Classic Tables: La Mangeoire

Southern France smack in the middle of Midtown East

We ordered french fries the moment we sat down at La Mangeoire.

Out came the cocktails and a big glass bowl teeming with double-fried potatoes blasted with shallots, parsley and thyme. These were the fries ($8.50) of our daydreams.

We should have known: In 2009, four-star chef Christian Delouvrier joined the kitchen of the multidecade Midtown East institution. With him, he brought careful refinement to easygoing country French cuisine.

So our pâté ($15) that night was rich with pork liver, and the shredded carrot-celery salad ($13.50) was alive with lemon and a hint of sugar.

Braised rabbit ($30) had hopped its way across a farm field, ensnaring tomatoes, mushrooms and tarragon during its wanderings. And the iron twang of a roasted- squab special ($39) was squared by a rich red-wine reduction and livened by a rough butter-thumped pea purée.

The room is airy, a facsimile of a Provençal farmhouse, complete with shutters tacked on white walls. Over glasses of well-priced southern French wine, you cannot see fields of lavender through those spackled Manhattan walls.

No need, as far as we are concerned. Those fries are delicious distraction enough.

La Mangeoire, 1008  Second Ave. (at 53rd St.); 212-759-7086 or lamangeoire.com