While my friends are messaging me from London asking which date I'm back so we can go to Balthazar, it doesn't really work like that in Paris! I'm becoming convinced that the new restaurant/bar openings' lifeblood here is made up of reviewers and what I'm dubiously terming foodie tourists. Many Parisians and "people who aren't Parisians but live here" alike just don't really care that much about going to new places, which leads to weird scenarios where you end up taking them to places they hadn't heard of. It also means that if you do go, you might discover a great place not particularly full of people speaking English, plus the owner's friends, or just a great place that lacks atmosphere or a sense that something is *happening*. So while I'm not quite at the stage of being content to rock up to the most convenient corner brasserie for a croque monsieur (I tried) I really had to calm it down a bit in terms of what I expect to happen on a night out.
Out of all the places I've been that were newly opened, the one place that stands out and that I'd happily visit again - and again - is Bones. The most talented young chef in Paris (I'm trying to avoid typing hottest, well, because...) opens own restaurant in the 11th, food bloggers get all in a lather, all I hear before I come to Paris is Bones, Bones, Bones. I managed to get a table for the early seating by booking three weeks in advance. Bones. I was expecting all hype and no substance to be honest. The description of it being punk that I kept hearing didn't help. I was a bit worried that the friend I was taking would hate it and we'd be served something really unappetising, but worse that we'd be uncomfortable and unconvinced. The way it was described in some reviews you'd think they had fluorescent strip lighting, chainsaws for chairs and the meal would consist of them throwing pork scratchings at you from the kitchen.
So I was relieved when we turned up at this lovely, slightly industrial, sensitively renovated stripped back room, with a big bar area at the front featuring a suckling pig resting on the bar; no more than ten tables with comfortable chairs or banquettes and an open kitchen at the back. The staff was friendly and relaxed, the music was GREAT, natural wines were offered, discussed and ordered, we both noticed that the bread was really nice, the butter was delicious. Hmm, nice stoneware plates. Then we got into the prix fixe menu of the day, which at €40 is pretty amazing value. There were five courses on the menu, including cheese and dessert, but I'm sure we were given at least three other dishes in between the courses. Everything we ate was good. Everything was balanced, had care taken over it - whether it was on the menu or not. That is some sophisticated freestyle cooking if that was all based on what they felt like doing that day. Saint-Jacques with pear, smoked? octopus, duck heart, boudin noir - a lazy person like me could say the food was a bit like St. John crossed with 40 Maltby Street in London. By about 9pm the bar area was heaving and I felt that elusive *something's happening* vibe, which is so important in creating an atmosphere that makes you want to return.