A tale of two Frenchies. Well, actually five.
June 12, 2019
Frenchie Restaurant in Paris opened on rue du Nil in 2015, and quickly became a hot ticket. We tried to book a table for dinner in May this year, but they still fill the restaurant months ahead.
Frenchie Wine Bar opposite doesn’t take reservations; it opens at 6.30pm, and the advice is to turn up early. We were first in line when the door opened. ‘Table for two?’
There are two small rooms, one with a view of the kitchen, the other of the bar. You sit on bar stools at shared tables.
We elected to sit right next to the glass partition looking into the kitchen, where we could watch every dish being prepared. It’s a tiny space, ruthlessly organised, where five staff were producing all the food: one male chef at the stove, two girls meticulously assembling cold mains and desserts, a female chef on the pass, and a washer-up.
‘Everything. I want to eat everything’
The friendly, helpful and informative waiting staff wear T shirts printed with the legend ‘Everything. I want to eat everything’, and reading the menu I began to see what they meant. Dishes are served when they’re ready, so we started by sharing three cold dishes.
An assembly of home made Ricotta, crumbled with confit Meyer lemon, fresh fava beans and peas, buckwheat for crunch and earthiness, and chive flowers, was a beautiful celebration of early summer – outstanding, one of the best dishes I’ve eaten this year (so far).
Green lentil falafel came with smoky harissa, and pickled cucumber for sharpness and texture.
A gutsy terrine with piccalilli and mustard seeds balanced textures and flavours, with sharp accents from the pickle. (It was so good, I failed to take a picture. Oh, the pressure).
Garnishing is precise, pretty and delicate; the chefs each carry tweezers clipped to their aprons, which they use to place herbs on each plate.
The sommelier wore a similar shirt to the waiters:
‘Everything, I want to drink everything’
Wines by the glass are poured at the table. We chose a petillant Montlouis from the Loire as an aperitif; gentle bubbles, golden colour.
A Cotes Catalanes rosé was a good match for our first dishes, with strawberry fruit and fresh acidity.
Then we went our separate ways. Pappardelle pasta for her, with lamb ragout, Kalamata olives and lemon confit. And another glass of rosé.
I picked crispy sweetbread nuggets with gribiche sauce. Two juicy morsels of moist tender veal arrived in a thick coat of crunchy batter perfection. Gribiche is a mayonnaise-style emulsion of hard-boiled egg yolks and mustard, finished with chopped cornichons, capers and herbs.
And a glass of red Saumur Champigny 2017, poured from a magnum; unusually intense and dark for the Appellation, a ‘fruit bomb’ of berries and herbs.
Be careful what you wish for
The owner and head chef is Gregory Marchand, the eponymous Frenchie. He earned the nickname working in the kitchen at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen in London.
The London influence shows, there’s English wine on the list, and cheeses are from Neal’s Yard Dairy.
Gregory dropped in to observe the chefs at work and chat to them. I asked the waiter if I could say hello, if he wasn’t too busy – I met him last year at a panel discussion in London, where he has a restaurant in Covent Garden – and he came over to our table.
The sweetbreads were so good, I said I could eat another portion for dessert….
(I was joking).
A few minutes later, the waiter reappeared at the table with another plateful; he nodded towards the window behind me. There was Gregory outside, grinning, with his thumbs up to check I approved.
They were just as amazing the second time.
We resolved to go back next year and book ahead for the restaurant, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the wine bar is more fun, where you can arrive at 6.30 and stay as long as you want. There are clearly two sittings in the restaurant: 6.30 and 9.
Playlist in the wine bar: high energy hip-hop, cool, funky and fun, much like Frenchie’s. It’s just on the right side of loud on arrival. As the evening progresses they either turn it down, or the clientele drown it out as the wine bar fills up.
Rue du Nil is a tiny street. As well as the restaurant and wine bar, there’s Frenchie To Go, and Frenchie’s wine shop.
Marchand’s energy has attracted a community of small and perfectly formed retailers to the street: a butcher, a fishmonger, a bakery, a greengrocer, a coffee roaster. A ‘bean to bar’ chocolate shop will open shortly.
There’s also the London outpost, in the National Restaurant Awards 2019 ‘top 100 restaurants in the UK’ for the 4th year in a row: