Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Resto 21 Coriandre, Paris

July 21, 2018

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I’d had my eye on Coriandre for a while as a new wave alternative to the trad Parisian Indian. The room is really welcoming and fresh – exposed brick on one side and a colour scheme of cool green and white giving a modern yet tranquil feeling.

The staff were energised and cheerful which helped to lift my mood too after a long day’s travelling at the end of a tiring week. The menu promises healthy Indian food and this is what it delivers. A selection of meat and vegetable samosas had perfectly crisp pastry without being greasy with piquant fillings. The three chutneys on the side could only have been improved by being delivered in greater quantity.

The healthiness extended to the bread – nan naturel was a simple flat bread, lightly leavened. I knew it was doing me good compared to the Standard‘s product but I hankered for a slather of ghee on there. My lamb main was perfectly spiced and came with good fluffy rice and fresh salad.

It being a night of celebration we added on khulfis at the end and these were the stars of the show. Pistachio packed a punch and the texture was perfectly judged. The Indian red that we’d ordered was robust enough to handle all the spices and we rolled out of there very happy chaps.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 19 Sathees, Paris

June 26, 2018

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The Marché St Germain. It has an Apple store, a Marks and Spencer and an arcade. But it’s not Covent Garden. Oh no, there’s none of your stick riding Yodas here. Or tedious shouters with flamesticks shoved facewards, gurning for a jaded mob of tourist cretins. This is left-bank Paris and they’re too civilised for that crap.

There’s a range of foodie places in the market and there was no method in my choice of Sathees, it was just the one that was there. You can sit al fresco in the sun or the shade beside a not too busy road. Good thing.

Their menu is stripped down – tartinettes for the most part, a couple of soups and desserts, all wholesome stuff with organic ingredients and Poilâne bread (with flour rolled by mill). I picked a salmon and guacamole tartinette with a glass of Sauvignon on the side.

The bread was chewy crunchy and the combination of fish and guacamole not as incongruous as I’d feared. After a day’s march through the life of Delacroix in the Louvre, his ‘arse and St Sulpice it was just what I needed. But if you require more than a snack this is not the place for you. This is pecking food. High quality pecking food.

Service was friendly and in French (good thing) with the clientèle a genial mixture of well-heeled tourists and locals. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #Paris

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Translating Musset

June 3, 2018

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After having had a pretty good experience producing Corbyn Island in 2017 I found myself in the dull gloom of January turning over ideas for the Crouch End Festival in 2018. Again, it being a Festival piece, I wanted something relatively short and preferably fewer characters than the Island. If I was going to be directing it myself (a new experience) I thought it’d be a lot easier with less traffic to manoeuvre on stage.

I’d seen a production of Alfred de Musset’s Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée in Paris the previous autumn in a production by the Comédie Française. A one act two-hander, it concerned itself with an on-off relationship between two French aristocrats at a Parisian salon in the 1840s. The CF had updated it to contemporary France, setting the actor in a sculptor’s studio, while retaining (naturellement!) the original language of Musset’s masterpiece.

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Musset’s Confession – a classic of romantic literature

Further research revealed that de Musset hadn’t written the piece with the intention of staging it at all – rather it was theatre de fauteuil, that is ‘armchair theatre’ written to be read as a literary piece like a novel or a short story. But it had become established as a classic of the French theatrical repertoire by the end of the twentieth century, produced every year by the Comédie Française to the extent that it was part of the social calendar in the early twentieth century.

However, post-World War Two it was performed much less frequently. Presumably the market for rom coms about brittle aristocrats was in decline in the age of Camus, the theatre of the absurd and existentialism. In fact I beleive that the production that we saw was the first at the Comédie Française for some forty years.

So my challenge was how to make it relevant to a Crouch End Festival audience. My initial instinct was to make the couple same sex but to wangle Musset’s text into the correct shape to do that proved beyond my translation abilities. I gave it a few hours of grappling on the commute to Leicester and then gave up.

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The tool’s of the translator’s craft – a biography, an autobiography and a Pléiade edition of the original. All that’s missing is the Chamber’s dictionary.

I then toyed with the idea of just translating de Musset’s original and staging it as a work of art. I would designate a chair in the Great Northern for people to read a printed translation of the play which they could borrow from the bar. But then if I was going to the trouble of translating the play (a much simpler business than tackling Marivaux, though with the peril of ruining the exquisite poetry of de Musset’s language) I did rather see it acted out.

So I needed to find some other way to create tension in the potential pairing (or not) of these two characters. And I think I came up with a good solution. But to find out what that solution was you’ll have to come along to the show!

But I can tell you that I updated the action to 1948 London, with the characters now meeting in a private club on a wet Sunday afternoon.* I’ve added a third character of a barman, played by Ruari Johnson. The female lead is taken by the director of Corbyn Island, Anna Rogers, and a newcomer, Matt Griffin, takes on the role of her suitor.

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Part of the fun of staging a period piece is assembling (and drinking) the props.

This year we’re producing the show as part of the Crouch End Players’ contribution to the Festival with our show running with an original piece of writing by Jen Richardson, The Road Not Taken, as part of a rom-com double bill. Running time will be around an hour in total with a break for drinks.

Performances are again in the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who have once more proved to be excellent hosts, and take place on 15th, 16th and 17th June 2018 at 7pm and tickets (which are FREE!) can be obtained by emailing crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. More details are also available at the Festival website.

It’ll be the perfect evening out for World Cup widows and widowers but if you are a football fan don’t worry, the Great Northern will have the games on the big screen in their back garden and the shows are timed to make sure that you miss very little of the action from Neymar and his chums!

#Theatre #Comedy #London

*Yes, I know this has shades of Absolute Hell! But our production has an entirely different sensibility.

Crouch End Festival 2018

May 14, 2018

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Now that A Midsummer Night’s Dream has finished it’s time to flag up my own next production with the Crouch End Players as part of the Crouch End Festival. As part of an evening of new writing I’m directing a new translation of the French classic, A Door (Should Be Either Open Or Shut).

The original is a short play by the Romantic writer Alfred de Musset, perhaps most famous in this country for being the lover of Georges Sand which inspired both of them to write classic memoirs of their time together.

The original concerns the romantic tribulations of a pair of aristocrats in mid-ninteenth century Paris but I’ve updated it to post-War London with saltier dialogue and a real period feel.

The venue once more is the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who were such excellent hosts for Corbyn Island in 2017 and there will be three shows at 7pm on the 15th, 16th and 17th June. Tickets are free and available from crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. It would be great to see you there!

#theatre #London #Musset

Resto 7 Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Paris

March 1, 2018

After a morning in the rather wonderful Museum of Immigration in Porte Dorée (worth visiting for both building and contents) we were famished. I’d scouted out Le Swann as the place to go in PD but that was shut so Bistrot de la Porte Dorée was our fall back option. And what an option.

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To walk through the door was to enter a world that you’d find it very hard to find in the hipster fleshpots of the Marais or République. I suspected it would turn out to be an excellent lunch when the maitre d’ turned round sporting a burgundy shirt matched with a diagonally striped grey silk tie of which Doug Mountjoy in his pomp (c. 1978) would have been proud.

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Doug Mountjoy. Welsh legend.

We were shown to a table beneath a kitsch version of a Dutch still life of fruits de mer and various other foods. Dotted around the room were portraits of legends of French chanson and film (Jonny Hallyday’s look was particularly fierce, he seemed to be giving me the gimlet the whole meal through) and the odd transatlantic icon, such as Bob Marley smoking a joint, thrown in for good measure.

A set menu was on offer, €32 for two courses and €41 for three, wine included. Bargain, especially as an apéritif of something pink and fizzy was part of the deal. The food was classic French stuff, making no concession to the past 40 years of culinary fashion and none the worse for that. With the apéro we munched on toast and pâté de maison and considered.

I went for a starter of beef cheek, always a favourite. A generous amount of cheek paired with a lentil salad and carrots. All good, apart from the carrots which were overly salted for my taste. A full-bodied 2009 Gaillac helped that down admirably and proved to be a more than adequate match for a main of rabbit and pasta. Did we want dessert? Yes, but we also wanted to be able to walk the half an hour to the Château de Vincennes so we just had a coffee instead.

So the food was good but the real joy of the room was the people watching. Our waiter, not a young man, had a plaited rat-tail beard of the kind found on superannuated trustafarians yet to reintegrate back into civvy street. Across the way a party of eight or so retirees consumed their lunches while arguing vociferously about politics. And to our left a lone lady of a certain age with improbably jet black hair demolished a bottle of rosé in single combat.

A bill of €70 was a bargain and the reason why I’ll never go back to the Bistrot de la Porte Dorée is that some memories are too good to disturb with fresh layers of experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, you should.

9/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Frantz Reichel and French Sport

February 17, 2018

Just a quick post to flag up a forthcoming paper that I’ll giving at the Institute of Historical Research on one of the neglected figures of early twentieth century sporting history.

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The photograph above is of the memorial to Frantz Reichel, Olympic champion, French Rugby Union captain and the doyenne of French sports journalists for the first 30 years of the twentieth century. Although neglected now it was a significant intervention into the urban fabric of Paris when it was erected in the 1930s.

I’ll be talking about the symbolism of Reichel’s memorial, the surprising story behind its design  by Tony Garnier, and the turbulent story of its destruction under Nazi rule.

If you’d like to come along to the paper it will be in the Past and Present room at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House on Monday 26th February at 5.30 p.m. Entry is FREE.

More details can be found here … http://www.history.ac.uk/events/event/15430

Or if you’d like to know more contact me @finsburyparker

#frenchhistory #France #History #sporthistory #IHR #tonygarnier

Resto 69 Le Moissonnier, Köln

November 26, 2017

The foodie highlight of the week, and one that we’d already booked in advance as a treat, was Le Moissonnier. It was a good job that we booked as the restaurant was completely full soon after we arrived at half twelve. The room, however, is peaceful with solid local business types as fellow diners and thus a discreet distance between tables to avoid anyone overhearing gossip of deals and trade secrets. Dotted around the walls are old French posters and ads and the whole place has the feel of a classic French bistrot à la Vagenende.

As you might guess Le M specialises in French cuisine and has done so for years. Run by a family it feels as though each of the staff have absolute mastery of their role in the business, which makes for a very relaxing customer experience. We kicked off with a sparkling wine from Alsace as an aperitif while perusing the not too extensive menu and munching on high quality bread.

There’s a tasting menu of a fistful of courses but we went à la carte. To start I had perch with pike mousse and a lot of other detail that I can’t go into here. The cooking is classic yet elaborate. My perch had been deconstructed then reassembled into a fishy masterpiece complete with its original tail for decoration. The pike mousse was fluffy and tasty and arrived in its own jar, and then alongside that some vegetables in their own dish. With three crocks per person per course it was a good job that there was plenty of room on the table!

Some thought this level of sophistication was a bit too much but I don’t often go to such high end places so I was happy to indulge. The price of the food was  slightly eye-popping (€50-60 for mains), excellent wine was available at a more modest rate. We took a dry Muscat from Corsica at €40 that was utterly delicious. This was used to wash down ris de veau, which came with mushrooms, plenty of sauce and lots of other nice little touches such as a thin sliver of foie gras on its own cheesy fluff.

By now we were into hour two of lunch but in no mood to call it a day. A dessert of chocolate ‘pizza’ (of course it was a lot more than that) was good but a slight mis-step for someone who isn’t a chocolate fan. Thankfully I had a Gerwurtzträminer to sip while I cursed myself for going against my instinct. I should have gone for the sorbet. A rum for digestif (they specialise in it here) was nearly but not quite a bridge too far but I was happy enough with that and a perfect little coffee to round off. All I was lacking was a cigar for the walk home.

This was an excellent experience but not one that my credit card could handle too many times in a season. However, to have come into a womb of sophisticated Frenchness after having spent an evening watching the most turgid Europa League match since the last one in a noisy brauhaus was a most welcome thing. And this on the back of an excellent morning in Cologne’s fine art museum where they had an extraordinary exhibition of Tintoretto. After that it was back to sausageland, the latex girls, Kölsch and a man with a very annoying drill in a terrible hotel bar.

9/10

#Köln #food #Germany

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 62 La Terrasse des Archives, Paris

November 8, 2017

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The final meal of a quick short stay in Paris is usually a relaxed lunch before getting the train. This wasn’t exactly what we got in La Terrasse des Archives. It sits beside a Nairn noticed fountain in a prime location in the Marais and so looked exactly what we were looking for. We squeezed into a corner table as the lunchtime crowd of loafers and locals started to swell.

The menu, not too long, is standard bistrot food with a few specials marked up on the board. My starter of pea gazpacho (I was still slightly stodged out from Strada) was refreshing and hit the spot. We splashed out on a Chablis, which was kept nicely chilled in an ice bucket.

Then the Labrador arrived. Not sure if he belonged to the restaurant but he certainly acted like he owned it. He was active yet not intrusive, occasionally popping out to the terrasse to see what was going on out there and other times just roaming around in an amiably woofish way.

My main of seared tuna confirmed that I was on a supermodel lunch as it arrived with a lot of courgettes but no spuds. So I nicked some of James’s (very good) chips, of which he had plenty. The chablis was slipping down pretty well but the waiter seemed to be in a hurry for us to get on with things. My plate was whipped away before James had finished his main and we were pressed for a decision on coffee or dessert.

Our attention was distracted by the appearance of a large ginger cat beside our table who stared enigmatically through the door. It seemed that La Terrasse had a fairly well-established menagerie. All power to their elbow I say but I reckon this would disturb some people.

Two coffees arrived in an instant and our wine was removed before we could protest that there was at least a glass left in the bottle. In a less benevolent mood I would have kicked up a stink but as it was I laid the money on the table and we left. The coffee was good, as was the food and the beasts, but I wouldn’t go back.

5/10

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 61 Strada Café, Paris

November 8, 2017

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Waiting for the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature to open I needed coffee and I knew where to get it. Strada Café is an old friend but I’ve never dined there. Not having eaten anything since the Phil Collins Anguish I was quite peckish.

I asked for toast, jam and a noisette and was informed that I should get the set breakfast for €10.50. Quite pricy you might say but this is the hipstier end of the Marais and that’s the way things roll around here. The portion was generous – 4 slices of excellent grilled bread with some figgy jam and a stodge bonus of a dinky croissant. The juice was freshly squeezed and a powerful hangover suppressant. The coffee, as always here, was as good as it gets.

The room is pleasant and the clientèle upscale locals and well-heeled visitors. I felt a lot better when I came out than I did when I went in, and that’s worth a few euros premium on the average Parisian caff. I can’t remember the music so it obviously wasn’t too traumatic or loud.

Oh, and the Sophie Calle exhibition at the MdlCeN is a must-see if you’re in Paris. Witty, sometimes profound and occasionally creepy. Just like the museum itself.

#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 55 Dalla Terra, Covent Garden

October 8, 2017

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We were fortunate enough to have had tickets to Michel Hazavanicius’ latest, Le Redoutable, on Saturday. Contrary to what Jonathan Romney insisted on saying time after time in the Q&A with the director afterwards the film is not a comedy. It has plenty of comic moments (and I mean plenty, though the scenes of Godard repeatedly breaking his glasses, while funny, brought back some painful memories) but at its core it is a tragedy. It describes the quotidian tragedy of a marriage breaking up.

The radical politics of May ’68 in Paris act as a backdrop to the couple’s growing apart but it is gender politics that inform the moral of the film. Godard’s wife, Anne Wiasemsky, realises that the revolution that would enable her to attain personal autonomy is not Maoist but feminist. She isn’t oppressed by the capitalist system exemplified by the movie business in which she works. Rather she’s oppressed by a husband who while seeking to liberate himself from that system acts as just as much of an authority figure as the despised CdG when it comes to the domestic environment.

So we had a lot to discuss as we searched for somewhere civilised to eat in the West End on a Saturday night. Italian, French or Russian (that came out of nowhere!) was the request and we wandered up to Covent Garden and took a chance on Dalla Terra as it didn’t look too busy. Giving the eyeballs to a sharp elbowed couple who tried to jump ahead of us it was gratifying to see them stuck on high stools at a sharing table while we got a more lizardly spot by the window.

Geoff reflected on the fact that there’s no elegant way to eat on a high stool and then peered at Denize through the gloom of the restaurant. He wondered if she too was finding it difficult to read the menu in the stygian darkness. 

‘Yes’, said Denize, ‘It is a bit dark isn’t it?’

‘And the music.’ ‘Too loud.’ ‘I agree.’ ‘It’s like a nightclub.’ ‘Full of old people.’ I thought they were young.’ ‘It’s relative.’

We looked at the menu, which wasn’t extensive but did have what we were looking for – a high quality planche of meat ‘n’ cheese. We got that with a bowl of very, very good olives alongside. In the glass a bottle of Pinot Grigio (for a whiff of Venezia) that was rou. 

The service was excellent given that they were pretty full and we got stuck into the bits. Meat in a satisfying range of varieties, one of them good and spicy. The cheese was outstanding and for roughage there was a rather meagre slathering of sun-dried tomatoes and aubergine. No salad. Always a controversial issue.

Geoff surveyed the plate and realised that there was not to be any salad. The last time he’d been to a restaurant with Denize and there was no salad it had caused a minor breakdown in marital relations as he really likes La Fabrica and knows that they give you plenty of vegetables even if there’s no salad per se on the menu.

You know Geoff thinks that I’m obsessed by the salad but in fact he’s the one who brings it up every time there’s no salad on the menu, and even sometimes when there is. And is it unreasonable to ask a restaurant to make a small salad when you know that they have the ingredients in the kitchen?

‘It doesn’t look like we’re going to get any salad.’ ‘ …’ ‘I’ll go to the loo.’

The big drawback to Della Terra is that it’s severely underbogged for a busy Saturday night. There was already one feller waiting for the sole trap when I got there and I think whoever was in there was squeezing out a dead otter so I thought it best to hang on till home and return to collect the bill.

It wasn’t an awful lot of food for thirty quid a head and the music made it quite difficult to talk to one another. However, I reckon it’s worth returning to Dalla Terra as a daytime venue as the wine and food was excellent and would be ideal for when you’re pooped from artlooking/shopping and wanted an idle hour chatting or reading a book. 

7/10

#food #london

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


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