TWENTY years of history in Shanghai, Le Bouchon is more like an institution than a simple French bistro, hidden on Wuding Road W.
Twenty years later, in 2017, a new story based on the same rustic concept starts thanks to food & beverage veteran Charles Belin, who used to work for VOL Group as marketing director.
As one of the loyal customers for 15 years, Belin took over Le Bouchon this year by chance, with a dedicated passion to revive but stay true to the philosophy — a restaurant for true home-style, rustic French food that every French native in town might often miss such tastes from grandma’s kitchen. “The Frenchest French restaurant in town,” according to Belin.
Opened in 1997, Le Bouchon is the oldest French restaurant in Shanghai and recipient of many events and memories. Thierry has run this restaurant for 18 years before he decided to return to his home country.
“In Le Bouchon, you were never really in China anymore,” Belin said. “All these years Le Bouchon has been a refuge when feeling homesick. This place has never failed in bringing childhood memories back. I want my favorite restaurant to remain this quirky, out-of-time sort of French tavern operating in the most traditional way and providing family style, generous, tasty and rustic French cuisine.”
To update the menu, Belin had called back chef Michael Jakovljev who was previously the executive chef at Kee Club and presently opening his own restaurant Plume in the French culinary region of Alsace.
Belin also brings in a few of his grandmother’s recipes including a honey roasted pork knuckle, farm eggs deviled and a “ very fondant” chocolate cake inherited from his grand-auntie which he has kept the handwritten recipe of it since he was 9 years old.
On my recent visit, I went for the classics that brought me back to the memory probably seven years ago at Le Bouchon. The snails, with mushrooms and garlic parsley butter was the classic appetizer while the duck liver terrine, apple compot and confit fruits puree just got you off to a good start.
Le Bouchon beef tartare was one of my favorites in the old days and it proved still right. Even the recipe seemed fairly straightforward; the taste was truly authentic, which was not so easily achieved. Also, the chicken in Riesling wine and cream sauce in the cooking pot was another main course Belin personally proud of. The food at Le Bouchon was homey and relatively heavy, perfect for the coming colder season.
It is the place where French natives come to enjoy the loud chatter, the laughter, the smell of garlic and parsley warm butter and international crowd to experience the real French lifestyle.
“Le Bouchon has the potential to be the guardian of authentic French cuisine it used to be; and not only to please our French fellow citizens, but to entertain and ravish a majority of non-French guests who want to experience the rusticity and candor of a traditional French,” Belin said.
Opening hours: 6:30pm-10:30pm (close on Sundays)
Address: 1455 Wuding Rd W.
Average per person: 300 yuan/US$45.2