I once heard this is where French Presidents take their mistresses. Discretely tucked away in a backstreet of South Pigalle, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I think that’s the idea.
The windows are veiled with curtains hung just high enough so as not to give anything away about what or who is inside…
Well, I didn’t find Francois Hollande, but I did find a beautiful pile of vegetables waiting for me at the entrance. Unusual legumes in deep burgundies and rich greens are piled here every evening fresh from the market (or perhaps even the farm), looking ready to be painted by Van Gogh. We’ll be seeing those on my plate later on…
Petrelle has been around for more than 20 years. It’s run by a sort of mad-hatter Frenchman, Jean-Luc André, chef and art gallerist who also owns the space next door to the restaurant where he curates theatrical installations, like the one I wrote about a year back, the phantom Parisian apartment frozen in time.
But back to our VIP dinner. It’s a pretty magical setting isn’t it? Which is why I call it a VIP dinner. It’s for special occasions certainly, a treat for the very important person in your life, such as my beau, whose birthday we’re celebrating this evening.
We’re led to our cozy table by the sole waiter of the house, past the little mountain of freshly baked meringues, which takes everything inside me not to pocket one for a sneaky amuse-bouche.
We make ourselves comfortable in our nook surrounded by piles of books and curious objects you might unearth in your eccentric grandparent’s attic. Candles and antique lamps set the tone for a clandestine lovers dinner and it would all make the perfect photograph to find next to the definition of ‘romantic mood lighting’.
First things first though, the wine. Don’t expect to find your average bottle of grape juice here, the owner gets his wines at auctions and your cheapest red comes at around €30. We ordered a 2014 Pinot Noir Fixin in that range and it was excellent.
The menu is hand-written by Jean-Luc so you’ll have to take your time deciphering his mad scribbling penmanship, but it feels like you’re reading a love letter about food. And they say he will make you discover what true organic food tastes like…
While we wait for our dinner, I’m finding it very hard to concentrate on the conversation and not document every detail around me. (The hazards of getting involved with a blogger)!
Every surface of the restaurant’s walls are covered in extravagant frescoes…
It is a true cabinet of curiosities that will win the heart of any visitor with a weakness for collecting the bizarre things of this world.
Like the cluttered decor of the restaurant, the food doesn’t come neatly or pretentiously arranged on a plate– it’s all a bit of a beautiful French mess.
And it seems we’ve been joined by a new dinner guest! This is Fernando, he’s the house dog. There’s also a cat called Racaillou, whose attention is harder to win.
As I said, it’s not picture perfect food, but it tastes like France at its best. Living in Paris, I rarely ever eat French cuisine strangely enough, (we’re usually down at our local Vietnamese), but feasting on the freshest produce infused with sauces only a grandmother would pass down to her favourite grandchild, is really worth breaking our usual foodie habits.
Fernando wants in on the dessert.
But he won’t be getting any from this table…
Oh, before we go, I must show you the toilets. Yes, the toilets! I say you can always tell the true dedication of restaurant by visiting its toilets.
Aren’t they fabulous?!
The cubicles are covered in a wall of sea shells! I must try this somewhere at home.
To my sweet tooth’s delight, the entire bowl of meringues has appeared at the table upon my return. It’s all you can eat. I did three. Maybe four.
And surely they won’t be needing all of that wild asparagus, will they?
Well, I didn’t spot any French Presidents, but I did have a very “VIP” evening in this beautiful hidden gem of Paris.
Make a reservation at La Petrelle on +33142821102.