My favorite part of Paris? Montmartre! It’s like being in the country without leaving town. I take the metro (Line 2) to Blanche and hike up rue Lepic (Adidas obligatoire). Almost at the top of the hill the magnificent Moulin de la Galette appears: majestic, romantic, intriguing.
In this area there were once more than 13 active windmills, standing side by side, used to grind flour and press the grapes harvested from the local vineyard. They inspired artists such Corot, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Willette. Perhaps the the most loved, copied, and most famous of these paintings is Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1876)– a copy of which is inside the restaurant, the original usually hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, and is on loan, for the first time outside France, to the National Art Center Museum in Tokyo from April 27-August 22, 2016.
The history of the Moulin de la Galette, which became a cabaret in 1830 and subsequently a famous restaurant, continues to evolve thanks to two enthusiastic locals who are the new owners, entrepreneur Cédric Barbier and chef/businessman Nicolas Tourneville (known as Doudou). Both are fascinated by the Moulin and its charm.
Recently reopened, the restaurant has been reincarnated as a chic brasserie. The concept is to showcase French traditional cuisine, with sunny terraces at the front and back, a wall replaced with floor to ceiling windows, and, look up as you enter and view the remains of the old windmill!
Heading the brand new kitchens (and the magnificent Josper oven) is Anthony Detemmermann (ex-Michel Rostang, MaSa, Boulogne Billancourt and Domaine de la Corniche). On Sundays he cooks a revised and corrected version of the Montmartre traditional “le gigot d’Adèle”. And, in the dining room, with its handsome zinc bar, Cédric Carcenac (ex-Ducasse, Darroze & Frederic Vardon) creates a warm atmosphere and a superb wine list. “There’s something for every taste; we’ve got 2,000 bottles in the cellar”, he says. “From 25€-1,400€ or just a glass at 5€!”
Book in the tranquil garden and choose, say, Pumpkin soup flavored with Beaufort cheese, Burgundy snails, Scallop carpaccio or free-range Marans poached egg served with potato foam and white mushrooms. From six main courses, stand-outs include the thyme roasted cod, parsnips, baby carrots drizzled with lemon beurre blanc; and the Grilled calves liver, roast chicory, tangy green pepper gravy, chives. Or from the Josper Natural Charcoal oven: Rib of Scottish Beef for 2 or 3 people (92€): Black Angus (26€) or Argentinian Rib Eye Steak (29€). Follow with cheese, salad and bright desserts prepared by the young pastry chef Corentin Magnins. (Think Cappucino Éclair (11€), Café Gourmand (9€), Caramel and salty butter millefeuille (10€), and Organic lemon meringue pie (11€).)
Not a lot of people know that Montmartre is a Republic! Founded in May 1921, on the initiative of Montmartre artists, painters and draftsmen, the Republic’s dashing members distinguish themselves by wearing red scarves, black capes and hats based on the signature outfit worn by Aristide Bruant, the French cabaret singer, comedian, and Montmartre nightclub owner (1851-1925). They guard the charitable traditions initiated by the likes of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas and Henri Matisse. The Vendanges de Montmartre (the annual grape harvest, held in October) and various concerts are worth checking out on the Republic’s website. Their mission statement: Rejoice in doing good!
Le Moulin de la Galette, 83, rue Lepic, 18th. Metro: Blanche/Abbessess. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 06 84 77. Open daily from 12 noon-11.30pm. Lunch menu: Plat du Jour 18€, 2 courses 25€, or 3 courses 32€. Dinner menu is 38€ or A La Carte 45€.
Lead photo credit : The terrasse at Le Moulin de la Galette © DR