Chef William Ledeuil has opened a baby-sister bistro to his much-loved Ze Kitchen Galerie.
Back in Paris after two weeks of almost uninterrupted glorious sunshine in La Rochelle. Talk about a reality check: two weeks of people being nice to you and then, whammy. Even after over three decades in Paris, the sheer unpleasantness of customer-facing people in its shops still takes my breath away. Even more so after an absence, of course.
Katherine, my London-based girlfriend, and myself are smitten by La Rochelle. For the space of 24 hours we even got excited over a ground-floor apartment with a handkerchief of a garden about a 5-minute walk from the Old Port, La Rochelle’s passeggiata and 150 yards from the mind-blowing produce market, where nearly a quarter of the stalls sell fish, and which is surrounded by cafés. Then reality kicked in, and we waved goodbye to the apartment and La Rochelle. But we’ll be back, I hope, in the not-too-distant future, to settle there permanently. It is perfectly described by the advertising slogan for a French small car: “Elle a tout d’une grande” (“It has everything a big one has.” With the ocean thrown in.
It has restaurants, for example, as I told you last year. So many of them that I sometimes wonder how they manage in the off-season. Double-Michelin-starred Richard Coutanceau’s son Grégory alone has four, and we went to one of them, Les Flots, right on the harbor side. It cost half the price of last year’s meal and was served by pleasantly unassuming staff amid the lively buzz of a room with all the trappings of a posh restaurant, without the mother-hen wait staff telling you how to eat your food. My ris de veau (sweetbreads) main dish was certainly the best I have had in a long time, and the melon jelly that went with Katherine’s melon and lomo starter was memorable, or, as she put it, “very grown-up.”
Back in Paris, William Ledeuil’s more flash than posh new venture, KGB, a step away from the now-Michelin-starred Ze Kitchen Galerie, was a welcome respite from Paris shop staff. Chef-owner Ledeuil is genuinely friendly to his guests, as I noted on my first visit. He was on hand to meet and greet, and even took my lunch partner on a kitchen tour before I got there. This was two days after the official opening, and it was an amazingly smooth operation, possibly because a lot of the staff and the operational model have been transferred from Ze Kitchen Galerie.
It has, unfortunately, the same noise problem as ZKG, which we were shortly to find out as the restaurant quickly filled up. That carp out of the way, we had a very satisfying lunch, once we’d sorted out how the menu works. A half-dozen “zors d’oeuvres” looked like a multi-colored necklace on our table, with everything from couple of spoons of red-beet gazpacho to a ragout of shellfish and a maki of smoked salmon with wasabi (pow!).
Our main courses – spare ribs and potatoes, and adroitly cooked rascasse sébaste (North Atlantic rockfish) – came in the now-inescapable cocottes (small casseroles; these were nice white China ones). They were accompanied by a visually satisfying assortment of spiced, capered and herbed vegetables that were also a delight. We made the remark at this point that Ledeuil seems to have reverted to something more traditionally French, compared with his playful and colorful inventions at ZKG, while retaining his interest in Eastern influences.
My dessert was a deconstructed greengage crumble with an ice-creamy concoction on the side. This, again, was very, very good, and gives the lie to Galen’s quip that, after dessert (often misquoted as “coitus”), all animals are sad. In fact, it lifted the spirits for the excellent coffee and the necessary return to the coalface.
The honestly priced wine list offers some good finds. The reasonable prices may have something to do with the recession (although there was no evidence of any recession here) and the need to tie up as little capital as possible in a wine cellar in a country where people are drinking less and less wine, especially at lunchtime.
All in all, the KGB gave us a very nice time of it, even if the noise levels could be ranked as cruel and unusual punishment.
KGB (Kitchen Galerie Bis): 25, rue des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris. Tel.: 01 46 33 00 85. Métro: Saint Michel or Odéon. Nearest Vélib stations: 10, rue André Mazet; 11 rue Danton. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price menus: €27 and €34 (lunch), with mineral water and coffee thrown in. www.zekitchen-galerie.fr
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