Pros: Great food, good service, plenty of space, attractive decor.
Cons: Slight problem with the kitchen cleaning arrangements and, snob that I am, location: the street is a grungy hangout for derelicts
It was quite a surprise to hear that Spring had reopened in new premises in the first arrondissement. Not the tale of new premises – that story had been trailed for at least 18 months – but the fact that it was finally open and serving food lovers, and Spring lovers in particular. The opening date kept being delayed month after month, with occasional snippets of news floating around about owner/chef Daniel Rose’s brilliant new kitchen range, his plans for the basement, the difficulty of working with French banks and so on.
And then suddenly, there it was.
Judging by our visit, they are already running a pretty tight ship. The decor is sleekly modern, discreet and tasteful. Daniel Rose is working the pass and has a proper sommelier. Serenity reigns over all, even with much of the kitchen plonked in the midst of the diners.
Back at the old Spring, diners were asked to turn up at around the same time so that the meal could go forward in an orderly fashion: the four courses were eaten at much the same time by all 16 guests. Now, with double that number of covers, things must be more complicated, but our group of four didn’t notice any timing problems, despite our starting significantly later than other tables.
We found our friends waiting for us at a table right at the back. You’ll understand later why it is good idea to strenuously ask for a table other than this one. Said friends were already tucking into an amuse-bouche of some eggplant caviar with what tasted like pickled heirloom tomatoes and a couple of snazzy grissini (breadsticks): super taste and lovely texture, it was agreed all round.
As at the old Spring, no dishes were ordered: you eat whatever comes. I have no problem at all with this, but some people might find it disconcerting if they are not forewarned (best to mention any food allergies or aversions when you book). You have to be pretty much an omnivore to eat at Spring. What comes to the table, though – the food is divine – is the stuff of stars, and I have no doubt that if the Michelin inspectors can award a star to a place like Passage 53, then Spring is a shoe-in on all counts.
Rose’s big thing right now is bouillon, which was poured over the langoustine-stuffed ravioli with a delightful touch of citrus zest, topped with deep-fried artichoke chips. The bouillon was also made with langoustines, and two delicious, fat langoustine tails were served on the side. It was a glorious piece of sophisticated cheffing, put together with a minimum of fuss and dispatched, all too soon, with gusto.
Then followed crab prepared in three ways, again beautifully plated up before our eyes and hugely satisfying to our taste buds. The third course was melt-in-the-mouth roast duckling with creamy almond mashed potatoes, a sprinkling of baby spinach leaves to heighten the color, and a deep, rich-tasting gravy.
Dessert was a gravity-defying strawberry cheesecake made with ricotta and served up with a little verrine of fruit poached in peach-pit tea.
Spring’s wine list is quite astonishing and shows how much serious hard work has been done in a very short time. My eyes popped as I read, stunned by its universalist approach: there can’t be many restaurants in Paris that serve Luxembourg Rieslings, Mosel wines and Grüner Veltliners, not to mention a good smattering of Spanish, Italian and New World wines.
Watch out for the sommelier, though: he’s the devil incarnate, a born salesman who could tempt a full-on teetotaler to bankroll a dinner table, let alone this weak-willed lover of good wines.
And the downsides? Well, it would be surprising if Spring had gotten everything right at this early stage, and my personal gripe is the fact that kitchen cleaning started long before we had come anywhere near finishing our main courses. The business end of the kitchen, remember, is right there in the dining room, so to have the three cooks industriously cleaning every stainless steel surface 10 feet away from where I sat, using industrial-strength white vinegar, was not a pleasant adjunct to the meal. Nor was the swabbing out of the kitchen, again with strong-smelling cleaning fluids, not a yard from our feet, as we teed up for dessert. Hence the need to avoid that table at the back, at all costs.
That said, Spring is as original and gemütlich an eatery as you could wish for, the perfect reflection of Daniel Rose himself. Get there soon before those Michelin inspectors waft him to a higher plane.
Read about the Spring Cookbook here.
Spring Restaurant: 6, rue Bailleul, 75001 Paris. Tel: 01 45 96 05 72. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli. Nearest Vélibs: 2, rue de l’Oratoire; 36, rue de l’Arbre Sec. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner. Four-course fixed-price dinner menu (no choice): €84. www.springparis.fr
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