It can be surprisingly difficult to find a “traditional” French restaurant in the capital that offer reasonable fixed-priced menus and thoughtfully presented, delicious dishes. But this is precisely what you’ll find at Clover Green, an intimate bistro from celebrated French chef Jean-François Piège and his wife Elodie.
Opened in 2014, this restaurant is nestled pleasantly away from the touristy hoopla in the St-Germain-des-Prés district. It features a tiny dining room seating around 20 people at most, and a bustling open kitchen that allows you to watch cooks toss and sizzle pan contents and meticulously plate dishes.
With a pared-down menu focused around fresh, inventive flavors, local and seasonal ingredients, it’s one of the places I recommend most for lunch on the left bank. It’s elegant, but not overly fussy or starchy– a real plus, in my book.
And fortunately for those of us with mid-range budgets, the bistro lets you experience some of Piegè’s award-winning culinary talent for much less than at his other restaurants in the capital, such as the two-Michelin-starred table that bears his name.
Getting Settled and Surveying the Menu
A friend and I came for lunch during a busy Saturday service. With its cheerful modern interior featuring wood, steel and white tiles, the restaurant strikes a pleasant balance between contemporary and slightly rustic. A long row of tables against the wall leads to the kitchen at the back.
A friendly server seated us at a small middle table wedged between two others. A caveat: This place is admittedly not for the claustrophobic or the crowd-shy.
You have to be comfortable with having fellow diners seated at an elbow-length distance or less, and getting up from a booth seat requires a bit of friendly negotiation.
Nevertheless, once the servers brought around the fixed-price lunch menu, we both forgot about the slightly cramped conditions, focusing instead on the experience ahead.
I opted for a six-course menu, while my friend went for only five. The prices struck me as quite reasonable at 45 Euros and 35 Euros, respectively. (Note: These prices and menu options were accurate at the time of review, but may change at any time) .
A Fresh Start: Mackerel With Herb Emulsion
Our friendly and knowledgeable servers soon re-emerged from the kitchen with a first dish: a sashimi-like arrangement of fresh mackerel from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, accompanied by an herb emulsion and Jerusalem artichoke.
The latter is a whitish root vegetable that was a staple during the lean wartime years of the 20th century, and has become popular again in recent years.
Although mackerel has never been one of my preferred varieties of fish, here it was impeccably marinated and fresh. Meanwhile, the herbal emulsion added an acidic, fresh, eye-opening kick. We accompanied the dish with a glass of white wine from Bergerac .
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Second Course: Asparagus Soup With Chopped Hazelnut and Tarragon
Our palate awakened but far from sated, we eagerly awaited the next dish: a delicate yet intensely flavorful asparagus velouté laced with tarragon emulsion, chopped hazelnuts and crunchy breadcrumbs.
The joy of this creation was as much in the presentation as it was in the flavors. It was semi-mesmerizing to watch the server as she carefully poured warm velouté over the emulsion and hazelnuts.
Freshly sliced baguette in a basket on the table proved the perfect accompaniment, though I had to curb my own strong impulse to dip the bread straight into the soup. For a reason I’ll never quite understand, this is considered gauche and impolite in formal dining settings in France. Too bad for me.
This was a wonderful dish, and one of my favorites from the day. Of course, as an almost full-time vegetarian, perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me that its focus on fresh seasonal vegetables won me over as it did.
Third Course: Fresh Whole Scallop on Hot “Parisian Limestone” Block
Next up in my own six-course lunch was perhaps the most inventive and avant-garde dish of the day: a half-scallop seared directly at the table, on a burning- hot, charcoal black slab of “Parisian limestone”.
When I asked the server to demystify the term for me, she explained that the stone originated from the Paris region, which is rich in natural limestone. While this may seem a touch too ambitious and overly decorative, I think the concept worked. I was intrigued, and the presentation was admittedly dazzling.
I love scallops, especially when perfectly cooked. Seeing me struggle a bit to unearth the scallop from its shell, the neighbor on my left showed me how to cut it out with ease. Although not quite a generous portion, it was delicious– not to mention amusing to behold.
Main Course: Filet of Pollack With Wild Garlic; Lamb With Couscous
We had finally arrived at the main course. For me, the dish was a filet of pollack with wild garlic, coques (unidentified molluscs) and buttery new potatoes. Meanwhile, my friend opted for Moroccan-style lamb couscous with chickpeas and fresh vegetables.
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Although she admitted that lamb was a bit strong for her tastes, she reported that the meat was fairly tender and the vegetables tasty.
This was probably the simplest and most classic dish on the menu. It also happened to be the only one that was clearly inspired by a culinary tradition other than French.
The fish was buttery, soft and perfectly cooked, and the accompaniments hit the spot. Sometimes, simplicity and tradition are just the ticket.
I am always impressed when the native flavors of fresh fish come through without excessive seasoning, saucing or garnish – and that was certainly the case with this dish.
Not being much of a shellfish person, I wasn’t a big fan of the little chewy coques punctuating the bowl, but they tasted fresh.
Sweet Endings: Fresh Grapefruit, Breton Biscuits and Earl Grey Ice Cream
After our four and five courses, respectively, my friend and I were sated but not stuffed. This was handy, because it left room for dessert.
It consisted in a creative “collage” of fresh pink grapefruit and pieces of candied citrus, sprinkled with pieces of buttery Breton sablé cookies laced with poppy seeds. The finishing touch– a real gourmet coup– was a dainty scoop of ice-cream, strongly flavored with Earl Grey tea.
Intensely fresh, citrusy and not very sweet at all, it was a success that completely surprised my palate. It’s the sort of rare dessert that you’re not sure you love at first bite. But by the end, you want more of it.
No proper French lunch would be complete without a good espresso to conclude the matter, so we ordered some– and were surprised to find that it came accompanied by a pleasantly warm, soft chocolate-chunk cookie that certainly didn’t skimp on the chocolate.
It was probably the best I’ve ever had in Paris thus far. The American-style cookie is not, generally speaking, a French forte. But in this case, there was the proper chewiness and a delicious caramel note– both essential qualities in a decent cookie.
My Bottom Line?
Clover is a table that any food-loving or curious visitor should consider paying a visit to. Like I said, it affords an unusual opportunity to experience the creative power of one of the city’s acclaimed chefs, at relatively reasonable prices.
Location, Contact Info, Menus & More
Clover is located in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, in close reach of attractions such as the Musee d’Orsay .
- Address: 5 rue Perronet, 75007 (7th arrondissement)
- Metro: Rue du Bac, Mabillon or St-Germain-des-Pres
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 75 50 00 05 (telephone reservations recommended for non-French speakers)
- Visit the official website to book online
- Reservations & Questions? Email [email protected]
- Payment: cash and all major credit cards are accepted
- Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12:30 to 2:00 for lunch (open until 2:30 on Saturday) and from 7:30 to 10:00 for dinner. Closed Sundays.
- Menu: French gastronomic with an emphasis on seasonal and organic vegetables and meat; fixed-price lunch menus; fixed-price and a la carte for dinner. You can see a seasonal sample menu here.
- Dress code: None is enforced, but business casual is recommended (avoid jeans, T-shirt and sneakers)
Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, the author was provided with free services for review. Although this in no way affected the review, Paris Unlocked believes in the full disclosure of all possible conflicts of interest.