On the third day she rested…

Not that I’m comparing myself to the Great Creator, but s/he created the world in 6 days before taking a break, where as on holiday in Santorini, Greece last week, I only made it to three before needing a holiday from our holidays.

When I told a friend our destination she gave me a rather dry look, adding, “You know, you can’t wear heels.” The map of the nearest big city had a “No Heels” logo on its legend.  What wasn’t explained, and what I didn’t ask, is why. I had no idea that everything, absolutely everywhere in Santorini involves a steep slope. We didn’t stop going up and down. To give you an idea of just how extreme things can be; from the breakfast deck to our room, there were 80 stairs. The same 80 for the pool and at least double that to leave the hotel. After two days of steps and long (yet glorious) hikes, I needed a day off! So, Mr French and I set ourselves up with faux-jitos to spend the morning by the infinity pool, above the sapphire tinted Aegean Sea, while I wrote this post;

Our first day we were eager to hike the 2.5 hours from our hotel in the village of Imerovigli to Oia (pronouced Ee-a). It was a long, glorious walk, the sea to our right and our left, blue domed chapels spotting the way. There were rustic, open air cafés where locals gathered to chat and escape the heat of the day, there were remote hotels and a satisfying series of photo ops. Drying wild flowers perfumed the air.

We arrived at pristine, sparkling white Oia ready for some hydration, some shade and a bite of lunch. The first fairly decent looking place we came to was Thalami, which claimed to serve local specialties. I was skeptical; with its prime tourist location, wind-kissed terasse and seductive shade, it seemed too perfect to be true, but I needed a break from the relentless sun and was too hungry to start looking for something “better”. What a stroke of luck that was! Everything was seasoned with local herbs making for exciting flavors in all the dishes we tried; tomato fritters (was that a bit of tarragon they put in the batter?), fava bean puree, Santorini salad with caper leaves and grilled octopus.

We were soon back on the street, exploring Oia, a charming town with lots of hotels, plenty of souvenir shops, a school, an active church and more scenery than you can shake a donkey stick at. They also have the most magical bookshop I have ever wandered across. Atlantis Books was founded by a group of young people who used to work at Shakespeare & Company here in Paris, so they are definitely kindred spirits! Volunteers come from across the globe to work in this little piece of heaven, surrounded by books, amazing friends, and the shining sea (you’ll hear more about this shop soon…)

A tote bag full of booklets later, we left Atlantis and returned to Oia. That donkey stick that was shaking at the scenery? It was for all the donkeys that were lined up to take people down the cliff to Ammoudi harbour. Mr French has a moral objection to using these beasts of burden for tourist traffic, so we walked down. 45 minutes, with even more stunning views under the afternoon sun. Mr French had heard there was a beach down here and after 18 hours on an island, the man was itching to swim. A brief hike on what was no longer a trail and we’d arrived. It was more a small outcropping of rocks than a beach, but the water was perfect and it was the ideal place for a well deserved, refreshing swim, well off the beaten path.

This is a working fisherman’s bay, with a small collection of restaurants that grill the catch of the day, inviting clients to select their own fish before cooking them to perfect. Mr French was getting hungry, so he asked for a table at the first fish place we came across. We later found out that this fish place, Dimitiris is one of the most famous in all of Santorini, but in the moment, we didn’t realize how lucky we were that they had had a cancellation and that we were enjoying a table with a sunset view.

When our waitress invited us into the kitchen to select our catch, I asked Mr French to select a fish for the two of us. The man does not like being told what to do and rarely follows directions, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started to smell the aroma of grilled lobster wafting our way.  Caviar… Foie gras…. not my thing, but a good lobster makes me go weak at the knees and this one must have been touched by the Greek gods, because it was divine.

Walking by our table a woman exclaimed, “Someone’s not shy…” A few minutes later another walked past exclaiming, “OMG!!!” And finally a third, “Wow! You’re SO lucky!”

“Lady,” I thought, “you’ve got no idea…”

Atlantis Books

Dimitris – Ammoudi, tel. 22860 71606

Date night – Chez Fernand

This wasn’t really a date night, but a romantic Saturday afternoon spent running errands in the ‘hood. By 14h I was feeling faint with hunger, so Mr French suggested we pop into one of his local favorites, Chez Fernand.

Chez Fernand is in an overwhelmingly touristy little square of streets filled with one restaurant after the other. The kind of place I generally avoid like the cat’s litter box and I was rather surprised the first time Mr French brought me in here.

The charming wooden door, the red checked table clothes, I couldn’t tell if this was a tourist trap, or a genuine French dive. But it was full of local merchants swigging back carafes of red over their lunch hour(s) which is always a good sign. The joking in rapid fire French that was flying around the room was an even better one. And yes, I agree, I probably needn’t have been looking for signs at all, since my guide was Mr French.

Since that first date, Chez Fernand has become one of our regular cantines. The food is always good; very traditional, featuring market fresh ingredients and without any fussy foam on your plate. This is food grandmère used to make. And the prices are fair, which she’d appreciate, making it a good address for just about everyone, but especially anyone who appreciates a lively local scene with patrons screaming from one table to the next, the chef coming out to see their satisfied grin, the servers telling you to behave yourself.

Our last meal was veal kidney for monsieur while I enjoyed a bit of cod with a healthy serving of vegetables, another thing I love about Fernand’s. They’ve got greens! And great desserts, which promise a sweet ending to our afternoon.

Date Night – Le 21

I’ve been rather delinquent about Friday@Flore. The truth is, it is not easy taking those photos. If I stop and ask people, I am setting myself up for a major dose of rejection, as 2 out of 3 locals say no. If I don’t ask my photos are just okay, and a post of just okay photos does not exactly fill me with pride. So this summer, I am giving myself a break as I figuring out how to tackle street fashion photography in Paris.

In the meantime, I’ll be running Date Night. Makes me feel more secure, as Mr French rarely rejects me or my advances and should be inspiring for you, if you like food even half as much as I do, because I’ll be featuring some of my favorite restaurants. Last week it was Le 21.

Le 21 can be found at #21 rue Mazarine, which means this black painted, curtained clad store front is shrouded in mystery. There is no name to declare proudly for passers-by. Just the address, a large, white 21 painted elegantly above the door. In fact, it is so discrete, that I only found the place because I was early for a date with Mr French at the Prescription bar next door and spent a bit too much time loitering outside. It was clear, as the door opened and someone entered, that something special was going on inside.

The discreet entrance says a lot about the chef, Paul Minchelli who once reigned over the stove tops at the Michelin starred Le Duc in the 14th and the glitzy, ritzy Minchelli in the 7th. It was all a bit much, so this man, who is a master with fish and seafood hung up his apron. But his clients simply could not bare the thought of Pais without his cooking and insisted that he continue on, providing him with a cozy little bistrot to work from.The walls are lined with shelves that hold funny objects (I’m pretty sure he has that trout that sings “Take me to the River”) and house made preserves.

Le 21 is in tourist central, but on most nights the dozen tables are crammed with locals oohing and aahing over the perfectly prepared fish that remind us of our summer holidays by the sea. This is a real chef using the freshest of ingredients, so the menu is brief; only about half a dozen entrées and just as many mains. But who cares when each morsel is pure perfection. Mr French is partial to the chef’s version of fish and chips which is not like any fish and chips you’ve ever had before. The fish is poached and there is an egg involved and it all adds up to a savoury, gooey wonder.

I’ll never for get the sea scallops I had on my first visit. Steamed on a bed of seaweed, the lid removed at your table, the smell of the sea washes over you. A sublime moment for a sublime meal. On our last visit I opted for a personal favorite, grilled sardines, which is served on a sizzling grill, each bite sending me back to my very first French Sardinade in Brittany. It was so good I couldn’t bear the thought of dessert.


The water changes everything. Light is refracted, reflections magnified. Movement becomes vertical, as well as horizontal. Sound is absorbed. Winding, narrow alley ways create architectural canyons, with a peacefully comforting uniformity. The regular drum of passing cars is replaced by irregular bursts of sound. You are not in a city or in the country, you are somewhere else. Somewhere wonderful.

Mr French and I arrived early Friday morning. “Its much more dramatic arriving by train,’ he informed me. I nodded naively, having only ever arrived by bus after a short flight from Paris. We grabbed our bags and headed out the door to the quais in the pouring rain. It was the first time that either of us would be arriving by water taxi. The rain stopped and chipper captain greeted us from his vintage, wood trimmed motor boat, shooing us from the front deck into the back of the boat where the roof top slid open, allowing us to stand and enjoy the breathtaking view.

Our chauffeur had a brief errand to run on the island of Murano, and asked if we’d mind a detour. We were thrilled with the free ride and our unexpected stop at a boatyard. Pulling up to the dock of the hotel was luxurious experience and within minutes we were ready to hit the town.

First stop, the Punta della Dogana, the large warehouse space that houses the phenominal contempory art collection of François Pineault (CEO of the Gucci Group, now known as Kering). Getting there would require a long walk or a quick trip by vaporetto. Knowning Mr French and his inability to get from point A to point B without stopping at every other church, museum, and shop window and knowing Venise, with its plethora of churches, museums, and shop windows, I insisted on boating it. We didn’t have tickets, or any idea how to acquire tickets, so we just walked on and hoped for the best. Turns out, local authorities rarely check for tickets and we could have gotten free rides our entire trip.

The museum was closed until June 1. So we hopped on another vaporetto to check out the Fortuny Museum, featuring the fabrics of the Art Deco artist. The museum was closed until June 1. We walked a few blocks back towards the canal when the Plazzo Grassi, the second Pineault museum WAS open. A huge palazzo that belonged to the Fiat family before being acquired by the Gucci gang, the Grassi is gorgeous. For the first time ever, the museum was displaying the work of a single artist; Rudolf Stingel. The artist commissioned a ginormour oriental carpet and used to cover all the walls and floor of the entire palace. The effect was mesmerizing, and like it or not, it was art.

Our quest for art had left us both famished, which made us both a tad grumpy and we got lost looking for our next destination. Just when we started to bicker we came upon a square with a restaurant that had several tables under large white parasols. Mr French grumbled that it looked like a horrid tourist trap. While my stomach was doing sumersaults of joy. We had stumbled upon Aquapazza, one of my top favorite restaurants on the planet. Mr French was somewhat skeptical of my enthusiasm, but was quickly seduced by the fries courgete flowers with a light-as-air ricotta stuffing, while the linguine with lobster was just as good I had remembered. Italians are not known for their dessert, and coming from Paris, we often head straight for the espresso, but this was Aquapazza, where they have fruit gelati served in their original shells;  from chestnuts to walnuts, medlars to strawberries, it is all simply divine and served with a frost encrusted bottle of house-made limoncello.

We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering the medieval labyrinth of the city, ending our evening over bellinis at the mythic, historic, Harrry’s Bar.

Quel chou !

That’s French for “What a sweetheart!” It also means “Which cabbage?” But ever since this weekend I’ve been thinking about yet another definition,”What a great puff pastry!” On Saturday mon chou, Mr French, and I were strolling through the Place de Furstenberg near St Germain des Pres when he espied La Maison du Chou. In this heavily touristed, bakery deficient zone, he had spotted a bijoux of a pastry shop with checker tiles floors, stone walls and pastries. Gorgeous, golden puff pastries in pristine glass jars, on marble counters and in a large woven basket. We had a hard time believing our eyes, as just weeks ago it seemed that the space had been a tiny art gallery.

The place was so darn, well… chou that I had to go in and learn more. Turns out we weren’t imagine things, they had just opened shop. And what a shop! Meilleur Ouvrier de France and Michelin 2 star chef, Manuel Martinez is the mastermind behind this new concept and I intend on becoming one of his biggest cheerleaders.

Lately, I’ve had a bone to pick with all the English language foodies who come to Paris because they simply love French food and then start raving about food trucks and taquerias and cupcakes here in Paris. Not that I have anything against food trucks or tacos. I love ’em both, but I’d never stand in a long line for them and I see so need to share the idea in the English language press. Not to mention that they are both better in the US (or Mexico). I’d rather encourage anglophones to support local delicacies and with La Maison du Chou, I get to do just that.

Forget cupcakes, head to La Maison du Chou where the choux are filled to order, a pastry chef injecting plain, chocolate or coffee flavoured cream on demand as customers wait in line. Mature, stoic, elegantly clad Parisians, looking over the counter like hungry school children. Its fabulous. And the pastries are not filled with just any cream. Instead of the traditional pastry cream, these choux feature an original fromage blanc mousseline. Simply delicious.

London Eating

As much as I love French cuisine, one of the highlights of every trip to London is the food. This wasn’t much of a draw 20 years ago, but today, with fresh ingredients and heirloom vegetables getting pride of place, things have changed considerably.

For years now, I’ve been curious about the Wolseley on Piccadilly. The posh looking establishment simply oozes old world elegance, greatly enriched by its location just steps  from the Ritz. The windows are covered with bistro curtains, and every time I’d pass, I’d look longingly into the italian inspired decor where a chicer-than-thou crowd seemed to be having the time of their lives at the bar.

Fortified by my new umbrella, and Mr French’s company, this trip I felt chic enough to breach the entrance. A formally clad valet met us on the sidewalk and guided us inside. Inside I quickly observed that the bar was merely a tiny box in a very large, opulently Italianate, art deco restaurant. The Wolseley had been a car for the rich who were not quite rich enough to afford a Rolls, and this had been the showroom. A very handsome and charming host showed us to the bar, informing us that the dining room was fully booked, but they did have tables for walk-ins, if we were interested. “Yes, please!” I replied, completely seduced by this place.

It was only noon and the bar was hopping. One of three very professional barmen put his everything into mixing the perfect martini for Mr French, while I was thrilled to find that they had hot lemon juice on the menu. I got to have something that felt infinitely more grown up than Perrier, while staying fit.

We were soon seated in a small dining room and a funny thing happened. The waiter spoke to us in French. He had heard us speaking, and being French himself, it did not occur to him to address us in English. The menu was French as well, with dishes like coq au vin and croque monsieur. But there was also roast beef with yorkshire pudding and wild Scottish salmon. The food was good, but nothing I’d run back for. The scene however, simply fun, as we sat next to two Sloane rangers and a very wealthy local Indian family. I think next time I’ll come back for tea time, or perhaps  I’ll try for something more wild at the bar…

For dinner, I had done some research, ie I sent a tweet to @jeffreyinmotion a professional in the UK hospitality industry. He gave me the name of a few places and the Harwood Arms was the first on the list to have availability. The menu looked good, and that was good enough for me, so good, I never bothered to looked at where the Harwood Arms is on a map.

Its in Fulham. You’ve heard of it, non? Well, me neither. Mostly because it is a bit remote and far from the tourist path. In Paris that would not be a big deal; have metro, will travel. In London, it’s a deal. We got off at a station to change trains and learned over the loudspeakers that our train would not be stopping at that station over the weekend. Back on the train we tried to connect at another station, but there were five different terminus possible and I got us on the wrong train. We went one stop and got back on to go back where we’d come from. A one stop error cost us 40 minutes of our time and I was very happy we’d planned on arriving early to enjoy a drink at the bar.

Getting out of the tube at Fulham we were in London, but had the impression that we’d stumbled into a sleepy little suburb. Mr French looked at me skeptically, teasing, “I hope you know what you’re doing.” I had no clue, but I wasn’t going to tell him!!

Following the street maps that were helpfully posted every 100 meters, we soon found ourselves on a quiet residential street. I started to panic, but Mr French noticed some bright lights ahead. As we got closer and closer, he became confident that we were in the right place. And we were, in so many ways.

A light, airy restaurant that simply oozes with a relaxed, friendly vibe. The decor is quaint, with wild flowers on the tables, a deer’s head mounted on the wall and black and white photography of ammunition. It was the British version of Brooklyn Hipster. After a weekend of good behaviour, I was ready for a truly London cocktail. I was at the wrong bar for that and instead I had a lovely glass of white wine. A really large glass, because it turns out that a British “glass” is 1/3 more generous than a Parisian “verre”! Behind us burned a cheery fire, with guests nestled into leather couches. They were snacking on outstanding bar food; a venison scotch egg, honey roasted nuts with rosemary, cauliflower croquettes with picallili and garlic potatoes that made me melt with hunger from tables away.

The dinner menu changes with the seasons. Now here is the sad part. I forgot to take a photo of the menu and I was somewhat tipsy from the wine so, I don’t exactly remember everything we ate. Mr French had deer, I had fish then we shared a light rhubarb desert and there was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing. It as all truly delicious. Mr French (who was completely sober) assures me we’ll be going back!

Rock the Casbah

Hakkasan photo from their website (no lighting!!!)

Actually, its London Calling, but that was just obvious, I couldn’t, simply could not do that to you. Last Friday Mr French and I headed to Londontown, which explains why there was no Friday@Flore. It was Friday@LaGare for me. The freezing cold gare, that I was very happy to leave as we stepped into the train.

Taking the Eurostar usually makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland, as I fall into the iconic, diesel infused Paris metro, and resurface to bustling streets with black cabs, red buses and traffic going the WRONG way. Yes, all my British friends, if you have to post signage at every single street corner in your city, telling pedestrians which way to look before crossing, well, its safe to say, your way is slightly twisted.

This trip was even more surreal, as we stayed in the station, taking the glass elevator directly to the lobby of the monumental St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. A Victorian fantasy, this hotel is a gothic jewel, with stunning public spaces and exceptional service, unfortunately the rooms are your standard international business travel fare and I did not fall in love with the neighborhood, although, to be perfectly fair, I didn’t give it much of a chance as we checked-in and immediately hopped a cab for the familiar (to me) Mayfair district.

It was 21h and we had reservations at Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, which I had found rather by accident. I had really wanted to go to the Indian restaurant, Amaya, my favorite restaurant in London, and one of my all time top ten on planet earth, but Mr French had pleaded for something different, and I complied, because really, it is bizarre that a chick who dedicates her life to exploring the planet is obsessed with returning to the same addresses time after time!

Before getting in the cab, though, we had a problem. The lock on Mr French’s suitcase, the one that is integrated into the luggage, had jammed. We’d had to call security and get a rather large, knowledgeable gentleman to break it open for us. Over the weekend we also had problems accessing the gym and I left a rather large package behind. The hotel staff know us rather better than they should and really earned their tips! While helping me postpone our reservations (because of the locked lock) the concierge assured me I’d made the right choice in trying Hakkasan, it was the best Chinese in the city.

I had wanted a restaurant that served very spicy cuisine, like I can not get in Paris, and attracted the super cool London crowd. You know, the places with dramatic lighting and intriguing spaces that you see in movies with stars like Hugh Grant and Rene Zellweger. Hakkasan fit the bill. The food was spicy and elegant, and perfectly prepared. So well prepared, in fact, that they’ve earned a Michelin star. We had dishes with lily bulbs and morning glory greens, and whole chilis and all kinds of favorites I can not get at home. The pièce de resistance was the beautifully presented dessert of a dozen different exotic fresh fruits which satisfied my relentless sweet tooth without giving my any guilt.

The crowd was worth watching, too. Young folk covered in studs, men who were better coiffed than I have ever managed, girls with heels so high they teetered and had to grab the railing for support, co-workers getting smashingly drunk over an extravagant TGIF and nervous mid-life couples out on a first date. It was dinner and a show!

Street Art

There is a fine line between Street Art and vandalism, and I really have no idea where to draw it, but for most of us, we know it when we see it and this weekend we saw a good share of it at the Musée de la Poste (the Post Office Museum), just up the street from chez nous.

Small and not exactly known for exciting exhibitions, very few people know where the Musée de la Poste actually is. I know exactly where it is because it is less than half a block from my favorite crèperie, Ty Breizh, in the shadow of the Tour Montparnasse on the boul de Vaugirard.

“There is no boul de Vaugirard!!!” exclaimed Mr French, its “rue de Vaugirard!!!”

Lets just say, that it took us 20 minutes for a 5 minute walk. But getting lost in Paris has its rewards; we discovered a very high end stereo store perfect for Mr French  and stumbled upon a great looking restaurant, Le Quinze, that features sustainable fish. We’ll be trying it just as soon as I am eating again (Detox. More on that tomorrow).

Before we knew it, we were at the museum and enthralled with the art. The collection was surprisingly international with some of the best graffiti artists today. There were the accidentally counterfeit bills by Banksy. Space Invaders done in Rubik’s cubes, pochette paintings by Mis.Tic and lots of videos to see the stars at work. The show is short, just one large room and the crowd was refreshingly manageable for Paris. Even Em, who hadn’t been particularly thrilled about getting out of bed on a Saturday morning, loved it and the videos were so well done that I stopped to watch them, which really doesn’t happen often. What is known to happen often is that embarrassing moment when I burst out into a spontaneous guffaw of laughter. This was a two guffaw show.

Between my gourmandise and the morning’s detour, it wouldn’t shock you to hear that we then headed to my crèperie. Lent is coming up so the Ty Breizh was full of families in a festive mood, on addition to the usual lot of travelers who come for a treat before catching their train and Japanese tourists. I don’t know why it is, but this crèperie is in alot of Japanese guidebooks.

Sat am, and we’d already gotten lost, seen some great art and had delicious treat. I was looking forward to what the rest of the day had in store for us!!!

What sized Palais?

Après notre petite soirée romantique à l’expo Hopper, on avait des réservations au restaurant le MiniPalais, qui est dans le Grand Palais, parce que ça crée la confusion et pour le coup on est bien content quand on y arrive.
La conversation est un peu comme ça.
– On va où pour dîner ?
– On va au MiniPalais.
– Ah, c’est en face, il faut traverser. Je ne savais pas qu’ils avaient en restau.
– Comment ? De quoi tu parle ? On ne traverse pas ! Non, mais, ça, c’est le Petit Palais.
– Et on ne va pas au Petit Palais ?
– Non, nous allons au MiniPalais.
– Mais ça, c’est le Grand Palais !
– Tais toi et fait moi confiance.

Ouf, effectivement j’étais bien content d’arriver devant l’entrée du restaurant. Ce n’est pas parce que Mr French est français qu’il connait Paris ! Le MiniPalais est un énorme hangar, ultra chic avec un décor atelier d’artiste. Le sol en parquet, des toiles de bateau sur un mur, des morceaux de sculpture grecque sur un autre et une vitre qui donne sur le nef du Grand Palais. Comme dirait mon ado, c’est très stylé.

Surtout la grande terrasse avec ses colonnes impériales, ses palmiers, sa vue sur le Petit Palais et l’accompagnement d’un bon cocktail, si bon que le restaurant attire une clientèle plus tôt jet set et très Costes. De temps en temps ça me branche d’être entourer de très belles femmes et leurs hommes parfumés. On entre dans un autre monde, le dépaysement est assuré.

Eric Frechon, le chef étoilé du Bristol est aussi chef des cuisines du MiniPalais. Il nous offre une carte qui assure cette dépaysement ; créative avec une forte influence internationale et un esprit légère où le tamarin côtoie le tandoori et du piment d’espelette.

Dans les assiettes c’est bon sans être gastronomique, il y un déséquilibre décevant entre certain plats. La soupe de champignon avec châtaigne et foie gras était riche en saveurs avec des textures qui plaisent au palet, or le crabe en rémoulade était sans intérêt. Le saumon écossais était complètement fade, mais le cabillaud nacré de tamarin agréable en bouche. Rien n’était excellent, mais rien n’était mauvais non plus.

Entre le beau monde, une carte fusion et des plats quelconque, on avait la sensation d’être dans un restaurant Costes avec un twist.

After the Hopper show, we had reservations at the Mini Palais. What with all their masculine and feminine, and the dreaded subjunctive, it seemed natural that the Mini Palais would be in the Grand Palais, just across from the Petit Palais. Mr French had a hard time with the concept, and was sure I was leading him astray.

Which is why I was glad when we finally walked up the stairs and found the right entrance. Mr French was glad because there were two drop dead gorgeous woman standing there in form fitting black dresses, waiting to seat us.

I love the space of the Mini Palais. An enormous loft, it was designed to look like an artist’s studio; a very rich, not very productive artist, who collected bits of Greek sculpture and sewed up a few sails to make his drop cloth, which he hangs on the wall. Exactly the kind of artist who would hang out with the international jet-set crowd that fills the tables at the Mini Palais.

There is no artist. The crowd comes for the cool space and the even cooler terrace that features imperial columns, a mosaic tiled floor, palm trees, a fantastic view of the Petit Palais and excellent cocktails.

Eric Frechon, the Michelin starred chef of the Bristol is the executive chef here and her has put together a fusion menu with tamarind, tandoori and piment d’espelette all in a row. The food is good, without being great. Some of the dishes are disappointing, like the somewhat boring crab in remoulade, or Mr French’s tandoori salmon. While other dishes were actually excellent, notably the rich mushroom soup with chestnuts and foie gras.

Le Mini Palais is a fun place to dine after a late night visit to the museum or when your itching to pass some time with the see and be seen crowd, but what I really love is going for the cocktails on the terrace, which gives me another reason to look forward to the spring!



There is a very popular local restaurant called Frenchie. Google it and it comes up in both French and Anglo press. One of the English language foodie sites even has a post entitled, Five Great Frenchie Substitutes. I’d heard wonderful things about what comes out of the kitchen and I was hoping to try it one day, but reservations are incredibly hard to come by (hence the need for a list of substitutions). Since Mr French is often out of town and we work late during the week, I rarely get to try places on the other side of town, or anywhere that requires any kind of advance preparation. Reservations are reserved for things like birthdays and three star restaurants.

There are so many great restaurants in Paris, that I’ve never felt deprived, but I am a curious girl and when the opportunity to dine there came up, I didn’t want to say no.

The restaurant is cute, with brick exposed walls and only about 20 place settings. Our reservation was for 19h, a bit early for Paris and I’d had to skip lunch to ensure I’d have an appetite.

It seemed like everyone had a 19h reservation, because a flood of people arrived at once. I was seated next to the toilette and every time someone went in my chair back would take a healthy blow, shoving me into the table’s edge. The waitress spoke perfect French and English, and was very nice about serving in either, or and both. We ordered at the same time as the other tables, were served at the same time as the other tables and were required to leave before 21H30. As a local girl, I found this military precision rather odd and it left me ill at ease through out the meal. There was none of the hustle and bustle of a local bistrot, and with everyone doing approximately the same thing at about the same time, I kind of felt like I was in a school cafeteria.

But I was there to eat and I was not disappointed by what was on my plate. Without taking notes, I remember having enjoyed some excellent smoked sea scallops on sautéed mushrooms with a meyer lemon cream. For the main dish there was a perfectly prepared piece of sea beam and dessert was a blood orange sorbet with slices of fruit and bits of cake. All of this accompanied by a glass of a simply delicious white wine from Greece.

The food was remarkably good. It was light and original; with flavours in foam, lovely textures and the best basic ingredients. And the wine, well after ten years here, I appreciate the opportunity to try non-French wines, this one was well worth being adventurous. I found the portions ridiculously small and as I did a bit of research this evening I found that I am not the only one. The Figaroscope review has a similar complaint, but argues their case with considerably more force.

I love a great meal, but after last night I realized how much I also appreciate a good scene, either fun and lively, or plush and romantic, depending on the soirée. Frenchie is neither and given the rhythm of the orderly service, the tiny portions and the great lengths it takes to get a table, well, I’d probably call a handful of other restaurants first; 21, Racines, Pinxos, La Table d’Aki come to mind.


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