One of the most striking – and welcome – restaurant trends in Paris is the on-going move towards a great variety of dining formats, both in terms of settings and menus. To wit, you can now dine at bars and counters all over the French capital and choose to make a meal from a suite of ‘small plates’, which you choose one by one until you’ve had your fill.
A terrific example of this type of dining is found at the delightful new Wim à table, a new small-plate restaurant in the charming Batignolles district of the 17th arrondissement. Flemish-born Wim van Gorp previously worked as chef at New York-based French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Paris restaurant, Market, and also has another excellent restaurant, Comme Chez Maman, just a few doors away.
“My new restaurant is about affordable casual dining with a regularly changing menu of seasonal comfort food dishes like steak américain (the Belgian version of steak tartare) and ham croquettes, but also ceps à la Grecque and lamb samoussas with yoghurt,” says the amiable chef, adding, “It’s meant to be fun, affordable, and easy-going; a place you come on your own or with a group of friends, and an address you can come to often because the menu changes so regularly.”
On a recent, sunny, early winter day, when the first holiday decorations were appearing at the nearby Marché des Batignolles – a covered market that’s a mixture of this lively, food-loving neighbourhood where a lot of creative, self-employed Parisians live – I met a friend who was visiting from New York for lunch, and we were immediately charmed by the relaxed atmosphere and friendly service here. The waiter explained that they offer a small permanent menu, which includes charcuterie and cheese, plus a chalkboard one that showcases the chef’s impressively cosmopolitan creativity. Van Gorp effortlessly and expertly borrows from a variety of kitchens, including those of Spain, Greece, Morocco, Italy and other countries, and understands exactly what it is that will tempt and satisfy a cross-section of Parisians today.
After the excellent ham croquettes – a dish that’s just as Belgian as it is Spanish, since it exists in different forms in both countries – we shared a Roman-style grilled artichoke with prosciutto and shaved pecorino, a pair of excellent salmon croquettes (the Scottish salmon had been rolled in crumbs made from crushed Japanese snack crackers – an ingenious idea – before being deep-fried) with Sriracha cream sauce, and a grilled preserved duck leg with herring caviar. Every dish was playful, in keeping with the spirit of a restaurant with the subtitle ‘Gastronomie Bar,’ but excellent, right down to a wonderfully tart lemon cream for dessert.
Easily reached by bus and Métro from central Paris, this is an address worth travelling for, especially since the neighbourhood is pleasant and off the beaten track in tourist terms.
45 rue des Moines, Paris 17th. Tel.+33 (0)1 42 29 10 41. Average à la carte €30. Website: wim-a-table.com
From France Today magazine