Credit: Rina Nurra

After chef Jean-François Piège and his wife Elodie shrewdly noticed that Saint-Germain-des-Prés was missing a contemporary beau monde canteen, the couple scouted the neighbourhood for a suitable restaurant space.

“We decided we wanted to do a restaurant together,” says Piège, 44, who has created a thriving miniature empire on the Rue Saint Dominique in the 7th arrondissement since leaving behind the two Michelin stars he won as chef at the Hôtel de Crillon in 2009. Piège’s stable includes the fashionable brasserie Thoumieux, Restaurant Jean-Francois Piège, a patisserie and a hotel. “We wanted a place that would be intimate and convivial,” he says, “a restaurant where our friends would come, with delicious healthy modern French cooking.”

Since Clover, which is a reference to the four-leafed objets that Piège has been collecting for years, opened last December, it’s become one of the toughest reservations to land in Paris. One reason is that it only seats 20 and another is the kitchen’s inventive cooking has succeeded in finding the balancing point between good health and gastronomic pleasure. However, perhaps most important of all is that the Germanopratins, or that tribe of Saint-Germain-des-Prés residents comprising gallery owners, artists, book editors, fashion executives and other worldly types, immediately fell in love with this address.

Piège and his wife chose interior designer Charlotte Biltgen to design the restaurant, and she covered the walls with cream-coloured Japanese glass ‘raku’ tiles and diamond-shaped wooden shakes in a fish-scale pattern.

“Since the restaurant is so compact, you see everything, so every detail matters,” says Piège, adding that he and his wife shopped for tableware everywhere from Venice, California – whence came the ceramics – to the potteries of Vermont, sourcing the rattan-like chairs from Sweden.

A single tasting menu is served at Clover, which is to evolve with the seasons and the chef’s inspiration, but what will remain constant is Piège’s commitment to healthy food.

“There’s almost no fat in the cooking at Clover,” he says. “So we create flavour with different tones of acidity, umami-rich compositions, smoke and other techniques.”

The highlights of a recent meal included puffed grilled quinoa wafers with aubergine-and-black-sesame purée, steamed croaker fish with a thatch of pink radish shavings in a luscious butter-yellow pool of nasturtium flower juice, and a small delicate pastry tourte filled with boned wild duck and foie gras, topped with black truffles.

Clover, 5 rue Perronet, 75007 Paris, Tel: +33 1 75 50 00 05. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Lunch menus €28/€42. Dinner menus €58/€73.

From France Today magazine

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