Honest Bistro fare in a modern setting, in the increasingly gentrified part of rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis
The closest station to Bistrot Bellet is Chateaux d’Eau. One piece of advise – study your motherf***ing map before you get here. Don’t dare pull out your free Galeries Lafayette sponsored streetmap; just walk with total conviction. I’m not saying it’s the ghetto or anything but the mob that surrounds the exits of the metro and line the streets will pounce on you, trying to sell you shit you definitely don’t want.
Design is fairly minimalist but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of character, far from it actually. The room gets an injection of colour from the teal tiled wall, by the bar area as you walk into the restaurant. Simple mahogany chairs and tables (some clad with white table cloths) are dotted around the room intercepted with medium hanging saucer style lights (which sounds a bit naff and kitsch but I really liked it. See below, judge for yourself).
The open kitchen in the back of the restaurant has a small bar space, where diners can also perch.
FOOD & SERVICE
Nicolas Lacaze, the young, attractive and charming owner ushered my mum and I to our seats, a sit down table near the bar (where some folks were languidly ordering drinks). No sooner had we put our coats down, than a plate housing three joyous anchovy, onion and olive tartlets was presented to us. Obviously we gobbled this up instantaneously.
Although my mum had lived in France for 4 years in her youth, her French was really failing her as she doesn’t get the opportunity to exercise it regularly; thus she was no use to me on the menu front. So, I consulted the waiter who spoke minimal English and really tried to help me out – he was so so sweet. Turned out this non-pork /non-red meat-eater was in trouble. All bar one of the main dishes were meat feasts.
I started with an absolutely delightful dish (definitely my favourite thing of the evening): cured salmon with a rocket and onion salad, a beetroot slaw and a small side of creme fraiche topped with herbs. Super fresh and tasty.
As I said, I didn’t have much choice on the main dish front – the only non meaty dish was the squid casserole with clams, fennel, baby potatoes and samphire, so I had to go with that. I wasn’t crazy about it, not because it wasn’t good and cooked well but rather because my palette isn’t really inclined towards aniseed-y dishes and the fennel was very much a feature of this dish.
Dessert was a shared affair. We ordered two bits: first up was a chocolate ganache ball made with dark Grand Cru Guanaja chocolate, caramel sauce and a caramel wafer crunch thing a-ma-bob – the ganache was a bit too bitter for me, so I very much welcomed the caramel sauce and crunch (the latter really made the dish). Second up and rounding off the evening was the dacquoise – delicious almond meringue with cream, raspberries and raspberry coulis, which I very much enjoyed.
On the wine front, Lacase recommended the Domaine de l’Ecu, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Granite (€32) – one of the many natural wines on the menu (if I recall correctly).
On the whole, the experience was a positive one. Pleasing food in a fuss free atmosphere. Service was brisk but in no way rude; in fact I lauded the way Lacase was able to imbue the place with his character, making witty remarks and swiftly moving on without making you feel like a total lemon, hanging on his last word
The meal came to €106 incl. x1 bottle of wine for x2 people – quite a decent for a dinner in Paris
When I returned a few days later to take some pics, Nicolas and I had a little chat about his place and he mentioned that he had a rather large cellar downstairs that he may open up and turn into a private dining area or a bigger bar space – for Nicolas It’s all an organic process – he just goes with his instinct – qué será sera.
Alongside the chains, there is a rising number of restaurateurs / chefs developing their brand, growing a following and organically / appearing to organically open up different ventures; at times linked, at times disparate e.g in Paris the guys behind Septime (Septime | La Cave | Clamato), L’office folk (Richer | L’office | 52 Strasbourg St Denis) and the ECC boys are moving more heavily into the food scene (Fish Club and Beefclub).
In London, we have Russell Norman (Polpo | Spuntino | Ape & Bird) seen The Meat Liquor dudes (Meat Liquor | Meat Mission | Meat Market) and Atherton’s more upscale hotspots (Pollen Street Social | Berners Tavern | Little Social)
Stateside, we have Chef Ford Fry in Atlanta (King + Duke | JCT Kitchen | St. Cecilia) and in NYC Andrew Tarlow (Reynard | Marlow & Sons | Diner)
I am excited to see how Nicolas at Bistro Bellet expands (should he wish to). I asked him about Instagram and if he was going to push his brand on there, he didn’t seem to care – this guy just does what he wants when he wants as he wants and that’s exciting. Watch this space.
Cuisine: Neo Bistro
Cost: (Dinner) Entrée- Plat -Dessert €36 (excl.wine)
Address: 84 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, 75010
Métro: Château d’Eau (10e)
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday; Open Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-12am
Phone: +33 1 45 23 42 06
LAST VISTED SEP 2014