I’m afraid I’m more than a little ignorant when it comes to anything outside of my cosy little world, essentially London, and a particularly small circle of coffee, food and cocktail centric places at that. I sometimes need reminding how acutely micro those worlds are. There’s countless times I’ve mentioned a new restaurant, or indeed highly esteemed critic’s name to a friend only to recieve an unutterably uninterested and blank face. I rarely do holiday, so you can imagine how utterly clueless I am when peering outwards anywhere remotely more further afield than that of my own tiny sphere of existence.
It does mean that I’m all ears to recommendations, so when my good friend Gemma suggested she thought Bones would be right up my street, I quickly snatched it, clutching that one place to my chest like a beacon. I immediately emailed reservations, having established it was definitely my sort of sounding place, and discovered it was but a 30 minute walk from the apartment I was staying, assuming I’d never to hear from them again. It was a surprise and relief (I’d not planned any further than this one bar) when the restaurant emailed me back the day I arrived in Paris, to confirm my single booking at the less than appealing, but exciting none the less time of 10pm on Friday.
Full of enthusiasm, on my second night in Paris, I head to the restaurant for 9.30pm. I’m surprisingly easily accommodated at the bar, explain I have a 10pm reservation and ask for a wine recommendation. Something not too heavy to start, a delicious easy drinking red is recommended with a tasting and poured. I discover this is the house option. I warm. Even better, rather than put the dregs of a nearly finished bottle back behind the bar, the bottle is left with me for a little cheeky top up. The bar menu, a list of cold arrangements is tempting and looks delicious as it’s brought out to fellow drinkers, but in the end I decide to take my restaurant reservation.
With dismay, I’m led out towards the back area designated for diners of the cooked menu, and to a tiny two seater smack in the middle. My waiter can apparently empathetically hear my silent cries, for after leading me there, asks if I’d prefer to eat at the bar. I almost snog the man with relief. YES. Perfect. I cheerfully trot back to the bar, resume my seat and accept a proffered menu, whereby I come over all awkward customer again…
The kitchen offers a four course set menu, however a fairly large proportion of it is fish based, with a choice of two meaty mains. I explain my loathing of the sea based creatures, and once again my waiter is the embodiment of understanding and charm, whisks away the offending menu, whilst telling me the kitchen will prepare something. Not to worry. I don’t, feeling I’m in safe hands, and more importantly and remarkably, without feeling that I’m being a bother.
Being accustomed to London’s small and beautiful little wine bars; Sager & Wilde, Duck Soup, 40 Maltby Street, etc etc, this feels somewhat larger and although not necessarily more put together, there’s certainly, what feels like, a bit more going on. The vibe is distinctly New York cool with a French edge; busting out of an otherwise non-descript back street, there’s acres of naked brick work, a busy open kitchen at the back, suckling pig being dissected at the bar and transformed into stunning looking sandwiches, perilous spiral staircase in a dark corner that leads up to the loos, trendy soundtrack and attractive bearded tattooed staff. Patrons are generally distractingly gorgeous enough to make me curse my age and perch, propped on every conceivable surface; the window ledges, bar, tall front tables and couches, their chatter and the chinking of glasses rising above the music.
Once I’m happily ensconced back at my seat at the bar, food starts to arrive and honestly doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to stop. First a bowl of olives, plump and juicy, pale green ones get devoured first, then spiced almonds, addictively doused in salt, a basket of too thickly sliced bread and a separate plate with a proper serving of butter to strew it with (ooooh, butter for my bread, that’s a first here). A whole plate of duck charcuterie arrives, having just been sliced to my left, here’s an inkling of the sort of portions I’m to expect. Vivid pink slivers of slippery slithery meat are smoky, uber rich, with translucent fat that dissolves on the tongue like a treasured memory. Assuming this is just the beginning, I’m ever so slightly joyously concerned when a succinct little plate containing a single sliced duck heart is placed before me, dangerously pink and thwapping with flavour. Gorgeous.
Next I’m presented with a salad, something I hear is somewhat uncommon in this area, and what a beast of a salad it is. A menagerie of heirloom toms that range from green, through yellow and orange through to the darkest, dramatic purple. I’m not usually a tomato fan, raw anyway, guilty of pulling them from my burgers before feeding into my face, these however are soft and spongy with intense flavour, none of the bitter acidity I’m expecting but all the sweetness. Paired with abundant sprigs of fragrant basil and receptive ricotta, I drag chunks of tomato through large splodges of the stuff, mopping up fresh juices and green oil on the way.
Guinea fowl is presented next, another large plateful of delicious things; meat is succulent with perfectly crisp skin, served on a sweet mound of smashed pumpkin and dotted prettily with herbs.
Thinking that’s my meat course done, I’m slightly taken aback when another plate arrives, again a more than generous portion, this time of gorgeous, rare slices of veal fanned out, thickly cut, with a sous vide soft texture, and served with radish and oil slicked rocket. Skirt tightening. I fear for dessert.
Actually, it’s not as bad (who am I kidding – it’s great) as it looks. Dessert is refreshingly light, though I’m still, understandibly I think, struggling at this stage. Feeling positively Roman, sans purging, I pop perfumed muscat grapes, languishing on a bed of ice, in my gob betwixt swigs of wine. I alternate between this and the delicious luxuries in bowl number two, of prunes, Armagnac ice cream and shards of meringue.
By the time I’m done, I’m quite literally ripe to pop myself, feeling engorged like a European princess, fed to plumpness.
My bill for all that is a frankly ridiculous 50 odd Euros (including booze). The staff couldn’t have been more helpful, charming or friendly. They serve Cafes Belleville coffee, though I didn’t try it on this occasion. It’s cool and relaxed, the menu is modern and generous, it feels a little like a secret find.