40, rue des Blancs Manteaux, in the 4th Arrondissement. 01 42 71 55 45.
Tues–Sat., noon–2:30 p.m. and 7–11 p.m.
Chef-patron Claude Colliot set up shop in the heart of the Marais in 2009, having earned his stripes at la Bamboche on the other side of the river. Paris restaurants don’t get much better than this one; it set culinary pulses racing back then and they haven’t slowed down since.
Think seasonally driven cuisine served in an elegant, relaxed setting with exposed ancient stonework and beams alongside high-end modern furniture and fittings. To boot, what Claude Colliot pulls off that’s harder to get right is ambience, and the atmosphere in the dining room is both informal and chic in equal measure—the epitome of the Marais.
Dinner reservations are hard to come by, which is hardly surprising for somewhere recommended in the Michelin Guide and frequented by France’s elite, including screen siren Marion Cotillard. Luckily, lunchtime is an altogether more relaxed affair, with most walk-in hopefuls rewarded with a table.
Lunch service starts at noon, and being very un-French about it, we got there on the dot. Moments after we were seated, Claude Colliot himself arrived with an armful of baguettes, waxing lyrical about the season’s shellfish to the rather handsome maître d’. Turning up at lunchtime on a Tuesday shows dedication on Colliot’s part, as plenty of chefs with their names in lights don’t show their faces for lunch service, let alone on a Tuesday.
The menu is true to the restaurant’s motto, le potager au coeur d’assiette (“the kitchen garden at the heart of the plate”). The wintertime offering made the most of root vegetables, shellfish and citrus fruit. The prix fixe lunch menu started at 21 euros for a main and a dessert, going up to 29 euros with a starter added. This is exceptionally reasonable for Paris considering a large lunch at Cojean can set you back almost as much. Ordering à la carte is naturally a little pricier, and the menu carte blanche, five surprise courses, is another hike at 59 euros.
Sticking to the prix fixe menu, we kicked off with citrus-flecked razor clams served in their shells and a textbook-perfect pumpkin soup. A main of sliced marinated pork shoulder cooked medium rare, served with yellow and orange carrots and a tangy mustard sauce, was a pure delight. Every restaurant needs something memorable, and for Claude Colliot, it’s a potato cappuccino: a cup of mash topped with a frothy crème fraîche and toasted sesame seeds. It’s hardly the next big thing, but it is fun and it’s squeezed in the fixed lunch at no extra cost. Dessert of a citrus fruit soup didn’t disappoint, its sweet and sour flavors giving the tongue a swing dance.
You have to hand it to Claude Colliot; he’s working hard, raising the bar day in, day out, and it shows. Now if only we could clone him and have a Claude Colliot in every arrondissement.
In a nutshell: A historically darling dining room with elegantly executed seasonal food and superb service.
Price check: Starters, 13–17 euros; mains, 26–28 euros; desserts, 10–12 euros. Prix fixe menus, 21–29 euros (lunch, not available on weekends) and 59 euros (evening).
If you like the sound of Claude Colliot, then you might also enjoy Frenchie. Read the review.
Amanda Nicolas is author of the blog An English Gourmande.