A PRE-PANDEMIC VISIT TO AU PIED DE COCHON
Named after a pig’s foot, Au Pied de Cochon (literally translated as, “to the foot of the pig”) lives up to every expectation. For the epicurious, this Parisian institution is not to be missed, as you’re unlikely to find better pig snout or offal sausage anywhere in the city. You might even remember the restaurant from JAN Season 2 on my visit to the City of Lights, where I devoured the most incredible pig’s trotter known to man. When we started creating Journal 5, we visited Au Pied de Cochon in February 2020 – about a month before France went into lockdown – and although the city’s restaurants are still in pause mode, we can start fantasising about the day when we will meet in Paris to fall in love with the city all over again.
After the Second World War, Les Halles (the district where Au Pied de Cochon is located) boasted one of the biggest markets in Europe and had leftover pig in ample supply. From the day this brasserie opened shortly before WWII, it specialised in “the rest of the animal” – from head to toe. In 1947, after the Liberation of Paris (from Nazi occupation), the owner Clément Blanc, made the decision to have his restaurant run 24/7. Since then, the brasserie is said never to have closed its doors, attracting locals, tourists, celebrities, politicians, and nighttime partygoers at all hours, although lockdown would have necessitated a locksmith to bring an end to this proud reputation.
In the early 1970s, the city made the decision to revamp Les Halles by relocating the market to Rungis on the southern outskirts of Paris – near Orly Airport – which has since become the biggest in the world. Instead of relocating his brasserie, Blanc stayed put even as sky-high cranes were erected to build the area’s new shopping complex and underground Metro station. The rehabilitation of the area would take years, during which time foot traffic diminished, but that did not diminish Au Pied de Cochon’s popularity; possibly spurred on by then mayor Jacques Chirac’s frequent and much publicised visits.
Read more about our visit to Rungis Market here.
The brand-new Forum des Halles launched as the 1970s drew to a close, which saw more guests darken Au Pied de Cochon’s door, but the brasserie was upgraded to a Paris institution when Francois Mitterand was elected president of France in 1981 and decided to celebrate his victory there.
Since its founding, Au Pied de Cochon has hosted a wide range of personalities, including Salvador Dalì, Alfred Hitchcock, Brigitte Bardot and General Charles de Gaulle. And when the world returns to some sense of normalcy, perhaps it will be time to throw away the key once again.