‘On se fait un Petit Vendôme ce midi?’ I remember the first time I heard those words. It was August 2009 and I had just started working as an intern in a bank in Paris. Everyday around lunchtime my French colleagues had a heated discussion on the topic of food. That day it was going to be a sandwich from Le Petit Vendôme, ‘the best sandwich in town’ as my colleagues kindly explained to me.
It usually was up to the interns to pick up lunch for the team, so about an hour later I found myself standing in this small bistro just behind the famous Place Vendôme. The joint was packed with people. There was a huge queue on the short end of the bar – the spot where the famous sandwiches were prepared – and the rest of the bistrot was buzzing, mostly with business men eating, drinking a glass of wine, or both. Imagine that typical, loud, bistrot atmosphere you get when a lot of people are having a good time in a slightly too small a place and you’ve got a fine notion of Le Petit Vendôme. I loved it. The loudness, the chaos, the smells, everything.
But let’s not forget why I came here; the supposedly best sandwiches of Paris. I don’t know if they’re the best, but they definitely are bloody good: Picture that delicious fresh bread only the French know how to make. Add a layer of real, salty butter. Choose whatever cheese you like, preferably French of course (comté, Saint-Nectaire, cantal, chèvre etc.), followed by a type of meat (raw ham, salami, cured ham etc.). Experts will tell you not to forget the gherkins, as they are what makes for – a classic – Petit Vendôme sandwich.
Intrigued by this little bistrot so out of place in the chic neighbourhood around Place Vendôme, I had to know how the non-sandwich food was. I went back on a Friday night and was surprised to see how calm it was compared to the lunchtime craziness. But it was nice, peaceful almost, the perfect spot to unwind after a busy week. The menu is filled with traditional dishes from the Auvergne region (or former region I believe it is now). Think escargots, confit de canard, steak frites and andouillette for example. Portions are big, there’s no other word for it, and the food is fantastic. Obviously there is some really good wine to go with your meal and in the unlikely event of you still being hungry after a main course, there are some sweet desserts.
After that first Friday night at Le Petit Vendôme I’ve been back numerous times. At least once a week for a sandwich in the office, but many evenings as well. It’s one of those places I still go to when I’m back in Paris for a few days because I’ve got so many fond memories of this tavern and my time in Paris. To me, spending a moment at Le Petit Vendôme really does feel like a taste of the French countryside. With a dash of Paris to top off the cake.
Anyhow, nostalgia aside, Le Petit Vendôme is one for you to definitely try when in Paris!
Le Petit Vendôme, 8 Rue des Capucines, 75002, Paris.