Last two weeks Mr.D and I decided to finally visit the recently opened Louvre Lens Museum in Lens. As you definitely can guess from the name, this new museum is an “extension” to the famous Louvre Museum in Paris.
After our visit to the museum (a post yet to come), we looked quite hard at the Lens town center to find a good restaurant as Lens is not a very big city. Luckily we found a charming traditional tavern or what we call “estaminet”, here in the north of France, called Le Pain de la Bouche.
Historically, an estaminet is a café or a small bar that serves mainly beers and sells tobaccos to the locals. Closely related to the Belgian culture, estaminet can be found in the Nord region as well as in the Picardy. Some says that the word estaminet comes from Walloon language while other sources say that the word came from Spanish phrase « Esta un minuto » , as in “Do you have a minute to drink a beer with me?”.
Le Pain de la Bouche has, as other estaminet always have, a very rustic style, with a lot of wood furnishing. The charming decoration reminds me of a cosy granny house, far away from the French chic gastronomy reputation. We arrived at the restaurant a little after 1, so it was full with clients, whom some I have bumped before at the museum. The atmosphere was hectic but in a good way.
Now, on to the food. Our main objective here by choosing an estaminet was to try local food. As Lens only 30km away from Lille, the local dishes are not much different from Lille. Ditto the decoration of the restaurant, the food served at Le Pain de la Bouche is more in the comfort food category then the gastronomy. I admit that there were a lot of cheese and sugar involved but since we had walked for about 2km from the museum, I let myself to indulge :)
For the starter, I chose artichoke with maroilles cheese and savory crème brulée for my partner-in-crime. I had to admit that salty crème brulée was not really my cup of tea and both dishes were quite heavy for a starter.
As the main dishes, I had the specialité de la maison (or house special in english), les faluches while Mr had carbonade flamande. Les faluches is actually a special traditional bread from the north region and they have a number of choice for the bread fillings. I finally opted for the mediterranean filling with green olives and tomatoes.
After a hefty starter and main dish, we wanted to choose a lighter dessert but the temptation was too great. I had a delicious pastry made of layers of pain d’épice and another regional specialty, glace à la chicorée. Mr on the other hand, had the classic northern dessert, mousse aux spéculoos.
We had a real good time at Le Pain de la Bouche even if this is not the best estaminet that we had tried. The dishes were quite heavy (not good if you are in diet) but definitely worth a try if you are in Lens.
Here are two other recommandations if you are in Lille :
- Au Vieux de la Vieille : 2 Rue des Vieux Murs, 59000 Lille
- L’Gaiette : 30 Rue Masséna 59000 Lille
Till next post!