny picturesque square flanked either side by the Fontaine de Mars and a Michelin star restaurant called Les Fables de la Fontaine. At the far end is another highly recommended bistro called simply Bistro Saint-Dominique where my daughter and I stopped for coffee.
The acclaimed chef Christian Constant has three well known restaurants along rue Saint-Dominique and he used to own Fables de la Fontaine. The fountain dates back to 1806 which was named after the Roman God of War, Mars. A sculpture of the god appears on the fountain as does Hygieia, Goddess of Health. The significance of these two gods appearing on the fountain is because many years ago, Les Invalides could be seen from here and this historic building was a retirement home and hospital for war veterans. It now contains museums and monuments relating to the military history of France but a military hospital is still in operation. Les Invalides is also the headquarters of the military governor of Paris and is really worth a visit while in Paris.
Back to Fontaine de Mars, I had booked a restaurant from the UK but unbeknown to me and not being able to read French, the email was not in fact a confirmation but just sent to notify me that the restaurant was closed in August. Do bear this in mind when visiting Paris in August, most of Paris shuts down for annual vacations but there is still a wide choice of restaurants and bistros and many shops that are open. Mr A suggested we sit down for a drink at a terrace café and decide from there where to go and eat. It was a balmy warm August evening and Paris was looking magical. I knew just the place to go and eat and to my amazement, Fontaine de Mars had a table available.
Having marvelled at this quintessential looking bistro when I was last in Paris in July, I knew I wanted to eat here and that it would be even more perfect in the evening. It’s so typically Parisian with its red and white striped awning, check tablecloths and shabby almost antique-like tables and chairs and it was packed solid with diners. Waiters were flying around so elegantly with delicious plates of food, I looked at Mr A and knew we had made the right choice. We hoped we had secured a table outside and we did, it was in the corner in the front of the restaurant and it was the perfecting setting for a romantic meal.
La Fontaine de Mars, outside tables.
What we ate at La Fontaine de Mars
I craved duck confit (confit de canard) and knew it would probably be on the menu as well as the popular steak tartare. The menu is vast but comes in English too. All the French classics appear on the menu including Boeuf Bourguignonne, Blanquette de Veau, Foie Gras, Fillet Steak with Béarnaise or Pepper sauce, Pommes Frites and snails (escargots), Coq au Vin as well as some unusual dishes like tripe and fried black pudding!
When we were seated, we were offered the wine menu and a bottle of water. We chose a red Saumur, I’m not a lover of red wine, in fact I thought this was a white Saumur, nevertheless, it was rich and robust and really complemented our food.Mr A chose the steak tartare and I settled on the duck confit. To begin with, Mr A chose a tomato soup which resembled gazpacho, it was rich and mildly spicy with croutons and goats cheese.
Mr A’s Gazpacho-like cold soup.
I was quite surprised by his choice but as I chose the foie gras, I knew he would also share with me this favourite starter of ours. My foie gras didn’t come with a confit of something sweet and jammy. I was quite surprised by this, the same happened with the foie gras I had at Chez Georges back in July but it didn’t matter because it was served with the most delicious French baguette, crispy and light as it always is in Paris.
We both adore Foie Gras,
The restaurant had a constant queue even late into the night, a testament to its very good food and reputation.Soon our main dishes arrived. Mr A’s steak tartare didn’t have the customary egg but as I have noticed, it isn’t always served with a raw egg yolk. It was however sublime, rich from the quality of the beef used and so finely cut, it had a drizzle of olive oil and packed with flavour from the added cornichons. Mr A also ordered a side of crispy pommes frites.
My duck was delicous, succulent and soft as it should be with crispy roasted skin, the meat was falling off the bone. It was served with saute potatoes, some of which were buried under my duck ! I would have liked more in all honesty, was this just me being greedy ? there was also a side of frisée lettuce with a zingy French dressing.
My Duck Confit was one of the best I’ve had in Paris.
We thoroughly enjoyed our food and looked forward to our desserts. Knowing that Mr A isn’t really a dessert person, I knew he would pass on this final course but not me; I chose the very classic Mille Feille. The portion was huge, so Mr A decided to help me finish it off, not that I needed any help! did I say he wasn’t a dessert fan? Give him anything chocolaty and he would have devoured but agreed with me that the Mille Feille was sensational. All patisserie in France is yummy and it was no surprise that the crispy layers of fine puff pastry filled with rum Chantilly cream, the merest sprinkling of caramelized brûlée-like sugar and a dusting of icing sugar would be heavenly.
Classic French Mille-Feille.
We finished our delicious meal with a coffee each, Mr A always chooses an espresso while I always have a café crème when I’m in Paris.
The Fontaine de Mars is a cosy French bistro serving authentic French classics. Friendly and warm, it’s everything you imagine a French bistro to be. The Fontaine de Mars might be consistently busy, but it doesn’t scrimp on service or quality of food. Always accommodating, they will endeavour to find you a table even if you arrive unannounced. When we left the restaurant at, we walked to the end of rue Saint-Dominique and witnessed the most amazing light display as the Eiffel Tower glittered and glowed in between flashes of bright colour illuminating the 7th arrondissement.
Make your way to Fontaine des Mars on your next visit to Paris, if it’s good enough for a President then it’s good enough for everyone!