A Little Piece of Mine

Date with a Plate: Le Garde Temps

I thought Monday nights were quiet in Paris until I took a left turn out of Blanche métro. Le Depanneur, Blah blah blah blah blah, Le Dit Vin are packed with punters,and not at all the same ilk that prowl nearby Pigalle. The famous big red windmill (Moulin Rouge) is practically on top of the station. Just don’t go there. Head instead down rue Pierre-Fontaine to Le Garde Temps, an elongated, brick-walled eatery with lovely service (“here, use my glasses since you forgot yours”) and affordable, carefully-prepared food. A chunky grilled fillet of lieu (colin) comes with a garlicky foam and the smoothest, nuttiest sweet potato purée. A boned out roast rabbit, stuffed with herbs and garlic, teams with a barley risotto. Might not look like much to begin with but it is extremely tasty, and the pigeon with cepes that landed on an adjoining table looked the picture of rich, autumnal goodness. The menu changes every three weeks to reflect the seasons and chef’s whims. Not heady or showy. Just nice.  Le Garde Temps 19 bis, rue Pierre-Fontaine, 75009. Tel: 09 81 48 50 55. Closed Sun, & Sat lunch, Starters €8, mains €16, with pricier blackboard specials. 

Quick Word: Bite-sized thoughts

Pop-Eyed: Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

We all know a Lichtenstein when we see one. It’s the king-size comic strip with dots and emotive speech bubble (Oh Jeff… I love you, too… But… or Whaam!) – melodramatic, bold, bright. Naturally, the famed Pop Art pieces loom large in “Lichtenstein: A Retrospective” at the Centre Pompidou but there are some surprises, too, among the assembled sculptures, prints, enamels, ceramics and paintings, There are riffs on works by Picasso, Monet and Mondrian and Matisse, black and white renderings – a radio, a ball of string, and a fizzy tablet dissolving in a trail of water bubbles, painted mirrors without reflections, metallic women with jagged hair, exquisite blue and yellow dishes, and the delicate Chinese landscapes painted a few years before the artist’s death in 1997. Roy Lichtenstein also painted on Rowlux, a translucent and shimmery plastic film, and “Moonscape,” a lustrous navy blue sky slashed with red dotted clouds, is a shining illustration of his skill in playing with light and texture. Centre Pompidou until November 4

Roy Lichtenstein

Sugar High: La Bûche de Noël de Lenôtre

Trust pastry powerhouse Lenôtre to whip up with a cake that is (almost) too beautiful to eat. In a nod to the 400th anniversary of Versailles garden wizard Andre Le Notre, the 2013 bûche de Noël is part flower plot, veggie patch, orchard, parterre – and above all dessert! Mother earth is biscuity layers of creamy chocolate, almond praline and puff pastry. Pistachio macarons double as topiary trees, sugary pines stand to attention in marzipan planters. A glassy sugar roof spans the sweestest greenhouse collection ever:  a mini lemon tree, a straw hat complete with ribbon, a watering can, a palette of tomatoes, a wedding cake, an apple kouglof, and a croquembouche (it’s a French hothouse afterall!). Lenôtre enlisted the help of the debonair Louis Albert de Brogile, aka the “Le Prince Jardinier, in fashioning the cake. The Prince grows some 650 varieties of tomato at the Château de la Bourdaisière, his manor/hotel in the Loire, and the humble fruit features in the compote that accompanies the bûche, while the choc base is a childhood memory. The ex-banker, sporting country gentleman’s red, also provided the dessert’s launch pad in Deyrolle, a much loved curiosity shop in Paris housing stuffed polar bears, giraffes and parrots, mounted beetles, butterflies, crabs and lobsters. Under the gaze of wild beasts, Lenôtre chefs dished up zingy tomato salad, ceviche, and garden-fresh canapés, while beaming pâtissiers in an ivy curtained room at the rear served a steady supply of sweet dreams, including slices of their Christmas log. Admittedly, September seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but then the way this year is whizzing past, probably not. The bûche de Noël de Lenôtre will be available to order from 13 December (www.lenotre.com/0811 656 656) at €120 for 8-10 people. Put it first on Santa’s wish list.

(La) Religieuse Devotion

Shoo cupcake in your piped icing wig, scram ubiquitous macaron, skedaddle stodgy brown muffin, scat fat doughnut, beat it rum-soused baba. This autumn’s sweet success is la religieuse a puff-puff of chou pastry plumped full of flavoured custard, garlanded with a buttercream collar, topped with a single pearl or a gold leaf beret. You’re a brazen little miss nowadays despite your virtuous French name (“the nun”). Habit forming. Life enchancing. Divine. Claire Damon (Des Gâteaux et du Pain) has you draped in pale pistachio swirls. Carl Maletti sees you as a rose kind of girl, with chocolate and coffee alter egos. Cyril Lignac likes you best in deep raspberry and dark chocolate – a real scarlet woman. Michael Boivin, chef pâtissier at Paris’ freshly renovated Sofitel Arc de Triomphe, thinks you’re a girl for all seasons – fig and pistachio as leaves fall, mango and Tahitian vanilla when the sun shines, granny smith apple and caramelised milk (dulce de leche) for fireside chats. These have to be the best dressed, most decadent nuns you’ll ever take to tea.

Quick Word: Bite-sized thoughts

Market Leader: Marché Président Wilson

The superb veggies from maraîcher Joel Thiebault are reason enough to stalk the Marché Président Wilson. Silverbeet with gem-coloured stalks, myriad salad greens and herbs, soil-flecked carrots, baby fennel with lanky fronds, radishes in purple, white and red, and sunshine-bright courgettes – more than 1500 varieties parade throughout the seasons. No wonder the chefs love him. Another motivation? The original French fast food: crêpes (banana and dark chocolate) and buckwheat galettes, especially the Soubise, a wholesome bundle of cheese, bacon, egg and onion best washed down, in true Breton style, with a slurp of cider. Never mind the early hour. Another? Flour-dappled breads, saucissonettes (teeny dried sausages), hills of spices, buckets of blooms, and wild salmon and fleshy oysters from Jackie Lorenzo, the chattiest fishmonger in all of Paris. Still more reasons…the Chanel-shod ladies with their scarves tied just so rubbing shoulders with trolley-toting concierges and pods of Japanese tourists; the renovated Musée d’Art Moderne with its haul of Delaunays, Dufys, and Roualts (the permanent collection is free, yes, free!) on one side of the avenue, the wacky Palais de Tokyo next to it, and just across the road, the Musée Galliera – due to finally reopen on September 28 with an Azzedine Alaïa restrospective. A perfect market for the food, art and style obsessed – so very 16th arrondissement.

Red Hot: Monsieur Bleu Paris

There’s much to like about Monsieur Bleu, the new eatery/bar in the offbeat Palais de Tokyo. 1. The suave interior by Joseph Dirand – all marbly greys, warm bronze, splashes of lime green, and not a trace of the blue the Yves Klein inspired name implies. A sky-high ceiling and four original glass panels on one wall salute the building’s 1930s pedigree while the cosy-but-contemporary eating nooks and islands are pure now. 2. The glam black and white terrace with its swish soundtrack and light show and that exemplenary Paris view – yes, it’s the Eiffel Tower glinting just across the river. 3. Modern brasserie-style  food – turbot with artichokes, roast chicken, suckling pig – with a bit of this (minty chicken spring rolls) and that (tiny sautéed squid with chorizo and red peppers) to spice it up. Oysters, swanky caviar and smoked salmon from Petrossian plump out the seasonal menu. Come just for the signature dessert – a mille-feuille that lives up to its “1000 leaves” name, with layer upon lofty layer of whipped cream and crispy, sugary pastry. 4. No outrageous posing from the staff, just attentive and surprisingly friendly service and a decent trade in banter. Given its position and designer detail, Le Monsieur has attracted a stellar looking clienetele in a short few months – micro-minied sirens, stick-thin femmes with Birkin bags, elegantly coiffed gents with cigar in mouth and French bulldog in lap, plus various princelings and (well-garbed) prols. A go-to spot for pre-club cocktails, a post-club dram, or just dinner and endless people gawking. 20 ave de New York 75016. Mon-Sun noon-2am.

M. Bleu