17 Sep Fleur de Pavé in Paris: Sylvain Sendra
A new luxury mindset is emerging. Out goes the starchiness of traditional luxury and in comes ‘liberation’ luxury. It’s all about being curious, flexible and footloose – a feeling that put me on a Eurostar to Paris for lunch at the new restaurant of Michelin-starred chef Sylvain Sendra.
Sylvain and his wife Sarah, who looks after the wine, closed the shutters of their previous restaurant, Les Itinéraires, in December 2017 to go travelling in Lebanon and Thailand. “It’s good to travel,” Sylvain told me when I met him this time round. That is what life does; it goes round in circles.
Returning to Paris, the 3Ss (Sylvain and Sarah Sendra) opened Fleur de Pavé this summer in the tiny street of Paul Lelong, off the rue Montmartre. This is in the Bourse district of the 2nd arrondissement, a ten-minute walk north of Les Halles and the Bourse de Commerce, the new contemporary art museum housing the Pinault Collection.
At first I thought Fleur de Pavé was named after a cheese. I asked the waitress for the meaning. I asked Sylvain for the meaning. He suggested that I looked it up in a dictionary of Parisian argot. The answer? A Fleur de Pavé – a flower of the cobblestones – is a ‘lady of the night’. Let’s be direct, a prostitute. I obviously come across as too prim and proper to be told directly what it meant.
As Grace Coddington, Creative Director of American Vogue, was quoted as saying in the Business of Fashion: “I prefer imperfections; they’re more interesting.” Grace is obviously also a liberation luxurian, a rise chartered by The Future Laboratory at a conference that I attended earlier this September at Corinthia Hotel London, where I like to go to the spa.
Liberation Luxury at Fleur de Pavé
Liberation Luxury, and being a liberation luxurian, is about:
- Making luxury ‘increasingly unpretentious‘ and ‘accepting the imperfection‘ – at Fleur de Pavé, I sat at the bar on the ground floor overlooking the open kitchen.
- A ‘humanness‘, a ‘hyper-personalised service‘, an ‘ultra-version of home‘ – the atmosphere is convivial, and the kitchen staff greeted me in unison, Japanese style, taking me back to eating at Maido, Lima’s top Nikkei restaurant.
- ‘Innovators bring in new ingredients and experiences’ – already hugely influenced by the cuisines of Peru and Japan, Sylvain now adds a touch of Lebanon and Thailand to create a very signature style, based on largely locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
- The emergence of ‘third space sanctuaries’, where you can slow down, relax, and escape digital saturation – here it is, at 5 rue Paul Lelong, a street named after a Parisian architect of the 19th century,
- The ‘desire to connect with nature has become even more urgent and precious‘ – Sylvain is once again working closely with Asafumi Yamashita, the Japanese vegetable whisperer, who grows his vegetables in Chapet, northwest of Paris.
Scottish bread in Paris
First to be served was the ‘Scottish bread’ – a brioche-type bread to dip in olive oil. Now, I never saw bread like this when I visited Scotland in 2017, and saw Tilda Swinton driving through Findhorn. The bread comes – so I read in L’Express – from Jean-Luc Poujaran, in the 7th arrondissement, although the Scottish bread may have been made in house.
I had so many questions to ask Sylvain, and this was one. I felt like a member of the audience wanting to stop the conductor to ask the name of a tune. If I had a question to make him laugh, he would not have minded an interruption, I am sure … but not for anything as serious as why he was serving Scottish bread.
The amuse-bouches – featured in the main image – were tzatziki on a parmesan sablé and a black rice tartelette (which took me back to Les Itinéraires) with caviar of aubergine, smoked labneh (a soft curd cheese originally from Lebanon), daikon (the white winter radish popular in Japan) and Roscoff onion flowers.
BBH from bordeaux
For wine, I started with a white Bordeaux BBH vin nature. This is a blend of Colombard and Semillon from Château l’Hospital in the Côtes de Bourg, where Christine and Bruno Duhamel are the vignerons.
Déjeuneur parfum végetal
Then came my déjeuner parfum végetal, with four courses at €45. There is also a tasting menu at €95.
Like at Les Itinéraires, the vegetables and salad come from the garden of Asafumi Yamashita. You can read more about him in my blog post on Les Itinéraires, as well as in The New York Times and, more recently, in Le Figaro.
In short, he only supplies vegetables to chefs who know how to cook them: namely to Sylvain, as well as to the likes of Pierre Gagnaire, Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance and Christian Le Squer at Le Cinq. All of a sudden that €95 tasting menu seems extremely good value compared with the €350 for Le Cinq’s Epicurean Escape.
Jane Eyre Côte-de-nuits-villages
My next wine was a Côte-de-Nuits-Villages 2014 Jane Eyre. I thought it was a French wine-grower sentimental about English literature. Instead, I found out that Jane Eyre is an Australian-born vigneron who lives in Burgundy.
Risotto with Mushrooms
I love to take part in creating my dish, even though I don’t like doing BBQs. I had a little jug of jus de volaille – basically a really tasty chicken stock – to pour over my risotto à la volonté, as and when I wanted to.
Fin-tuning with a mandolin
The chefs had finely sliced the mushrooms with a mandolin, merging the flavours, creating a smooth, delicate texture and beautiful curls and shapes. They like using mandolins at the Fleur de Pavé. They made it look really easy and stylish to do. I know from experience that it isn’t… if you are an ordinary cook like me.
Dessert Lebanese style
Lebanese-style ashta, a creamy milk pudding with orange flower water, topped with gariguette strawberries and petals, with pistachio ice cream on the side.
The mignardises & ceramic reflections
The coffee came from Coutume Café – they have a café near Le Bon Marché department store, which I want to check out on my next visit, It’s always a good idea to have coffee in a good restaurant as it usually comes with some mignardises: white marshmallows, raspberry jellied fruit and small tarts with chocolate and dried capers – a mix made in heaven, and so much so that I forgot to take a picture.
The marshmallows – two of them – came in a beautiful ceramic dish with a lid. That is a trend I have noticed. My favourite restaurants focus on the origin of the glass that you drink with and the knife that you hold. Not on the flowers on the table. It keeps the focus on the activity of eating and drinking rather than the decor.
The importance of water
The water glass is made by a French company, Atelier George, in a small town west of Dijon. Little details like this make me happy – they make for the little pleasures in life. For me good (glass) bottled water, served at the right temperature, is also my idea of luxury.
A sanctuary in Rue Paul LeLOng
Time had stopped during my nearly two hours at Fleur de Pavé. I was in my third-space sanctuary, as described by The Future Laboratory. Some people had already eaten at Fleur de Pavé ten times over the past two months, the waiter told me. The menu changes daily, depending on what emerges from Asafumi’s vegetable garden.
I left the restaurant to be greeted by a sunny September day. I headed off to nearby E Dehilleren kitchen shop. Then on to the Cave du Pantheon to stock up with natural wine.
Was it worth the day trip? I did mix it with a bit of work. YES!! It was! And a welcome escape from daily life in London. Let’s see whether I will have to pass through customs next time I go to Paris.
For more of my stories about Paris.