Paris – pray, love, eat

Chefs and restaurateurs tend to address their customers at the end of the meal, revelling in a few minutes’ glory and the appreciation of those who have enjoyed their hard work. But these are not normal times in Paris at the moment and nor is Robert Vifian a normal restaurateur or chef (nor is he a normal wine buyer, either, but more of that later). So when our party of 15 had arrived at the Vifian family’s restaurant, Tan Dinh, on Paris’s Left Bank, had handed in our coats to…






Paris: great value, great cooking and a great Tavel

This is a version of an article published by the Financial Times. Although the analysis of any restaurant experience can never follow a simple mathematical model, I have, when pressed, confessed that any weighting of marks follows this rough breakdown: 40% is devoted to the menu and what we eat; a similar amount is devoted to the style and manner of how we are looked after; the balance revolves around the appeal of the wine list. The amalgamation of these imprecise experiences has, I am pleased to report, meant that…






Paris, toujours Paris

This article is also published in the Financial Times. The Michelin Guide has directed many towards the best that Paris has to offer. But over a weekend during which I visited two very different restaurants – Bistroy Les Papilles in the 5th close to the Sorbonne, where the €35 set four-course menu costs less than one course on the à la carte menu at Les Tablettes in the far moresoigné 16th arrondissement – I came away with an appreciation of the guide’s longer-term implications for the style with which certain…






Good food and romance in Paris

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   There is a belief among many that French cooking is not as exciting as it once was and that today the restaurants of Paris are not the equivalent of those in London or New York. But a recent trip to the City of Light left me in in no doubt that these claims are exaggerated, particularly when the most promising practitioner I encountered was an unassuming 26-year-old chef with an exciting future. What leads me to make this claim is…






Paris – dedication on both banks

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Dinner on the Friday night we arrived in Paris and lunch on the Sunday before we headed home could not have been more enjoyable nor more different. Both meals also provided fascinating but yet again very different insights into the dedication that is vital to success in the restaurant business. Our first meal was at Astrance, the three-star Michelin restaurant run by restaurateur Christophe Rohat and chef Pascal Barbot. In many ways this meal was definitively French, despite several Japanese influences…






Burgundy in Paris

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   La Table des Anges in the shadow of Montmartre and Les Climats just behind the Musée d’Orsay in Paris could not be more different to the passer by. The former boasts four tables on a narrow pavement while that outside Les Climats is home to a tall, well-dressed doorman who stands next to a frame containing its menu and a brief history of its Art Deco interior. But both, I was to discover, are the happy confluence of determined restaurateurs…






Bernardo delivers at Goust

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Enrico Bernardo crossed the floor of Goust, his new restaurant that opened on 1 February on the first floor of a building that dates back to the era of Napoleon III, with the determination that has characterised his years as a cook, sommelier and finally as a restaurateur. In his hands were plates of red mullet with smoked eel and sea bass with courgettes that he placed carefully in front of a young couple. Having explained the two dishes, he…






Le Sergent Recruteur, Paris

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Paris does not lack expensive restaurants. I have, however, eschewed most of them recently because although the cooking may be excellent, the service is invariably stiff and occasionally supercilious while the wine lists are too restricted to French wines and, more often than not, overpriced. The recent opening of Le Sergent Recruteur on the picturesque Île Saint-Louis may signal that times are finally changing. What makes this restaurant so special has its origins in two extraneous factors, however. The first…






Three new places in Paris

This article was also published in the Financial Times. The news on this Bastille Day for those who enjoy eating out in France appears to be encouraging. The last election saw the departure of a teetotal President, an acute source of chagrin for the country’s winemakers, while the country’s new cabinet has no place for those who once introduced the 35-hour week that forced so many restaurateurs across France to curtail their opening hours. And now from Paris comes the news of three exciting new openings. While Les Jalles and…






Le Table du Lancaster

Le Table du Lancaster – 2004 On the basis of what we ate, Troisgros’s La Table du Lancasteris a marvellous achievement putting him quite firmly on the same pedestal as Paris’s two other highly cerebral and innovative chefs, Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon. Like his compatriots, Troisgros has not only correctly divined how and what his customers will want to eat but he has also astutely redesigned the menu itself to achieve this. Rather than the normal layout this new menu is divided into six different headings which initially appear…