So what do Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, and a little unassuming jazz club in Paris have in common? Turns out, a lot!
Le Bilboquet, Paris Blues, and the history of jazz are intrinsically intertwined as the history of jazz was written in this inimitable Belle Epoque salon founded in 1947 right in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près. Unlike America at the time, jazz was embraced here in France and racism was not pervasive so the greats headed east to Paris and Le Bilboquet.
Jazz music was immortalized at this corner club by legends Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Kenny Clarke, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gilespie, Lionel Hampton and Charlie Parker, to name a few, and the era was celebrated by Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward, and Diahann Carroll in the movie Paris Blues.
Le Bilboquet is now a restaurant-jazz club-piano bar serving up some of the best music in Paris amongst dark wood panels topped with a copper ceiling, brass trim and a sunken bar on the bottom floor. The three levels offer unobstructed views of the band from every corner and on any given night you will hear Nat King Cole's "Route 66" or "Straighten Up and Fly Right" resonating from the walls. You’ll catch yourself singing along and tapping your toes as it permeates your thoughts and for a moment you forget you are six thousand miles away from home…but then again, this is home. For now…
Their menu is limited with classical French light fare and a few attempts at fusion. Unfortunately it is not as legendary as their musical memoirs but if you have friends in town who are fans of the blues, this is a wonderful slice of American-French history to share. A friend and former co-worker at a Huge Software Company came to town a few weeks ago. Their yellow labrador is named Jango so I figured Le Bilboquet would be a safe bet. Voila le menu…
Avocat épicé et tartare de thon
Spicy avocado purée with tuna tartar
Melon (and they weren’t kidding! this was a bit awkward and more like eating breakfast than an appetizer but as far a fruit goes, it was sweet and delicious)
Pavé de sandre au beurre blanc
Pike in a butter sauce
Thon juste saisi saté
Seared tuna with a soy-teriyaki sauce (this was delicious and cooked perfectly!)
Blanc de poulet rôti, chutney et curry
Roasted chicken breast with chutney and curry (the curry was really nice, not too spicy, deep layers of rich flavors)
The music was getting a bit too loud to talk so we went to a little corner bistro a few blocks away for a café and a gateau chocolate moelleux (the soft chocolate lava cake)! Sorry, forgot to take a pic of that. Next time…as there will definitely be a next time…
13 rue St-Benoit, 75006 Paris
Phone: +33 1 45 48 81 84
Metro: (#4) St-Germain-des-Près or (#10) Mabillon
Hours: nightly 8:30pm to 2:00am, with music beginning at 9:30pm