Les Fernandises

April 11, 2006By Heidi EllisonArchive

Heading South

A neighorhood bistro serving southwestern dishes with a strong Spanish influence.

Everything’s been turned upside-down in this neighborhood bistro, which used to serve excellent specialties from Normandy in a gloomy ambiance that made you wish antidepressants were served along with the food. Now, under the new regime of young brother-sister team François and Ana Crespo, the food is inspired by the cuisine of southwestern France and Spain, and the ambiance is cheerful, lively and loud.

The odd mural depicting a battle scene from the French Revolution that used to cover one wall of the restaurant is gone, which is too bad; although it was ugly, it was a point of interest and a conversation piece. It has been replaced by a blandly inoffensive décor involving yellow walls and a few plants, copper pots and reproductions of old advertising posters.

Results from the kitchen were mixed. A starter of cream of morel soup was deliciously mushroomy and peppery (too peppery for some), and the tapas-style octopus a la plancha was tasty, but nothing to rave about. A main course of filet mignon of pork with apricot sauce was fine, but the pain d’épice that came with it – an original idea – was far too sweet and spicy, overwhelming the rest. The lamb tian with vegetables was satisfyingly rich and delicious. The dorade (sea bream) came with flavorful yet mild piquillos (sweet red peppers), served on the side, which successfully complemented the delicate flavor of the fish without overpowering it.

The chef makes an effort to prepare desserts with a twist. The soft-centered chocolate cake (now found in every Paris restaurant) is flavored with red berries, and the crème brulée was enhanced with a touch of hazelnut. The dessert du jour – chocolate pancakes (in English) – was a flop, however. The unsweetened buckwheat pancakes were cooked to the point of hardness and served with a barely sweetened chocolate sauce, which would have been fine in another context. The star dessert was a generous serving of thinly sliced manchego (sheep’s cheese) served with black cherry jam.

With some fine-tuning in the kitchen and a slightly more interesting décor, this restaurant could make something of itself. In the meantime, it is obviously already a favorite with young locals.

Heidi Ellison

Les Fernandises: 19, rue de la Fontaine du Roi, 75011 Paris. Métro: Goncourt. Tel.: 01 48 06 16 96. Closed Sat lunchtime and Sunday. A la carte: €30-€35 (without wine).

© 2006 Paris Update

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