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Table’s proprietor and chef, Bruno Verjus, looks exactly like you want him to – a large ruddy man bedecked, the evening we visited, in a bright orange shirt and flowered cravat, red shoes on his feet and enormous smile on his face above his embonpoint; he spent the early part of the night joshing with his staff behind the serpentine silver counter of the open kitchen, spraying each other with water misters. His venture is a modern one, an oblong room on the nondescript Rue de Prague near the Marché d’Aligre, with a wonderful single polished steel table flowing around the room, its kitchen and its pillars. There are a few more seats at the bar, and it’s cleverly designed to give couples some privacy. On the wall behind the kitchen, pineapples turn slowly on their roasting spits, perhaps a nod to Heston Blumenthal’s equally succinctly-named Dinner in London, which championed this dish when it opened in 2011.
The hook is an ever-changing menu of market-fresh produce, from which Verjus produces just two main dishes a day on la grande rôtisserie. One table, one rotisserie, but a plethora of sides and starters to provide some pep, the whole printed on the backs of old ordnance survey maps. Artisanal cheeses and charcuterie are sliced and shaved behind the bar – we swooned over a plate of luscious rich pink petals of Dierendock entrecôte semi-seche – and wines are recommended with a minimum of fuss. One starter shone – raw chunks of dorade exquisitely dressed in a strange, piquant mixture of cherries, herbs and edible flowers – while the extreme simplicity of the other – tomatoes with a scoop of burratta – worked.
After all this promise, the grande rôtisserie turned out to be a bit of a let-down. Both that day’s cod and chicken were fine, but at €26 and €25 respectively lacked the intrigue and inventiveness of the other dishes – cooking things simply is great, but these felt merely ordinary. Things perked up again at dessert – that roasted pineapple, smoky sweet with a complex vanilla cream, and a dark chocolate mousse in a bright green puddle of sorrel crème anglaise. And then Verjus himself stopped by our table to chat about what he’s getting from the market tomorrow, and challenged us to identify the rogue flavour in the anglaise (we did, eventually – it was banana). With such easy-going enthusiasm and charm, you want to forgive the things that don’t quite work and just enjoy the experience – it’s just a shame most people will be priced out of the opportunity, and go elsewhere for a more even offering if they want to splash out.