French punsters are a special class of intellectual. Since puns in French are so easy—even unavoidable—they hold small interest unless they are of considerable complexity. Raymond Queneau was their champion in modern French literature, and his most famous novel, Zazie dans le Métro, is rife with them, some consisting of an entire sentence compacted into a single word.
When Philippe and Catherine Tredgeu set up a restaurant together in Paris, they chose to join this select company. Eliding entre-Tredgeu into L’Entredgeu, they invented a plausible but non-existent French word that often has hotel concierges tearing their hair in perplexity.
The Tredgeus are not mere jokesters. Philippe cheffed at Chez Casimir and Chez Michel. Catherine worked front-of-house for Robuchon and Ducasse, so they were thoroughly qualified to set up a toffee-nosed establishment of their own. But punsters are uncomfortable in pretentious surroundings, so they took over a half-century-old bistro and kept its ambiance intact—there’s an old picture on the wall to show that they have done it no violence.
But entre-Tredgeu, history ends where your palate begins. This is a very modern food-market-directed bistro—you are not given a well-thumbed carte listing what they served last year and will undoubtedly serve the next. Instead, it’s all freshly itemized on the blackboard, collected and written up each day.
THIS lunch was to be a special occasion. My old friend Frank—we met in Berkeley at mid-century, around the time of this bistro’s first incarnation—happened to be in Paris at the same time as Mary and me. He and his wife Barbara have taken a pied à terre at which their feet touch the ground so frequently as to be virtually rooted to the spot. Like Antaeus, their strength is constantly renewed by their earthy Paris contact.
Frank is a retired English prof and an inveterate punster in his own right [rite?], and so L’Entredgeu seemed an appropriate place for our reunion. Knowing that it was very popular, we arranged to meet early for lunch. It would have been wise to make a reservation; there was in fact one table left that could accommodate us.
For Mary and me, this was only the second Paris meal of our trip, and so our appetites were still vigorous; while Frank, as a gesture of friendship, was prepared for his South Beach diet to be briefly inundated by the gastronomic tide. With a lunch-time choice of main course plus either starter or dessert for 22€, Frank and I opted for the former, Frank choosing the terrine and I the rillette of rabbit. (Ah, French rabbit! If you are a punster and stout of heart, click here.)
For a main course, I found the roasted pigeon with pot-roasted foie gras irresistible. You have to be prosaic to ruin such a recipe, and Phillipe Tredgeu was per-verse, so the fowl was more than fair. Blood-rare shoulder of beef for Frank, sweetbreads for Mary—no tête de veau, but lots of tête à tête.
Frank is with us now in London. As we lick the Paris recollections from our lips, we leave you with a final visit to Notre Dame.
L’Entredgeu 83 rue Laugier, 17 th, Tel: 01.40.54.97.24, Mº Porte-Champaret
©2005 John Whiting