The simple bistro decor has not changed.
A restaurant review is only valid as long as the same chef remains at the stove. When a new one comes onboard, it gives me a good excuse to revisit old favorites. Such was the case with L’Office, whose latest chef is Englishman Konrad Ceglowski, who has worked for Gordon Ramsay and Jacques Cagna. The American friends I was dining with scoffed at the idea of a British chef, but I reminded them that things have improved greatly in Old Blighty’s culinary scene in recent years.
In fact, L’Office is something of a revolving door for chefs from different continents. After an American chef, then a Japanese one, we now have Ceglowski. Having tasted the cooking of all three of them, I think Ceglowski is the best of the lot.
The restaurant’s simple, attractive decor has not changed. I quote myself: “hanging silver light fixtures, a small bar, wooden furniture and unfinished iron columns.”
The young woman with an abrupt manner who seated us and explained the menu was soon replaced by a more amiable waiter, who went all out to find something for my friend who can no longer eat salt. She was willing to settle for one dish that sounded safe, but he insisted on asking the chef to prepare something especially for her, which he did. Kudos for that.
We were all happy with our starters. The
tartare of sea bream with shibakuze, a kind of Japanese pickle, crevettes grises (brown shrimp) and Granny Smith apple was a hit, as
was the polenta with artichoke espuma (foam), cep reduction and a Parmesan cracker. I had the pig’s foot, which was deconstructed then
mixed with pleurotes (oyster mushrooms), reconstructed and wrapped in a slice of bacon. Any gristle or fat that might have offended the squeamish had been removed, and the result was delicious, the envy of my pork-loving friend Dennis, who had ordered the polenta and loved that, too.
Dennis thought that the main courses were somewhat less satisfying, but I was quite happy with my requin taupe, a type of small shark,
served with sweet potato, okra (lightly cooked and not at all slimy, as it can be when overdone), bell peppers and a coconut-saffron sauce that was the perfect complement. Dennis
had the cannelloni of boar with spinach and pumpkin purée. He liked it, but the earth didn’t move for him. Susan and Debbie had the beef
with tarragon, Swiss chard and a cromesquis (croquette) made with fresh Tomme (cow’s milk cheese from the mountains). They loved it, especially the croquette.
For dessert, Dennis had a plate of three fine cheeses – goat, blue and an unidentified
hard cheese. I ordered the carrot cake, a moist, dense version deliciously accompanied by mango ice cream and pieces of fresh grapefruit
and melon. I think Susan and Debbie were a bit disappointed to discover that a “flapjack” in Britain is more like a cookie than a pancake,
but they enjoyed the accompaniments of rhubarb, pomegranate and fig sorbet.
There is nothing workmanlike about the food made in this “office” (in French, the word can mean a room next to the kitchen where food is prepared). It is still delightful, as is that of its sister bistro, Richer, located across the street.