As La Régalade – whose first incarnation was a cramped little bistro with great food on the southern edge of Paris – opens new branches, the interiors become more elegant and the locations more central, while the cuisine and service seem to be sliding from the high standard of the original. I have a wonderful memory of the food and warm welcome at chef Bruno Doucet’s La Régalade number one in the 14th arrondissement. I was less impressed with La Régalade Saint Honoré when it opened in 2010. Now number three, La Régalade Conservatoire, has opened in the chic Hôtel Nell in this newly trendified part of the ninth arrondissement.
The disorganization of the service was obvious from the moment I sat down and watched one of the waiters wandering from table to table with two dishes in his hands and a puzzled look on his face. This was a frequent sight throughout the meal. We were asked what we wanted for dessert (which we had pre-ordered) just after we finished our starters and were offered coffee before we got the dessert we had ordered. That said, the waiters were extremely friendly and helpful, although they did not always seem to be very familiar with the dishes on the menu.
Nicole and I excused this as early-day growing pains, but since then I have heard from several other people that they encountered exactly the same dizzy service when eating there.
With its handsome modern decor – blond wood, bookshelves, glass wine case, black-and-white-tiled floor and black walls (not at all sinister, at least in the daytime, thanks to the huge arched windows), it was a pleasant place to sit and chat while waiting for some attention from the servers. Snacking on a delicious country-style homemade terrine with cornichons and crusty dark bread eased the
pain of waiting (except that we were not given plates, so eating it was a messy proposition).
Some of the dishes on the menu were not available (always the ones you want to order, of course). Nicole and I went halvsies on the foie gras with leeks and the asparagus soup with
foie gras. The latter was acceptable, but the foie gras and the bacon bits in it overwhelmed the flavor of the asparagus.
The pairing of foie gras and tender leeks was delicious in the other starter, although the gelée did not add much to the dish. Nicole pointed out that foie gras and leeks is a classic
French preparation. She should know, since she (Nicole Seeman) is a cookbook author (shameless plug: her new book, Cuisiner comme un Chef à Paris, published by Parigramme, is a great little pocket-sized guide to Paris’s cooking schools, kitchen-supply stores, gourmet food shops and other food-related tidbits).
Nicole adored her main course of beef two ways – onglet de bœuf and paleron de bœuf with a red-wine sauce, served with multicolored carrots – and appreciated the
contrasting textures of the rare steak and slow-cooked shoulder of beef. I had the chicken, nicely presented on a bed of mashed potatoes, drizzled with a rich sauce, and topped with salad greens and matchstick fries. It was pleasant, but few chefs manage to make
chicken exciting, and this was no exception.
For dessert, I had ordered the Grand Marnier soufflé at the beginning of the meal, as instructed, but when I told the waiter I had to leave by a certain time for an appointment, he warned me that there would be a 20-minute wait for it. Wasn’t the reason for ordering it in advance to avoid that wait? Another symptom of the disorganized service, but never mind.
We shared the chocolate cream dessert instead, which came with a cookie and was enjoyable but no more.
A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the high price (€29) of the set lunch menu at A la Marguerite, but lunch (and dinner) at La Régalade costs €35. What can you do – this is Paris, after all, and the business-y diners at the restaurant looked as if they could afford it and were glad to have an elegant place in the neighborhood (a center for the antique trade) to take their clients for lunch.
I think my happy memory of that lunch is due more to Nicole’s good company than to the food, although the friendliness of the waiters also contributed to the experience. If you go, go with someone who is fun to be with and hope that the large wrinkles in the service and organization have been ironed out.Favorite