Well-known to both Londoners and Parisians for her restaurants at The Connaught Hotel and on the Left Bank respectively, French chef Hélène Darroze has just opened one of the most appealing new eateries to come along in Paris this year.
“I was looking for a new space for my gastronomic table on the Left Bank, and when I came across this space in the 2nd arrondissement, I fell in love with it and decided to invent a new restaurant for the premises,” said the delightful Darroze.
“My idea is a place where you can spend a whole evening, a place with different ambiences,” the chef added, explaining the three seating options at Jòia
– table d’hôtes, at the bar facing the open kitchen or at individual tables; and the upstairs bar with a terrific cocktail menu by a young Italian mixologist who formerly worked at The Connaught.
Seated at the bar for dinner, it was a pleasure to watch Darroze’s young team, half of whom are women, at work, because they improbably aced the twin demands of exact cooking and hospitality by frequently engaging with those seated on stools. From a menu that’s mostly a full flush of southwestern French and Basque country comfort foods, we started with some superb jambon noir de Bigorre and a mortar and pestle of do-it-yourself guacamole – a great idea, since you can add an array of condiments to avocados to taste before mashing them up.
First courses of soothing garlic soup made with ail rose de Lautrec (hailing, as the name suggests, from painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s hometown and probably the best garlic in France) and a sauté of seasonal mushrooms with foie gras and an egg yolk were earthy pleasures. The shared casserole – most main courses here are served for two – of roasted chicken with a stuffing of brioche, herbs, butter and foie gras was excellent with sides of ewe’s milk cheese enriched polenta and crisply fried potatoes.
We were so well fed at the end of this feast that dessert seemed impossible; but, egged on by our friendly Italian waiter, we ended up trying the ‘cake’ of layered crêpes with Matcha and yuzu cream and some roasted figs. Jòia also has one of the most original wine lists in Paris right now, since all of the vintages proposed are made by female vigneronnes (winemakers). This is a terrific new table, and it lives up to its name – in the dialect of the Béarn region of France, the word means “joyous”.
39 rue des Jeûneurs, Paris 2nd. Tel. +33 (0)1 40 20 06 06. www.joiahelenedarroze.com
From France Today magazine