French Gastropub Can’t Beat the British

September 23, 2015By Heidi EllisonRestaurants


The dining room at Rosemary.

Believe it or not, I have eaten at three different restaurants at this address in as many years. Normally that would seem to indicate a curse on the space, but the other evening Rosemary had quite a good crowd, in spite of the fact that it serves “English” food, commonly reviled by the French.

Now that I think of it, however, there were quite a few English-speakers and not so many French people seated in the rather barn-like back room of the restaurant and the corridor leading to it from the street-front bar area, so gloomy and empty that my dinner companion, who arrived early, circled the block several times before entering, thinking that the place was unpopulated.

The young French owner, a reconverti (career-changer) who used to work in finance, like so many others opening new food shops and restaurants in Paris these days, was quite pleasant, as was the server.

Once we had ordered our starters, they arrived almost immediately and were chilled through, which always makes me suspect that they had been prepared in advance and left sitting around in the fridge. Both were dismayingly mediocre. My “mi-cuit” (flash-cooked) trout


was boringly accompanied by chopped-up pickles straight from a jar, chunks of grapefruit and a smidgen of creamy sauce. Pickles and grapefruit? Would any cook in perfide Albion have dreamed this up? To top it all off, the dish was “decorated” with a leathery fish-skin chip with an unpleasant flavor.

Unfortunately for my companion, his starter


was even worse: absolutely tasteless shredded confit de canard served with half a canned peach.

After that, we had low hopes for the main courses, but they turned out to be better than expected. I had fillet of lieu jaune (pollock),


which was supposed to come with gnocchi with cheddar cheese, carmelized leeks and onion rings but really came with mashed potatoes and cooked fennel. No matter – I was just relieved that it tasted good. The same was true


for my friend’s beef Wellington: the meat was tasty, tender and not overcooked, and the pastry crust was acceptable. It was served with broccoli purée.

As can be seen in the photos here, presentation is not Rosemary’s strong point. My friend had noticed our neighbors eating the chocolate dessert and didn’t want to order it because it looked so unappealing to him. Nothing else seemed very interesting, though, so we ordered it anyway to share. A chocolate mousse tart on


shortbread crust sprinkled with lime zest and served with a zesty lemon sorbet, it turned out to be really good.

The French may well mock British food, but there are many, many gastropubs in Britain turning out far more interesting food than Rosemary has managed to produce. For a great British meal, just hop on the Eurostar to London.

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