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Alert readers will remember Flora Mikula when she set up her first left-bank bistro, several years ago. Remember Les Olivades? Of course you do. A long thin restaurant, opposite the UNESCO, building to which Flora brought the bounty of her native Provence, gave notice of her intention to fly the flag for women chefs. The road has not been easy, in French, there is no feminine counterpart to the noun chef!
“And yet when you think about it, most men were taught to cook by their mothers, influenced by their grandmothers”, observed Flora one lunch-time last week.
To-day Flora (ex- Passard, Vigato, Christian Etienne) is an uptown girl, her eponymous neo art-nouveau restaurant located opposite the Hotel George V. Decorated by a woman, bien sur, Dorothée Boissier, disciple of Starck. The first impression of Flora is of a vibrant woman who dashes out of her kitchen, enthusiasm and passion glowing on her rosy cheeks.
And rose is her favourite colour. “It’s the basic colour of my restaurant, it’s the colour of Martini who have the bon idée to get 7 chefs and 7 artists together around a theme of Italian antipasti. My Martini antipasti is layered in a Martini glass, compote of figs, smoked mozzarella cubes, Parma ham, basil jelly and frozen pink Martini. To launch this petite merveille Flora collaborated with stylist Stella Cadente and the Martini anti-pasti appears in a cloud of fabric, which, when lifted gives off a shower of carbonic snow, revealing why it’s better to drink Martini.
"I like to have a martini
Two at the very most --
After three I'm under the table,
After four, I'm under my host." – Dorothy Parker
The “extreme anti-pasti” features on Flora’s menu alongside her 45€ Dejeuner des Femmes, three courses, include a glass of champagne and two glasses of wine. But, the rule is, the woman must reserve and pay! “You know people think the 8th is expensive, but it’s not chez moi”, insists Flora.
I have a menu, starter, main-course, dessert at 36€, or just a starter and main course is 26€. There is a five- course degustation (60€) and the menu changes all the time according to the products, the season, the weather, my emotions”, Flora explains. One day last week it was a handsome free range egg, velouté of cépes replaced in the shell, served with toast soldiers. It was a fine flat disc of flaky pastry with Saint Jacques, vinaigrette of cèpes and hazelnuts or, Daurade in a light bouillon with saffron, coquillages and tiny vegetables. The olive bread is addictive, try to ignore it if you can, try to get the recipe! Desserts may be an apple Millefeuille with smooth as silk caramel and butter ice-cream, a frothy mousse of peanuts on the side. Souffle au Grand Marnier, or “something chocolatey”, she grins.
Daily, there’s the handsome silver trolley with meat, game or truffled poultry waiting to be carved, just like the old days. “For people in a hurry, we can serve them very fast”, says Flora. Cool in a woman’s world is the elegant Raphael Peraud (Flora’s other half) who will suggest appropriate wines from the well stocked cellar.
So how does Flora stay in shape? “I’m always on a diet”, she admits. “The temptation in the kitchen is always there, I love to eat. I try to be reasonable during the week, but, once the restaurant is shut on Friday night, that’s it! During the summer I usually gain 5 kilos, then take it off. Or I’ll starve and then drink gallons of champagne!”
Sundays, when the restaurant is shut, I try my new ideas out on family and friends and we gather on the little terrace behind the restaurant.
Flora, mother of a lively 5-year old Stanislas, who enthusiastically rolls up his sleeves and helps, also loves to eat in friends’ restaurants.
“I love ethnic food, Thai, Lebanese, Chinese. My favourite bistro is *L’AOC in the Latin quarter, where (former butcher) Jean Philippe and Sophie Lattron cook, and serve, my favourite food. Os à moelle à la fleur de sel sur pain frotté a l’ail. Terrine de canard maison. Tranche de lard fermier et pommes rissolés. Gigot d’agneau roti à l’ail et gratin dauphinois. Côte de boeuf Charolais. Tarte Tatin, crème fraiche. Superb!
“I also recommend Tang Freres for all kinds of discoveries from herbs to china tableware. The owners (the Ratanawan brothers) came to France from Laos and transformed a former French Railways warehouse. It’s now Europe’s largest Asian market, the fascinating aromas from everywhere will blow your mind!”
So hurry to Flora’s pretty pink restaurant. Remember Diana Vreeland said, “pink is the navy blue of India!”, and Flora is a fascinating voyage of discovery.
*AOC (Appellation d’orgin contrôlée)”. AOC is the official French quality grading awarded to wines and certain food products. Look for the label AOC which certifies that the product conforms to rigorous requirements including when and how it is produced
36 Avenue George V, 8th (Metro: George V),
T: 01 40 70 10 49
Closed Sat lunch & Sunday
Dogs and cigars allowed!
Ma Provence dans Votre Assiette
(preface by Alain Passard) Editions Aubenal,
14 rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard,
T: 01 43 54 22 52
Closed Sunday-Monday (Metro: Jussieu or Cardinal Lemoine
48 avenue d’Ivry, 13th (Metro: Porte d’Ivry)
T: 01 45 70 80 00