CHEF CONCIERGE • November 2018
Chef-patron of a restaurant empire that champions Middle-Eastern meets Mediterranean dishes and the self-confessed ‘Ottolenghising’ of classic desserts – say hello to Yotam Ottolenghi. Having fallen in love with the city’s sweet-treats and boulangeries, here he talks pitas and pastries in Paris
Breakfast spot worth getting up early for
A good croissant must be crisp on the outside and doughy in the middle, and make lots of crumbs when you eat it. Christophe Vasseur’s examples at Du Pain et des Idées, a French boulangerie with baroque-style decor, deliver on all fronts. For the ultimate Parisian breakfast, grab some croissants and escargots (swirl-shaped, pistachio-flavoured pain au raisins) then eat them by the River Seine.
Best ‘grab-and-go’ eaterie
Eyal Shani is an Israeli chef who I admire – I love his Miznon restaurants in Tel Aviv, and this is his outpost in le Marais. Eyal has taken the simple pita and reinvented it with beautiful fillings. From slow-cooked cauliflower to meats paired with tahini and raw vegetables, these fluffy stuffed pitas are better than any sandwich you’ll find.
Hip hangout that’s suitable for kids
Benoît Castel (pictured top of page) has long wooden tables with lots of kids running around. It isn’t bang in the centre, but is close to Père Lachaise Cemetery. Have a ramble there before lunch. At the back of the restaurant is an old, no-longer-in-use wood-fired oven, and the air is thick with the aroma of freshly baked breads wafting up from the basement bakery. As well as wonderful breads, there are bright salads packed with beans, quinoa and vegetables, and an unforgettable apple tart.
Favourite place for sweet things
Traditionally, French patisseries are somewhere you’ll buy things to take home, but Yann Couvreur (pictured above) is all about the dine-in experience. Order a coffee and a modern French millefeuille – Yann makes his to order (just 50 a day) and they are light as a feather. Another must-try is the kouign-amann, a crispy pastry with caramelised sugar between the layers.
Foodie souvenir to take home
For pâte de fruits – fruit jellies dusted in sugar – Jacques Genin’s are the best. His shops are like jewellery stores, with rainbow-coloured sweeps of toffees, chocolate truffles and jellies displayed in cabinets like gemstones. Biting into each jelly – my favourites are the tropical flavours – you get the essence of each fruit. Even more unique are the vegetable flavours such as beetroot or carrot.
Lunch spot to take care of business
Sometimes you don’t want anyone to reinvent the wheel – you just want good French fare. Café Constant epitomises this with its small menu of familiar food, including beef stew with carrots and potatoes, roasted chicken with herb butter and bacon, and rum baba for dessert. Even the decor is deeply comforting.
Where to impress on a date
For hip, egalitarian, nu-school fine dining, it has to be Chef Bertrand Grébaut’s Septime (pictured above). I visited with Ottolenghi co-founder Sami [Tamimi] and everything was a revelation – fried artichoke with oyster mayonnaise, sashimi with flavoured oil and an unusual take on an îles flottante, made with corn and cider caramel.
An innovative restaurant with an inspiring chef
Dersou, from Japanese heavyweight Taku Sekine, is not a French experience – it has more of a smart, Japanese canteen feel. One dish might be Japanese udon noodles, the next a very French veal tartare with mustard. I ate oysters dusted with toasted buckwheat and edible flowers, and a poached egg served in a glorious, intense parsley soup. Cocktails are inspired by east meets west, and cleverly paired to match each course.
For a moment of calm
Go to the Luxembourg Gardens and munch on Pierre Hermé macarons. Yes, you’ve probably already heard of him, but his macarons are stunning, particularly the shiny pink Ispahan rose, lychee and raspberry flavour.
Interview by Ianthe Butt
Yotam Ottolenghi’s new restaurant ROVI, opened in Fitzrovia this summer and his new book, Ottolenghi Simple, is out now