TALE OF TWO CITIES

A pair of restaurants in Paris and London

Apart from the food, what do we most value in a restaurant? Bustle and a bit of a performance, what the Irish call the craic, as well as a feeling of being cossetted, and a shared sense that this is the place to be tonight: those are my criteria. In the last few weeks I’ve eaten in two places in Paris and London that fulfilled all these conditions to different degrees. Les Quilles, on Ménilmontant in the 11ème, and Bouchon Fourchette in Hackney are even in similar districts; a bit edgy, a mix of young creatives and poor immigrants. Their food is French, classics with a slight twist but not leading edge.

It’s the weekend and both are full, with a mainly young crowd, enjoying a relaxed vibe, informally looked after by their equals. The front of house staff are mainly men in both places who exude confidence and a certain style, flirting with the customers, sharing jokes. So that’s the performance, but what about the food?

We start with shared starters. Celeriac remoulade, tapenade and roasted garlic in Hackney are all fine. Les Quilles’ cauliflower gazpacho, asparagus salad and a small plate of fine culatello evoke real enthusiasm. Crisply roasted belly pork and boeuf bourguignon are the main course highlights at Bouchon Fourchette, the French classics just as you would expect them. Steak tartare is acceptable but the beef (Charolais) needs to be exceptional. Les Quilles counters with pork medallions and a piece of the tastiest grilled beef I’ve recently encountered served with tiny sautéed potatoes. Les Quilles edging ahead? But wait: to finish there’s Fourchette’s knickerbocker glass of chocolate liegeois – mousse with Chantilly cream – which may be without equal. As for price, call it £30-35 a head with wine in both places (April 2014).

 

Les Quilles

123 Boulevard de Ménilmontant, 75011 Paris, France

+33 1 47 00 03 66

 

Bouchon Fourchette

171 Mare St, London E8 3RH

020 8986 2702

 

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