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Burgers at “La Maison Mere” – London food trends in Paris

Finally getting around to write more about my short Paris holiday just whilst I am returning from a trip to L.A. and sunny SoCal for another one. I know I am really lucky and this is why I feel somehow uncomfortable about writing what is substantially a bad review – the fear of coming across like a spoilt food snob is there, but I really mean to help people like me to spend their time when travelling and hard-earned dosh on the good places (AKA trying the bad ones so you don’t have to). As “La Maison Mere” seems to be on quite a few fellow foodies “to try” list, I wanted to give my account of it so others can form an opinion too. 

Maison Mere Paris review

Before you ask “Why on earth did you go to an American diner in Paris?”...as you may remember from my previous posts, on my last visit to Paris I tried to have London food trends as our “fil rouge” when dining out in the Ville Lumiere and “La Maison Mere” was our choice for burgers. In general, the fancy of looking for the Parisian take on London food trend of ramen proved a worthwhile pursuit – I enjoyed excellent kimchi tonkotsu at a relatively unknown place such as Taishoken. So I thought it would worth giving a go to another big food fad here in the Big Smoke- the burger!

Burgers seem to be a trend in Paris as well, with quality mini-chains like Blehnburgers opening the way for many independents.  There are also dedicated blogs, amongst which I especially like the cleverly named Burgerater In the timeframe of a long weekend, I had to compromise my quest for a good Parisian burger with the desire of making the most out of the city in all its glory, including the non-food-related attractions. In other words, I am not organized enough to plan my sighteeing, shopping, exhibition visiting around meals (contrary to what some think, I do not excusively live to eat…yet) so I find myself looking for good options in the area I am in. Hence the choice of Maison Mere as my burger testing ground for Paris burger on the day we were visiting Montmartre. It was recommended to me from an acquaintance doing restaurant consulting (I can totally see why she likes it), it was on my route for the day; so voila’, a look at the snazzy, retro-meets-hipster website and we were sold.

 

Maison Mere Paris review burger

It’s so cool it aches…especially when the bill arrives

La Maison Mere benefits from being outside the cheesier part of the Montmartre butte (hill), where it morphs into the still slightly seedy Pigalle, so that you’ll be going in the opposite direction from the mass of tourists when you’re heading there. We had a reservation which proved quite unnecessary on a Monday lunchtime as the hall was rather empty. Much could be said about the décor at La Maison Mere, but then I guess the pictures say it all- it really doesn’t get cooler than this, any side of the Channel. I felt like I had gone back to my Shoreditch neighbourhood, except that the dark corners were cleaner, the balance between shabby and chic in favour of the latter, and the menu written in French. It really is an outstanding example of set design for me and I would have been happier to spend some time there with a camera, and better photographic skills.

In keeping with the ambiance, service is suitably hipster with a French touch (which means more soft spoken but equally nonchalant, a nice-sounding French jargon for “they don’t give a damn about you”). Looking at enthusiastic reviews of La Maison Mere on the Internet, I must admit that this was probably due to the fact that we were quite ostensibly tourists and not regulars, but still I wouldn’t look down on anyone filling covers on a weekday lunchtime. So if you show up not looking Parisian, expect perfunctory service.  We probably made it worse by not ordering cocktails but just two glasses of wine (excellent, but you sort of expect that in France- I’m simple like that) and taking pictures – but then, they surely know the place it’s photographer’s heaven and I think I was really discreet.

maison mere american restaurant paris

The food is the real pain point. But it’s a diner – I hear you say. Sure, but wait till you see the prices and I dare you not to think they must surely include some outstanding diner fare, and a bit of “being looked after”.  To cut a long story short, a starter of ceviche (served in a small water glass which reminded me alarmingly of the infamous London jam jars) was 9 euros – not bad for ceviche maybe, except that most of the glass was filled not with fish but with tomatos and vegetables of almost unbearable acidity.  But we’re here for the meat , and at la Maison Mere they apparently cook and serve the best available beef around – so burgers are an inevitable choice.

To try more for “less”, I go for sliders – at the mean price of euro22 (19pounds), they’d better be outstanding. But they aren’t. The bun is oversized for the very small patty, and so bready I can’t finish it. The meat is clearly good quality and served properly medium-rare, but all three sliders are dry and do lack something. It is laudable that the chef is trying to avoid overindulgence and sloppiness (I am sick and tired of the “dirty –badass-’badboy”-“I am not scared of heart attacks” burger trend in London) and focusing on quality over quantity – but the result should still be an enjoyable burger, and I didn’t enjoy this one.

maison mere sliders
Same goes for my partner’s Angus Beef burger, which at 19 euro is hardly a steal and is really underwhelming- so much and he did not finish it, something I have never seen happening at Byron; at Bar Boulud, he would eat the plate the burger was on.

We are a tad scared to exchange opinions in front of the surly looking waitress who clearly has not got us into her good books, so we munch in silence. I try to console myself with the excellent chips and by soaking in the ubercool atmosphere and details – but actually I am thinking of exactly how much rotisserie chicken/tarte aux oignons/falafel wraps 22 euros would have gotten me in the streets of Paris, and it is not doing anything for my mood. I don’t even feel like dessert so we leave, some 70euro lighter and feeling slightly fooled.

Of course, no one is to blame but ourselves – eating burgers in Paris may not be the best choice in the first place, and I am sure La Maison Mere is a good notch over the average quality. It is also, probably, a very different story at night of for brunch – for a Mondya lunch, it felt like a very large bill. But for all its splendid interiors, great concept and vibe, for me La Maison Mere it failed to deliver what dining out should be about- good food and a great experience for the price. I probably feel a bit more bitter than I should about it as I felt it was a missed opportunity, in our limited meal time in Paris; with this disclaimer, I checked it off my “list” and would not feel like recommending it except maybe to someone who’s more about the scene than the food. Dommage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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