American chef Daniel Rose was one of those who led the charge on a breed of restaurant that is now to be found everywhere in Paris, in more or less successful incarnations. All the ingredients of the place will now be familiar to regular restaurant-goers: the open kitchen, the set multi-course menu that changes daily with the market produce, the feeling of being somewhere simultaneously laid-back and special, chic and modern while concentrating on quality ingredients rather than fussy execution. It’s a subtle rejection of the ‘nouvelle’ and ‘modernist’ cuisines that have been and remain so fashionable in some circles; but while it’s still about eating a proper meal, and often draws on traditional French dishes, there’s still lots of inventiveness and originality. Rose, then, was one of the first to try this sort of ‘neo-bistro’ – and many would say he remains one of the best. Reservations are all but essential, and you can’t let yourself worry about the bill too much either. But as a treat and a slice of some of the best cooking in Paris, it really delivers.
On our lunchtime visit to the understated restaurant on a quiet cobbled street, everything was as it should be: the small, plain dining room watched over by smiling, efficient waiters who explained the dishes briskly and without fuss as they arrived at the table; the clatter and hiss of pans and steam from Rose and his team working away in the square kitchen area rimmed with brightly-coloured bowls of ingredients. A plate of amuse-bouche brought sweet melon, a salty tuna vitello tonnato, tart pickled baby aubergines and a pat of salted butter to bind it all together on slabs of bread (you know it will make you too full, but you always fall for it anyway). Then things really kicked off with firm, sweet sea bass on a warm fennel salad, followed by duckling cooked two ways – the pan fried breast in its own jus served with refreshing cucumber and almond mousse to cut through the richness, and a small copper pan of dark meat with girolles mushrooms that was the last word in meaty indulgence.
With waistbands already straining, we then tackled an enormous green plum clafoutis to share, flanked by pots of Greek yoghurt ice cream and chocolate mousse with apricot puree. We love the hands-on theatre of the food brought to table in its own cooking pans, scooping and sharing together with no regard for small portions. Naturally, the pistachio tartelette that came with coffee was absolute overkill, and naturally we ate it anyway.
None of this is cheap, and none of this is everyday, but for a special occasion it is a joy, and streets ahead of the hundreds of imitative venues that are popping up in the city every day; one for the wish list, without a doubt.
6 rue Bailleul
|Opening hours:||Tue-Fri 8pm-10.30pm; Wed-Thu 12noon-3pm, 8pm-10.30pm|
|Transport:||Métro : Les Halles or Louvre-Rivoli|