Le Mary Celeste
1, rue Commines, in the 3rd Arrondissement. No phone.
For reservations, e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open daily, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.; food service, 7 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
Paris wine bars have always offered a good stop to enjoy a glass with a nice plate of cheese or a charcuterie platter, but sometimes I want a broader range of food options with something different to drink. Then there are the Paris cocktail bars, which have been very hot over the last few years, upping the drink ante with a range of liqueurs mixed with exotic spices and mixers, but most of the cocktail clubs aren’t open until late and don’t offer food. Now a newcomer among Paris restaurants, Le Mary Celeste, is bridging the best of the food and drink world to offer hipsters a cool place to hang, with the option to eat interesting small plates while drinking killer cocktails, beer or wine.
Le Mary Celeste is owned by the same folks behind the Mexican cocktail cantine Candelaria, and the newer, hipster drinking locale Glass. This group knows how to attract the young and the cool for a lively libation and a nice nosh.
Le Mary Celeste is a light and pretty whitewashed open room with a large, round bar in the middle and tables scattered around the periphery. Tom Jones was playing when we entered, right as the doors opened at 6 p.m., and we were able to snag one of the tables without problem or a reservation. You can order a beer from Brooklyn or a wine from Chinon, or dive into the cocktail menu as I did with the Single Lady, combining vodka with a muscadet syrup and some lemon. It was refreshing without being overly sweet.
We had to wait until the kitchen opened at 7 p.m. to order food, though oysters were available during the hour interim. We held out to sample some of the interesting-looking plates on the rotating daily menu, starting with homemade focaccia stuffed with guindilla peppers sitting on a bed of puréed, spiced carrots that made for good dipping. We also had a mild but well-prepared veal tartare that included dollops of a citrus mayonnaise and tiny potato chips to scoop up the luscious meat. Both were nice starters, but we moved from nice to blown away when the deviled eggs arrived. They were a brilliant purple from the beet juice they were pickled in and stuffed with, along with a luscious, creamy Greek skordalia, dill and spicy horseradish. It was a whole sweet and savory meal in just three bites.
The chef’s culinary prowess stayed in high gear with the warm dishes, like roast duck with white beans and a smattering of raisins that added the perfect sweetness to the dish. The veal ragout was bathed in a spicy gremolata sauce, sitting atop a polenta cake with crisp broccoli and stewed green tomatoes. The real knockout came from the grilled courge Hokkaido, a Japanese squash, which had a zesty chimichurri sauce, hazelnuts and mint. It was a bold mix of flavors that I had never experienced together, and I relished the combination.
After eating nearly everything on the nine-plate menu, we had no room left for the single butternut cake dessert, which didn’t sound especially appealing, but judging from the rest of the dishes, I’m sure it’s another unique jewel that we’ll just have to return to experience.
In a nutshell: Le Mary Celeste combines the best of the food and drink world with a fun, energetic bar atmosphere filled with creative cocktails and an extremely inventive and well-prepared small-plates menu.
Price check: Small plates are 6–12 euros each, and cocktails are 12 euros each.
If Le Mary Celeste sounds good, you might also like the casual Mexican food and cocktail bar Candelaria. Read the review.
52, rue de Saintonge, in the 3rd Arrondissement. 01 42 74 41 28.
Tues–Sun, noon–11 p.m. (bar, 6 p.m.–late).
Le Mary Celeste