Ethnic Angel is not only a supermarket with exotic foods and great wine, but also a restaurant.
I recently thought I had finally made it through to the status of valued client at Julhès, the snooty deli (cheese mostly, wines, and lots of other goodies) I have patronized …
Pros: Pleasant shopping space, great wine list, staff that see you
Cons: Restaurant service not quite up to scratch, canned music
I recently thought I had finally made it through to the status of valued client at Julhès, the snooty deli (cheese mostly, wines, and lots of other goodies) I have patronized for the past seven years or so in the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. A couple of weeks ago, one of the assistants looked at me and said, “Bonjour Monsieur,” in a way that implied that she had recognized me as a customer she had seen before. It was the first time in all those years that it had happened. I was quite pleased. “I’ve made it,” I thought.
I realized the next time I went in that this was the buttered toast effect: I had buttered the wrong side that day. Not only was I met (I could hardly say greeted) with stony looks this time, but the new assistant told me in no uncertain terms not to move away while she was cutting my cheese: I had had the temerity to want to see if they had the chorizo I had set my heart on, a bit further along the counter. So when I lined up for the second time to pay for my cheese (at Julhès, you cannot escape the double queue – once to be served, and once to pay – in a line with people also coming in to buy wine and ice cream and bread from the person at the cash register, so it can take even longer to pay than to order), I decided not to spend €30 on wine there. In fact, I decided to take my footfall somewhere else from that day hence.
And then came Ethnic Angel, a spanking new supermarket-cum-deli in the Faubourg Montmartre, a few steps from my office. It sells ordinary supermarket fare, plus products from 80 countries, hitting the sweet spot for expats looking for the stuff they miss from the old country. They’ve got lots of high-falutin’ goodies for people looking for weird peppers and salts and the like, but they’ve got pretty much everything else, too. In the evening (it’s open until 11pm) the place is full of tourists getting stocked up for the night and for the next morning’s breakfast. The first time I went in, they had Maldon Sea Salt, arguably the world’s best salt, not to mention canned baked beans and Oreos.
Upstairs they sell beauty products, gifts, homewares and a tremendous selection of wines and spirits, including no fewer than four varieties of sherry and I don’t know how many rums. Chile, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand are all well represented, as is France, not to mention Austria, Hungary and even Israel, catering to the sizable Jewish contingent in the neighborhood.
The employees are a delight, too. They actually engage pleasantly with you – such a welcome relief from the sullen cattle I have to deal with at my local Monoprix until now.
Ethnic Angel also has a pleasant restaurant upstairs, which I tried one evening. You pick up your wine from the nearby shelves and pay a €10 corkage fee on top of the retail price. That means that you can have a bottle with your meal for as little as €14. Or you can spend a whole lot more, as there are some very classy wines on offer.
The restaurant still has some way to go: it needs more customers, and it needs to get more into the act. The service, while pleasant and friendly, was slow, despite the fact that one of the two groups of four that were there when we arrived left almost immediately and the other wasn’t eating. I was also deprived of a starter because the waiter got the order wrong. But we were in forgiving mood. The starter that did show up was a well-executed dish of grilled shrimp and ratatouille.
I was told that my Cameroon-style fish was very spicy, but this was only moderately the case. The other main course, a leg of rabbit, would have been fine if it hadn’t been overwhelmed by a blackcurrant sauce: a nice gamey animal like wild boar can carry that off, but not farmed rabbit. Pity.
A blancmange with a pineapple coulis and ice cream for dessert was perfectly serviceable, too. Here, you have the sense of what Ethnic Angel is trying to do with the menu: fuse food from around the world to match what is on its shelves. A worthy idea, but the restaurant is falling over its feet trying to cover too many bases at once.
So, as we assiduously frequent Ethnic Angel for our wine, willing it to be a success, we’ll keep an eye on the restaurant to see how it flies. The market is an original and worthy effort, deserving of support – I already have my loyalty card. It shows that supermarkets don’t have to have Monoprix’s narrow, overcrowded, dirty aisles; catatonic staff; and long lines. They can actually be bright, welcoming places you want to return to, again and again.
Ethnic Angel: 16, rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris. Métro: Grands Boulevards. Tel: 01 82 50 20 10. Supermarket open Monday-Saturday, 9am-11pm; Sunday, 9am-13pm. Restaurant open Monday- Saturday for lunch and dinner. A la carte: around €30. www.ethnic-angel.com
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