As much as I love France, I admit that lunching here can be a little limiting. Aside from baguette sandwiches, paninis, and salads of grated carrot or tabouleh, there aren’t that many options for lunch-on-the-run. Ah, but then I discovered Bar à Soupes et Quenelles.
At first glance it’s just a soup bar, which is great in and of itself: good soup is hard to find. The shop keeps four or five different types of soup on the boil, and ladels them out to order. Recent soup choices have included: lentilles corail curry (curried red lentil), alpage (pumpkin laced with beaufort cheese), cresson (pureed watercress), berbere (like a chunky stew with chick peas, lentils, and lamb), and voyage aux marquises (pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, and spices).
And then, oh happy repast, with each cup of soup comes your choice of quenelle. But wait. Perhaps you’re wondering (as I was): What’s a quenelle?
According to The Penguin Companion to Food, the word refers to “small dumpling-like items made of finely minced fish or meat with some bread and seasoning incorporated. Cooking is done by poaching. Among the best-known quenelles are those of veal and those of pike (quenelles de brochet).” The photo above is of the berbère soup, with its accompanying quinoa quenelle.
Yes, I said quinoa quenelle. Wait a second, you’re thinking, you just said quenelles were made of ground fish or meat…
Well, it turns out Bar à Soupes et Quenelles is owned by Maison Giraudet, a veritable quenelle authority. In 1910, their founder Henri Giraudet took the classic quenelle and transformed it into variations spiked with truffles, shrimp, chicken and other ingredients “sophisticated and varied” (I’m quoting their website). Based in Bresse, a rich region famous for its chicken, the Maison Giraudet has been quenelle-ing for four generations. These days their quenelles are as likely to be made of spinach and basil, or quinoa, as they are pike.
If, par chance, you don’t feel like having soup, you can order up this salade croquante (11.50€), which is topped with slices of pan-fried quenelles, confit tomatoes, and shavings of parmesan.
There’s no real kitchen at Bar à Soupes, and there’s no real dining room either — just some tiny tables, a long counter, and high stools. Which makes it ideal for lunching alone, quick as fast food, but much more satisfying.
Bar à Soupes et Quenelles
5 rue Princesse, 6ème
tel: 01 43 25 44 44
Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
UPDATED: This location has closed. There’s a smaller branch around the corner at 16 rue Mabillon, 6e.
P.S. My favorite lunch formule is 11.50€ and includes 1 cup of soup, 1 quenelle, and 1 dessert (cupcake or fromage frais and fruit soup).
P.P.S. The shop is right across the street from the Village Voice English-language bookstore so you can do some one-stop soup sipping and book browsing.