Hôtel du Nord

July 10, 2007By Heidi EllisonArchive

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Reborn Yet Again

hotel du nord restaurant, parisPart of the Hôtel du Nord’s cozy dining room.

September 14, 2005; updated July 11, 2007

It’s a rare pleasure to see a restaurant get better over time rather than deteriorate, but that is the case here. The service provided by an army of friendly, attractive young people buzzing around the dining room has improved tremendously since the restaurant first opened a couple of years ago, and the aggressive trendiness of both the clientele and the menu has been toned down.

The story of the legendary Hôtel du Nord, located on the Canal Saint-Martin, is a strange one. Its facade was made famous by Marcel Carné’s 1938 film of the same name, but the movie was actually shot in a studio. The derelict hotel was slated for demolition in the 1960s, but was saved by vociferous opposition from neighbors and film buffs – or at least the famous facade was saved; the rest of the building has been completely reconstructed. Today, all that remains of what has become an icon is its very unprepossessing but instantly familiar facade.

That, along with the burgeoning popularity of the area around the canal was enough, however, to attract new owners to the restaurant in 2005. They have nicely spiffed up the decor, creating a cozy ambience meant to evoke the 1930s and the “atmosphere” made so famous by the actress Arletty in the film. The low-ceilinged back room is done up with book-laden shelves, antique furniture and bric-a-brac, candles on the tables and ceiling fans (providing good ventilation). The bar/café area in the front has a brighter, airier ambiance than the back, and now there are even a few tables outside for fine-weather dining.

The food is delicious and comes in hearty portions. One of my favorites is the tender, flavorful pork filet mignon served with can’t-get-enough pasta in tongue-blackening squid-ink sauce. The fish of the day on a recent visit was fresh sea bream, delicately touched with sesame oil and served with creamy mashed potatoes.

Starters include fusion dishes like “Chinese salad”; foie gras with mango chutney and coriander; gambas with sweet-and-sour sauce and red cabbage. Vegetarians have not been forgotten; the menu always includes one meatless dish.

Only two types of cheese, an Ossau Irraty served in the traditional Basque fashion with black-cherry jam and a goat’s cheese, are available, and the wine list is limited but well chosen, with a wide range of prices.

The prices (€7-€14.50 for a starter, €14-€20 for a main course) are on the high side of reasonable, but are typical for this kind of restaurant.

Hôtel du Nord: 102, quai de Jemmapes, 75010 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 40 78 78. Café open 9 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; restaurant open daily for lunch and dinner. www.hoteldunord.org/

Heidi Ellison

© 2005/2007 Paris Update

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