If I were to show you pictures of this place without any explanation, you would think I had lunch in some hip Parisian’s private home, perhaps the home of a graphic designer or art director; but in fact, you would be mistaken. This restaurant, called Derrière (translated: behind) for its placement in a courtyard behind street-level shops, has the mysterious allure of a speakeasy, but the accessibility and congeniality of your best friend’s house.
What you see when you first walk in is a leafy courtyard with green chairs and yellow umbrellas, which is charming enough on its own. Keep walking, don’t be intimidated, and you’ll duck into a large, open room, sectioned off into different areas. There’s a kind of living room with a lip-shaped couch, a salon with a full-size ping pong table and shelves full of wacky trinkets, a couple romantic corners, a dining area with long banquet table, and a tiled kitchen with a bar overlooking the chef’s space. If that isn’t enough for you, just wait, there’s also a second level, complete with secret wardrobe. But we’ll save the best for last…
They started us off with a little appetizer – a strange combination that I would have never thought of – cantaloupe and cured sausage. The sweetness and saltiness, the freshness and richness, went together surprisingly well! Both my friend and I went for the 25 euro lunch menu, which is a pretty standard price range for Parisian restaurants, and opting for a limited menu rather than separate plates ends up being significantly cheaper. Although we did start talking about how in the US, the equivalent of 25 euro for a single lunch is either slightly outrageous or reserved for more upscale restaurants… I guess I’ve just gotten used to how expensive everything is here!
My menu came with a small glass of red wine, a starter of pumpkin soup, and a piece of pork with mushrooms. The food was good, but I wouldn’t say the most excellent I’ve had. Afterwards I wished I’d thought harder about my main plate, as I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, and the meat was cut very thin, not at all like I expected. The soup was super flavourful though, and I liked the meat marinade, which seemed to be soy-sauce based.
The service was excellent, and our waitress spoke perfect English. She was more than helpful, and you could tell she was genuinely concerned with our overall experience. She even apologised for keeping us waiting, the restaurant being understaffed, and uncommonly packed for a Thursday afternoon; I was pleasantly surprised by her kindness, a rare trait in Parisian waiters.
After eating, I asked if we could take a peek upstairs; I had read online of a bedroom and a secret fumoir, and I wanted to see for myself. They don’t seat anybody upstairs at lunchtime, so we were able to explore undisturbed. One of my favourite bits was the bed, which was utilised as a makeshift bench. I found it kinda hilarious.
We made our way down the hall, which boasted a gorgeous restroom with metallic textured wallpaper, mismatched tile, and decorative mirrors. I’m pretty sure the sink was actually a bathtub. I am enamoured with this wallpaper, I want it for my bathroom someday.
We spotted this mirrored armoire at the end of the hallway, and allowing the curiosity to take over, we opened it. There was merely another wood panel on the other side… but we could see that it was slightly ajar. I sheepishly pushed it open an inch, heard a voice on the other side, and then for some reason, felt embarrassed and closed it! My friend and I started giggling like silly children, and since we didn’t want to barge in on some employees-only break-room, we went back downstairs. It was only after paying for our meal and asking our waitress about the armoire upstairs that we felt confident enough to re-explore. She exclaimed, “Oh yes, you must go look! It is the best room in the restaurant!”
Turns out, the armoire was actually a fumoir, a little room where one can smoke and have some coffee. It looked like a museum of curiosities, an old attic, and a secret clubhouse all in one. I LOVED IT. We were talking excitedly, saying “oh my gosh, look at this!” and “wow, that’s crazy!” when we were surprised by a man laying flat on the couch on the far wall! Needless to say, his sudden appearance kinda made us jump. It turned out he was an employee and was taking a breather before work.
You HAVE to visit this restaurant if you’re going to be in Paris! It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in this city. I’ll leave the details below:
69 Rue des Gravilliers
Metro Arts et Métiers, Réaumur Sébestopol, or Étienne Marcel