29 Nov Paris: eating well across the Seine from Le Grand Palais
When Paris welcomes the Olympic Games in 2024, Le Grand Palais is likely to take centre stage. This Beaux Arts wonder of the world, just off the Champs-Elysées, is the backdrop for so many Chanel fashion shows. Most recently in this 1900s’ cathedral to glass and steel, Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld replicated one of Europe’s most beautiful canyons, the Gorges du Verdon in Provence.
I was in town earlier this November for Paris Photo, the world’s biggest art photography fair, and also found within Le Grand Palais. As always, my main concern was how to escape the crowds and find a place to eat at lunchtime.
The 8th arrondissement is not my favourite: too busy, too linear, too touristy. So I strolled across the Seine to the Left Bank, to the 7th arrondissement. My belief is that it’s all about sweating every moment in life, as if it’s your last, and making it fun.
How I find a restaurant
I have a network of contacts I trust. I go to the first suggested place, where I ask for the second, and so the chain continues. Failing that I turn to the Monocle guides, and sometimes I walk around to find something I can’t resist. It’s about following my intuition and instinct, my gut.
This time, I’d been pointed towards Restaurant Garance as a good place to eat and enjoy natural wine near Le Grand Palais. The name ‘Garance’ sounded familiar, maybe because of the famous fashion influencer, as bloggers are now called, Garance Doré. In fact it’s the name of a shade of red, found in the restaurant and reflecting the colour of a young wine.
Restaurant Garance is a one Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s more about fine dining and white tablecloths than gastro bistro. It’s in the Rue de Saint-Dominique, a little street that runs across the 7th. At the helm is Guillaume Muller (manager and sommelier) and Guillaume Iskandar (chef – below, centre), both previously at Alain Passaud’s L’Arpège, where Guillaume M was head sommelier.
From seed to plate
I would love to eat at the 3 Michelin-starred L’Arpège. Right now, though,a triple-figure sum for a lunchtime menu without wine feels indulgent, and also I am sure it’s hard to get a table. The two-figure price at Garance was more palatable. It was also an experience put together by two L’Arpège protegés who’d just acquired their own farm, in a true L’Arpège way.
Having your own farm is part of a new trend in European restaurants. It’s about securing a source of good, quality ingredients, grown in the same way that they are then to be prepared, cooked and served – with passion, respect, reverence, expertise and skill.
The Garance farm
The Garance farm was passed down by Guillaume M’s grandfather. It’s in one of the remotest parts of France, in the commune of Magnac-Laval, in the region of Limousin, now called Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
They took over the farm this summer, and they’re now looking carefully at the best produce to grow in the different terroirs, depending on the slope, the soil, the aspect. “Just like a vineyard,” I remarked to the front of house who was explaining this latest news.
What I ate at Garance
I went for the 3-course lunchtime menu at €39 – now €42, with the 1er Cru menu at €70 and the Grand Cru at €90
I started with a Velouté de Perdreau rougeaux aux Epices Douces, Sabayon de Courge, Toast de Pain.
The words sound so much better in French … the language of love and food. They translate as as a young French, or Red-Legged partridge with ‘soft’ spices, a sabayon of squash and toast.
Then came a Pêche de Mer, Beurre Blanc à l’Agastache, Carottes, Purée d’Herbes Potagères – mullet with a white butter sauce with hyssop, carrots, and potato purée with herbs from the garden. The potato purée came as two types – one made like a chantilly cream.
I then chose the Ruban de Pomme, Kiwi, Guimauve aux Herbes, Glace à la Feuille de Figuier – ribbon of apple, with kiwi, herb-flavoured marshmallow and fig-leaf ice cream.
With more eating and drinking in the evening, I stayed with a glass of a Beaujolais Villages from Château Thivin. I’ve really developed a taste for a nice young Beaujolais – as long as it’s minimum intervention, it’s the only wine I drink now.
I ate well, drank well and was well looked after at Garance.
Even though on the other side of the river from the 8th arrondissement, the restaurant is popular with the business crowd. The spacing between tables is generous, and at no point did I – in my more creative clothing – feel out of place, or solitary. For a food-loving group of four I’d recommend eating downstairs, on the table opposite the kitchen.
Nearby views in the 7th
Elsewhere on Rue Saint-Dominique
On past visits to Paris, I’ve eaten at Les Cocottes. This is one of three restaurants in Rue Saint-Dominique owned by Christian Constant. At Les Cocottes, the speciality is food served in Straub cast-iron dishes. Christian’s other two restaurants in the street are Café Constant and Michelin-starred Le Violon d’Ingres.
This time, I also discovered Tomy & Co, off Rue Saint-Dominique, in the Rue Surcouf, a place also renowned for natural wines, as well as its gastro-bistro cooking and tattooed chef, Tomy Gousset, ex Meurice and Taillevent.
As Tomy & Co says, ‘Life is Food’. I so agree. Unfortunately there are only a certain number of restaurants one can visit in a day.
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