Since the summer of 2010 I've been planting Agent Provocateurs in some of the best restaurants in Paris including a few with Michelin stars like l'Arpège, l'Apicius and le Versance. While it's great to see beer being given some credence in these gastronomic, wine-dominated establishments the real action is in the more contemporary restaurants, often staffed by chefs and sommeliers who have travelled and worked abroad before settling in Paris. Here are a few notables:
Frenchie to go, 9 rue du Nil, Paris 2ème
The popularity of the original Frenchie restaurant was such that the eponymous Gregory Marchand (nicknamed Frenchie by the English chef Jamie Oliver) decided to open another establishment across the road with the radical (for France) option of being able to take away the food, hence Frenchie to go. Inspired by his travels Gregory has created a laid-back menu including such foreign culinary delights as fish and chips, pulled pork sandwiches and pastrami on rye. The quality of both the ingredients and the preparations is impeccable and what better to compliment the food than craft beer? On tap is La Perle, the bready, snappy artisanal pilsner brewed by the Alsatian brewer, Christian Artzner and my Moteuka hop infused, tropical fruit-scented Psychedelia. The choice in bottles includes some Italians, Scandinavian gypsies and a few local offerings from the exciting new Parisian brewers such as Les Brasseurs du Grand Paris.
Bones, 45 rue Godefroy Cavaignac, Paris 11ème
Like many cities around the world Paris has its fair share of tacky Irish pubs with the usual faux-Irish bric-a-brac and oxidised Guinness. When they took residency of one that had closed down in the 11th arrondissement the new owners tore away the wood panelling and stripped the space back to its bare bones. The Australian chef, James Henry's obsession for fresh, quality ingredients and in-house preparation of sour-dough bread, charcuterie and butter is also in tune with the philosophy of keeping things simple and allowing the flavors and aromas to shine through. He describes his approach as product-driven and also admits to a fascination with fermentation so naturally sees the potential in craft beer! The sommelier Pierre Derrien is also fascinated by flavors and his evolving drinks list includes some superb 'natural' wines where the indigenous microbes have been allowed to ferment the grape must lending earthy, complex notes. The restaurant still has the (bones of the) bar from the Irish pub days and on tap are my Cuvée d'Oscar (one of the only restaurants in the world to have this Nelson-Sauvin dry-hopped dark wheat beer on tap!), Psychdelia and Indigo IPA from the excellent Deck and Donohue in Montreuil.
La Fine Mousse restaurant, 4 avenue Jean Aicard, Paris 11ème
After the immediate success of the craft beer bar of the same name an even more ambitious venture on the other side of the street was launched earlier this year - La Fine Mousse restaurant. The idea of pairing food with beer throughout a meal is old-hat in America but revolutionary in France! A gastronomic experience with individual beers paired to each dish is on offer in the Barleywine room while a more laid-back ambiance and menu is available in the India Pale Ale room. The Californian chef, William Ransone, brings stateside knowledge and inventiveness to the table while the beer list in bottles is extensive and includes some of the best French craft beer from the likes of Mont Saleve and Brasserie Thiriez as well as world offerings as diverse as classic English ales from St Austell, lambics from Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen and Italian craft IPAs from Toccalmatto. This self-proclaimed 'bièro-nomique' restaurant has set itself the ambitious but laudable goal of proving beer can be as, if not more, food-friendly as wine… in Paris!
It's only the beginning but the trend for beer to be allied with food in Paris has taken root and it looks like more and more forward-thinking establishments will be adding beers to their drinks lists. The future is uncertain but undoubtedly hoppy - bon ap'.