Paris is seriously lacking in restaurants with quiet terraces where one can have a meal in peace on a summer evening. And, when such a place does exist, the restaurant is often not up to par – it’s almost as if the owners figure they don’t have to make an effort because they know they will fill their tables anyway. This was the case for years with the so-so Tex-Mex restaurant in the beautiful courtyard of a 17th-century mansion in the Marais. Happily, it has now been replaced by a new restaurant called Grand Cœur.
I mentioned having a meal in peace, but that would be an exaggeration for this courtyard, which is home to a café-theater and a dance school. If you sit on the terrace, you may have lines of people standing next to you waiting to get into the theater, while a cacophony of music will surround you from the different classrooms as you catch glimpses of ballerinas jeté-ing, belly dancers gyrating and tap dancers stomping. It can all be quite entertaining, however, and it is far better than the noise and pollution of passing cars.
Grand Cœur is a project of Julien Fouin, owner of the likable Marais restaurants Glou and Jaja (another great courtyard terrace). We were there for lunch on a hottish summer day, but the huge awning effectively blocked out the sun, and we were perfectly comfortable.
A fixed-price lunch menu was available for €23 for two courses or €30 for three. The dishes on offer sounded summery but not very interesting: gazpacho, pappardelle with ground lamb sauce and arugula, and a medley of melon for dessert. Not really a bargain, but, of course, ordering à la carte, which is what we did, was even more expensive.
I started with a salad of green and yellow beans with snow peas, cherries, arugula and roasted pistachios. All nice and fresh, but certainly not transcendent. Nothing linked the ingredients together into something more than its parts. Those pistachios were pretty wonderful, however.
Pierre had the sardines, which were splayed out prettily on the plate. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, although I did like the tiny Taggiasca olives that accompanied them and the sizzle of the Espelette pepper sprinkled on top.
On the recommendation of the maître d’hôtel (who was, by the way, alternately pleasant and almost rude, while the other servers were absolutely adorable), I ordered the lamb shoulder. It arrived as a perfect square of meat on a bed of boniato (a type of sweet potato),
with dates, shallots, roasted walnuts and a black sesame sauce. Sounds excellent, but the meat was a bit dry and the whole dish a bit too sweet and heavy for a warm summer day.
I much preferred Pierre’s fish of the day, whose name we had repeated to us several times butwhich I have been unable to verify. Suffice it to say that it is a Mediterranean fish that somewhat resembles monkfish, with firm, dense white flesh. It was beautifully dressed with a top-quality olive oil, black olives and tomatoes, and served on cooked fennel. Now that’s a summery lunch!
For dessert, we shared a fine cherry clafoutis with a nice crunchy top, served with almond ice cream, which was a stroke of genius paired with the warm, fruity cake.
At nearly €100 for lunch for two (not counting the drinks and with only one dessert), I found the restaurant pricey for what it was, which unfortunately means that I will not be going back to Grand Cœur as often as I would like to enjoy that crazy courtyard.