La Fontaine De Mars is a nigh perfect alternative to three Michelin star dining in Paris. It is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with a honeycomb of dining areas, arched colonnades outside on the ground floor, inside both on the ground and first floor, with all tables occupied from 7pm until 11pm, and a queue waiting for tables during much of that time.
The food centres around traditional southern France cuisine; Suzanne and I both started with warm salade tete de veau, which turned out to have no conventional salad, just herbs of Provence cooked with the melt-in-the-mouth cubes of veal cheek, a dish which required repeated raids on the bread basket. One of the specials of the night was cassoulet, which I chose, Suzanne taking the boudin basque off the main menu. The tete de veau was filling, the cassoulet brought me to a complete standstill. It’s possible to take the view that once you have eaten cassoulet you don’t need to go back a second time; if I had taken that view, I would have been much the poorer gastronomically. The beans and sauce had a creamy viscosity which challenged the two types of sausage and duck for supremacy. Glasses of very respectable Sancerre were followed by an outstanding 2008 Morgon Beaujolais, complete with a heavy wax capsule. With coffee and sparkling water the cost was 135 Euros. Open for lunch and dinner, La Fontaine De Mars is found at 129 rue Saint Dominique 75007, Paris; phone +33 (0)1 47 05 46 44; fax +33 (0)1 47 05 11 13; www.fontainedemars.com