À la Marguerite

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À la Marguerite
There’s a bistro-rific duo operating out of the not-so-new (but completely re-imagined) Jazz Cellar and Bistro, À La Marguerite, at Les Halles. This is the area that Parisian food writers have been referring to as « the stomach » of Paris ever since Emile Zola first coined the phrase, and where late-night good eats, paired with jazz music strumming ‘til the early dawn hours, can be found. In the 50’s Marguerite was a dancehall/supperclub, then in the 90s she became a nightclub, until today since her refurbishment into a restaurant, fumoir, bar à vin and jazz cellar. When owner Arnaud Bradol and his chef Nicolas Duquenoy, re-invented À la Margeurite in 2012, they did so with the dual eye of chiming in with the city’s embrace of the Bistronomie trend – that’s Bistro + Gastronomy in franglais – and the intent to resuscitate this Parisian institution’s past steeped in jazz and late-night music medleys. A year and a half into it and their dual efforts are seeing notable success, thank you very much. A welcoming wine bar with its « Fumoir » or Cigar Lounge tucked just behind, greet you on the ground floor entrance. At lunchtime this can be a bit deceiving as it gives the appearance that no one is eating there, save for the paper thin ham slices the bartender delivers you from the Berkel manual ham slicer. But this deception is truly a trompe l’oeil as the upstairs 100M2 dining room, on any given weekday especially, does a bustling business with repeat clients coming in for Duquenoy’s « touch of bistrot, touch of gastro ». His menu is based on the freshest of seasonal ingredients, as befits the son of a farmer from Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The chef sources his ingredients from some of the best, such as the renowned butcher, Hugo Desnoyer, and for raw veggies and wild herbs, Stéphane Meyer, another source well-known in cult chef’s circles. « Good ingredients are the foundation of good cooking. After that, I combine the ingredients as I would like to eat them myself. All with an eye toward pleasing my customers. » -Nicolas Duquenoy A sampling from Autumn’s lunch menu (as the seasonal menu changes regularly) gives you a choice of pan-roasted crayfish with seared foie gras and girolles mushrooms ; cèpes from Corrèze à la Bordelaise, lobster and lardo di Colonnata ; for main courses you have glazed pork cheeks, honeyed wilted romaine lettuce, confit tomatoes, fennel and potatoes ; or Beef filet from Normandy, crispy polenta, cubèbe pepper and lemongrass ; desserts include La Marguerite rum baba served with a selection of aged rums. The 8-course Chef’s Dinner Tasting Menu runs only to €70 per person and the set lunch menu that gives you a starter, main course, coffee and petit-fours is a modest €29. The organic duck, for two people, is a Main Course lunch or dinner offering that runs you €35 per person. A nice option during the French hunting season. At his previous posts, Duquenoy received successive notoriety : In 2006 the distinction of Meilleur Bistrot de la Capitale (Best Bistrot of Paris) for La Ferrandaise ; then Meilleur Bistrot Traditionnel (Best Traditional Bistrot) as well as Meilleur Bistrot de Quartier (Best Neighborhood Bistrot) for Beaujolais d’Auteil when he was the head chef there from 2008-‘12. A chance meeting with Arnaud Bradol, facilitated by Desnoyer, is what launched this newest pairing by the seasoned restaurateur, Bradol, and his chef, Duquenoy. For Bradol, À la Marguerite is more than just another superb Bistrot in the French culinary capital of Europe to add as a feather to his cap. For him this restaurant, steeped in a rich past, speaks to the soul of who he is, especially its history of jazz. « This place is really me. It’s the result of fifteen years building my businesses and it represents the sum total of my three passions : gastronomy, oenology and music, most particularly jazz. » – Arnaud Bradol Jazz concerts are held monthly in the cosy « New Orleans-esque » basement-level jazz cellar. Regular concerts are on the last Sunday of the month, with others taking place as scheduled. The cellar can also be privatized for special dinners and parties, easily seating 30. For business breakfasts or lunches, the upstairs private dining room, just off the main dining area that seats 70, can accommodate groups of up to 20. During Marguerite’s renovations, Bradol and his team uncovered some real surprises, good surprises, and decided to keep and incorporate them into their new premises. For example, under the old carpeting, they uncovered a mosaique of the famous « fleurs des champs », under the wall plastering, they found brick walls that lend ambiance and character to the sleek new spot, and the exposed wood beams, well, what better place than Paris’s 1st arrondissement to allow them their revealed glory ? With all this talk of jazz and good food, however, it’s altogether too easy to be distracted from what is of central importance at Bradol’s À la Marguerite, and that’s his wine cellar. The wine list offers over 200 selections, 40 of which are champagne. Of the 600 or so bottles they keep in their on-premise wine cellar, Thomas Meunier, charged with keeping the stock up-to-date, likes to mix it up between small, independent wineries, Grand Crus and even some natural and organic wines. Meunier, A la Marguerite’s Maitre d’ and Sommelier, has made himself indispensable to Bradol, and not least because his English is fluent and his manner welcoming. Add to that mix his fondness and knowledge of good wines and l’art de vivre, and he and his boss found they had a lot in common. Before rejoining Bradol as part of the Marguerite team, he was the Sommelier and Restaurant Manager for the launch of Agapé Substance. Alamarguerite.com 49 rue Berger, Paris 75001
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