June 16, 2009By Richard HesseArchive
frenchie restaurant, paris

Sidewalk table at Frenchie, a new Paris bistro worth knowing about.

Pros: Excellent food at wallet-friendly prices; fine, shortish wine list with a good sprinkling of non-French wines

Cons: Nothing worth mentioning, apart from the loud music issuing from the kitchen toward the end of the service.

If I got a free meal for every time people begged me not to write about their favorite eating place, I’d be, well, of far greater girth than I already am. I generally disregard their advice, on the grounds that a restaurateur always needs the custom.

My first reflex on going to Frenchie was to think that this place should be a well-kept secret, especially as it’s on my doorstep, almost. But I have decided to do as I would do unto others, as this is a find that people should know about.

Mind you, people do already know about it. Frenchie has been open no more than a couple of months in a location so no-no that the banks didn’t want to lend the chef-owner any money. Those banks of little faith should have known better, as the place is heaving at lunch- and dinnertime alike. Needless to say, reservations are de rigueur.

Gregory Marchand, the chef-owner, worked three years for Jamie Oliver, the chirpy cockney-sparrow chef of TV fame, in his “experimental” London restaurant, 15, launched to get disadvantaged kids into a disciplined work environment. He then did an 18-month stint at Gramercy Tavern in the United States, before returning to Paris with his wife and new baby and setting up shop. Which is where we came in.

The lunch menu is limited to two starters, two main dishes, two desserts or cheese. There’s slightly more choice in the evening, but not a lot. Frenchie is for omnivores, okay? There’s no room to pick and choose. If you lunch there with a friend, as I did, you get to taste everything on the menu – incredibly good value at €19 for three courses.

On the day we visited, the starters were a velouté of lentils with preserved lemon, and mackerel with red beet escabeche, smashed potatoes and horseradish. Main courses were sea trout with panzanella (croutons), tomato salad made with what looked (and, more importantly, tasted) like heirloom tomatoes, and gnocchi with beef cheek and carrots.

Nothing disappointed; everything charmed. The velouté contained a secret ingredient, which I think was sorrel. It not only gave the soup a brighter color than the usual drab brown, but also complemented and reinforced the lemony addition. The fresh horseradish was perfection with the mackerel, and the gnocchi were heavenly, unlike any I have ever tasted – airy and yet texturous (that one’s not in the dictionary, but please feel free to use it – it could become the two-millionth word in the English language). And the tomato salad with the perfectly cooked seat trout had all the zing you would wish for.

I passed on dessert, as I had a heaped plate of work waiting back at the office. At least, I did until I tasted my friend’s pistachio and apricot pie with crème fraiche. I was instantly hollering for my own portion. Stupendously good.

We drank a fresh-tasting bottle of Bourgueil by Catherine and Pierre Breton that needed a bit more time in the bottle, perhaps, but pushed the right buttons.

I’m writing this as lunch time comes around, and the temptation to abandon all and go back to Frenchie is very great right this minute. Must get there before it’s besieged by hungry Paris Update readers.

Richard Hesse

Frenchie: 5, rue du Nil, 75002 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 39 96 19. Métro: Sentier. Nearest Vélib stations: 80, allée Pierre Lazareff; 108, rue d’Aboukir. Open Monday-Friday for dinner. Fixed-price lunch menus: €15 (two courses) and €19 (three courses). Dinner: €33*.

* three courses, not including wine

© 2009 Paris Update

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