There’s an unnatural calm in Paris at the moment. The streets are quieter and there’s a slightly subdued air over the populace. The tourists are staying away and the Parisians are coming to terms with their vulnerability. Despite all that, the cafe’s are open, the restaurants are filling up and there is an acceptance of the new, which, apart from fashion, has been missing in Parisian life. Paris in the nearly spring is still buzzing, but at a soft lilt rather than the roar of multiple tourist tongues.
The denizens of the restaurant scene are being cast aside for a younger, more casual vibe. The Bar A Manger has arrived, offering seasonal food in neighbourhood restaurants, many of them tiny. Sharing plates of simple cheese and charcuterie or more complex dishes like pork belly, scallops and spring onions or brocoli puree with a poached egg and trout roe. Wagyu beef has found its way onto many menus but the originality of jambon de boeuf Wagyu, air dried and shaved in wafer thin slices was utterly delicious.
Jones in the newly trendy 11th (arrondisement) is a wonderful contrast of the simple and the complex. Pared back decor, stripped brickwork, random tiling and bent wood chairs share space with buttoned banquets and stretches of marble. As if the fancy decor was removed from a tiny restaurant and the basic wharehouse like building has been revealed. The service was friendly and efficient with a good choice of natural wines ( wines without sulphates) something else many of these Bar A Manger have in common.
The Burrata et Poutargue, (Buffalo mozzarella with botargo and sorrel) was creamy with a hint of lemon from the sorrel and salt from the botargo. The Focaccia mozzarella fume was a wonderful mini sandwich of rich smoky mozzarella wedged into slices of focaccia almost as if it had been baked into the centre and it was here that we had the Wagyu ham mentioned above. It was perfect sharing food with some dishes tapas sized and some a little larger. Dishes are between 8 and 15 euros.
Le Barav in the 3rd (arrondisement) was rammed at 7.00pm with a mix of 20 somethings and foreign nationals. The system here is simple, you go next door and buy your wine from the Le Barav wine shop, the barman chills it, where necessary and serves you with glasses and ice. The service here is very pacy and penetrates the chatter and clatter of bottles with its efficiency. There are tables outside with heaters so that even in March it was possible to eat in the fresh air. We crammed around a corner of the bar with our sharing boards of cheeses and charcuterie which were excellent.
We added the baked St Marcellin cheese fragrant with warm honey drizzle, simply because of the irresistible smell as it wafted across the bar to other tables. It fulfilled it’s fragrant promise. As a big fan of Rillettes, a kind of mix between pulled meat and paté, I had to order the Rabbit Rillettes, herby and meaty without a gamey overtone. The Gouda Aux Truffes is worth mentioning too, if you’re a fan of the pungent earthy fragrance and flavour of truffles this is definitely one to order. The Gouda was aged and had a bite whilst the truffle was subtle enough for the cheese and the cheese flavour gave room for the truffle to blossom. A perfect pairing. By 8.30pm the bar was less frenetic but still comfortably full enough to have a lively buzz about it. The prices here are 3.50 to 14 euros for a sharing platter of cheese or charcuterie.
Parisians have developed a method for eating outside in cafes that is lost to us Brits. As we all flock to outdoor seating as soon as the weather warms up, the Parisians have been comfortably doing it all year under heaters and awnings. The seats outside, even in March are more likely to be filled before those in the “warmer” interior. Consequently this is where the lively chat is, the meeting of friends and swopping of places as new people arrive all seated on brightly coloured chairs or more traditional cafe seats. Whether it’s just for a morning coffee, full breakfast, croque monsieur at lunchtime or a pichet of wine after work the pavements buzzes with life. Despite the new vulnerability Parisians are still enjoying a late night dessert and digestif protected only by a heater and an awning determined to live life the French way.
Jones: 43 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac, 75011. Tel, 0980753208
Le Barav: 6 Rue Charles François Dupuis. 75003. Tel, 0148045759
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