La Démocratie is a funny name for a restaurant. What does food have to do with a political system? Potentially a lot, but that’s another story. La Démocratie is so named because the building it is housed in was the home of the newspaper of the same name founded by Marc Sangnier (1873-1950), a Catholic, Socialist journalist and politician and the head of a movement called Le Sillon, which took a pacifist stance and supported equal rights for women.
And why is La Démocratie a restaurant worth going to? That’s easy: its garden. Behind the building on the busy Avenue Raspail in a long, narrow garden where diners quietly eat their meal, murmuring softly so as not to disturb the peace and seated at well-spaced tables tucked between bushes and flowering plants. A fountain with a large plaque reminds of them of the place’s one-time function as the home of Le Sillon.
What of the other merits of Democracy? Two very pleasant and patient waiters took good care of us, and the food, while not particularly inventive, was solidly good and fresh, with organic vegetables delivered from the restaurant’s kitchen garden near Paris.
The menu offers five simple choices for each course. I had one of the fanciest (aside from the duck foie gras with late-harvest Gewürztraminer, which would have been well-worth trying): the lovely pâté en croûte with figs, duck and foie gras from Maison Vérot, a venerable house of charcuterie, worth savoring every bite.
Two of my dinner companions had the octopus carpaccio and seemed happy, if not overly excited, by this pleasant dish.
One of them, Terry, was truly thrilled with her next course, tartare of wild Sicilian shrimp with roasted vegetables.
Karen had the bass with ratatouille (which looked just like the “roasted vegetables” served with the tartare) and pronounced it absolutely delicious.
Mary and I went down the meaty road and had the tender Argentinian steak with fried potatoes. Nothing to complain about there, but nothing extra either. If I had known about the vegetable farm I might have asked for a substitution for the potatoes.
Only one of the five desserts leapt out from the menu at us with insistence, and we did not resist its call: tarte au chocolat tonka de chez Hugo et Victor. Hugo et Victor is a chic bakery located down the road from the restaurant, and I can safely say that its chocolate tart was sublime, with perfectly balanced flavors.
The great advantage of La Démocratie is, of course, the rare, peaceful garden, and while the menu is fireworks-free, everything was well-sourced and delicious.
As we were leaving the restaurant after our lovely meal, we noticed a strange sight: a few identical fake-fur coats hanging on the coat rack at the entrance. The manager explained that La Démocratie owns 40 of them so that customers can comfortably eat in the heated garden even in winter! As far as I know, that’s a first in Paris.