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Drinking & Dining Reviews

Paris lamb restaurant offers free lunch (until Sunday)

Agneau Presto Temporary Restaurant
by Lisa Molle Troyer

I know everyone says there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but it turns out that’s not always true. If you like meat – specifically lamb – you can get one this week at Agneau Presto’s temporary restaurant near Bastille.

I’d read about the Bistro Agneau Presto in a free newspaper recently and written it down on the calendar, but I admit I had no idea what to expect. I’m always up for free food, though, so today I headed for Bastille and followed a couple of other intrepid types (I can’t really say there was a crowd) to what turned out to be a modern, slightly industrial-looking restaurant.

Since all the website says is “every day from 12:00 to 3:00,” I was picturing long lines to get tiny paper plates of food, cafeteria-style, and maybe those tables you have to stand at to eat. Not so. Instead, it’s a sit-down lunch in rounds – when I showed up at 1:10, there was only one group ahead of me and the staff said it was a 20-minute wait. True to their word, they let us in at 1:30, and everyone who was in line got a seat (barely). Note that this only works because you can’t choose where you sit (the tables are all the same anyway), and if you come in anything but a group of 4, you’ll probably be sharing a table with strangers. No one seemed too bothered by it, though.

As we were being seated and for the next 15 minutes or so, a chef in the open kitchen demonstrated the recipes live, with a handy video screen for people to watch him work. This could have been interesting, but no one was really paying attention and he seemed not to expect them to, so his commentary was sparse and the only people who learned anything were the ones who chatted with him afterward (which he was quite friendly about). Bread and water, both still and sparkling, were available and frequently refilled; diners had to go pick up their lunch from the bar, but the efficient and large staff had all 45 people eating in record time.

The food itself wasn’t exactly gourmet, but it was quite tasty: today’s lunch was a generous grilled lamb chop with mustard and persillade, a tomate à la Provençale, a crispy roll of lamb and goat cheese and a tiny skewer of pineapple-glazed lamb. No starter or dessert, but hardly skimpy meal either – mostly it was just very lamb-heavy, which is to be expected since it’s sponsored by people who are trying to sell more lamb.

My tablemates commented that if you’re going to buy and serve lamb specifically, these were odd choices for recipes because they tended to cover up the lamb flavor rather than complementing it (especially the pineapple, in my opinion; while the nose-burningly hot mustard would have upstaged any other ingredients, I actually thought it went very well with the lamb).

What’s the catch? I’m still not sure. I was served a good lunch by friendly people, who smilingly told one sheepish guy that of course he could come back tomorrow if he wanted. No one even asked for my e-mail address, let alone any money, and I got a reusable shopping bag to boot.

Just remember that if you want to go, you’d better do it before Sunday, June 14, because after that it’ll be back to paying for your own lunch again.

Bistro Agneau Presto
June 8-14, 12:00 – 3:00 pm
6 Cité de la Roquette, 11th
M° Bastille
www.agneaupresto.com

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