When you walk into La Marée, you get a sense of having entered another world. Outside is the heaving eighth arrondissement, with Rue Daru itself being home to the Orthodox Cathedral and other things Russian, plus a noticeable density of healthcare facilities. From the outside, La Marée, with its white-plastered half-timbering set amid the serried ranks of seven-story Haussmannian mid-rises, is meant to remind you of the Normandy coast and perhaps of a watercolor or two by Eugène Boudin. Odd.
Odder and odder when you segue through the doors to find yourself in a clubby, typically British lounge, with the strong outside sunlight filtering through pretty harlequin-patterned stained glass. The Brit in me immediately felt at home with the chintz fabrics and the carpeting.
My lunch date had already arrived and ordered up a bottle of the 2001 Vouvray, which was on special at €22 euros, an excellent choice. It was a bit over the hill, hence the desire to shift it, but Vouvray can take that, and this was pale gold, with lots of depth. It cried out for fish – the obvious specialty of a place whose name means “the tide.” It might more usefully be translated as “The Day’s Catch,” since La Marée has always prided itself on the quality of its fish. The restaurant has a newish chef and has significantly lowered its prices, but fish and seafood are still the main attractions.
The proceedings opened with a potato and chestnut potage that was like eating liquid mashed potatoes containing bits of roast chestnut. Some might find it a bit on the heavy side for an amuse-bouche, but we both enjoyed it, and it set us up nicely for what followed: a casserole of seafood in one case, and a dish of cockles marinière in the other. Both were supremely fresh and quietly lip-smacking. My generously portioned cockles were meaty and the lightly creamed broth highly satisfying.
We had more fish for the main course, with my companion taking the bourride, a Mediterranean dish combining, in this case, monkfish, red mullet and gurnard. The fish was once again fresh and perfectly cooked. I had the quenelles de brochet, sauce crustacés, an excellent choice. Quenelles, in case you were wondering, are a sort of fish dumpling, often made with pike, which has too many fiddly bones to be eaten almost any other way. The delicate flavor is enhanced by a strong reduction of seafood shells and alcohol (among other things). Like andouillettes, there are quenelles and quenelles. These were certainly some of the best I’ve tasted: so light that I might have been forgiven for thinking I was eating a fishy soufflé.
Cheese came next, served as befits, at room temperature, and paired with a half bottle of excellently made generic Bordeaux. Even the coffee that followed was good.
The final reckoning? This is a traditional restaurant, doing what it knows how to do well. The food is unadventurous, so don’t expect gastronomic derring-do. It’s probably a better choice for lunch venue than for a special evening meal – unless of course you’re nuts about fine fish. But I’d reckon you’re sure not to be disappointed, especially as the service is alert and professional, which probably explains the large number of business people eating quick lunches.
La Marée: 1, rue Daru, 75008 Paris. Tel: 01 43 80 20 00. Métro: Ternes or Courcelles. Nearest Vélibs stands: 10, avenue Berthier Albrecht, 87, bd de Courcelles. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price menu (lunch only): two courses for €28, three courses for €36. A la carte: around €60*. www.lamaree.fr
* three courses, not including wine
© 2009 Paris Update
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