A Flora by Any Other Name…
The decor is unabashedly girly.
The best things about Les Saveurs de Flora are the food, the wine list, the decor and the staff. It has its oddities, of which more later, but it’s one of those places where you know you’re in good hands almost as soon as you’re through the door.
To take those pluses in reverse order, the truly professional staff is not over-effusive (no bad thing) and speaks good English for the benefit of (at least during our visit) a significant proportion of English-speaking diners. The servers work hard and support each other in a perfectly orchestrated ballet throughout the evening. You admire their artfulness and only suspect the effort that goes into it.
The girly, mostly all-pink and cream decor includes plenty of drapes and soft surfaces to absorb the noise of a full house, seated in four separate dining areas, with a nice collection of orchids and a large fireplace in the street-facing room. I would advise readers to ask to be seated there if dining tête-à-tête or in a foursome, since the other areas can be a mite claustrophobic.
The wine list weighs a ton and offers a wide choice, but from a quick look through it, it’s reasonably priced, especially given the astronomic rent the restaurant must be paying on one of the swankiest avenues in Paris, with the famed George V and Prince de Galles hotels literally just across the road. We dug out a very tasty, well-made 2003 Faugères, which we warmed to as it and we mellowed throughout the evening.
Chef/owner Flora Mikoula is one of the “Génération C” group of chefs that grew up around Christian Constant and is currently the head of their trade association. Her food is spectacular, both visually and (mostly) on the taste buds. The amuse-bouche was a little shot-glass of soup made from root vegetables, plus a little ramekin of brandade of dried cod, which had the consistency of mayonnaise, with a couple of cubes of delicious house bread to spread it on thrown in for good luck. The glass of semi-sweet Vouvray we had as our aperitif went swimmingly with this.
For my first course, a concoction of snails, chorizo and gnocchi, plus a smudge of pesto, was served up inside two marrowbones of different lengths, and I was given a very long-handled spoon to fish the contents out. This added to the pleasure since it made the dish last longer: only take a little bit could be spooned out at a time. The taste and texture of the chorizo and snails complemented each other beautifully, with the floury blandness of the gnocchi adding another interesting dimension.
My companion’s stew of spring root vegetables served with a poached egg was outstanding in its tender earthiness, if a trifle hard to eat elegantly out of the nearly spherical dish it came in.
The only disappointment of the evening was my companion’s roast kid. Its texture wasn’t pleasant, and it lacked any real flavor of its own. It came with a spelt risotto that, while no doubt worthy, was not a winner, either. But my thick slice of slow-cooked loin of pork, which came topped with a slice of grilled ham, had us both squealing with pleasure, and me discreetly offering up a little prayer of thanks to the animal that vouchsafed me such delight. And to Flora too, for choosing such fine quality cuts. It was served on a bed of Puy lentils, which, like the spelt, left us underwhelmed.
The desserts are show-stoppers: eye-wateringly pretty architectural confections. One was a perfect dome of chocolate, an ephemeral creation that partially melted when hot caramel sauce was poured over it, revealing what was inside: green-apple sorbet and tiny cubes of fresh apple. Mine was like tower of matchstick meringues with lemon cream near the bottom and tiny cartwheels of wafer-thin lemon slices dried to a crunchy, biscuity texture that bought tears to my eyes from the sheer lemoniness of it all. Alongside this came a flute of very lemony gin-fizz. Bravo Flora.
The excellent coffee came with sweet tidbits, too, including two wafer-thin handmade lollipops that once again had us pop-eyed with childish pleasure.
Among the few minor downsides to the evening was our table, which was right on the corner of the corridor leading to the kitchen and toilets. It was a fine vantage point for watching what other diners were eating, but it also meant a constant stream of people moving back and forth all evening. Ask to be included out of that table when booking. The restrooms themselves and parts of the decor are pretty tired and could do with a makeover. Finally, the staff has a practice of scraping leftovers from diners’ plate onto a single plate on a small table right next to where people are eating – not a very appetizing thing to do or see. There must be a good reason for it, but enhancing diner comfort is not it.
Small quibbles, really, for a standout meal.
Les Saveurs de Flora: 38, avenue Georges V, 75008 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 70 10 49. Métro: Georges V. Nearest Vélibs: 42 avenue Georges V or 39 avenue Georges V. Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday. Fixed-price lunch menu: €29 (two dishes); dinner menu: €39. A la carte*: around €75. www.lessaveursdeflora.com/
*three courses, not including wine
© 2008 Paris Update
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