Restaurant Allard

allard - 17We all know that Alain Ducasse has the Midas touch, many restaurants, many stars, and an haute French cuisine where accuracy and the quality of the elements are kings. But not only of Michelin stars and luxury hotels the Ducasse Empire is made, it also recovers several more traditional restaurants, staying loyal to the design of the space and the cuisine once practiced in them, like the Aux Lyonnais (about which I wrote here) or most recently the Allard. And it was this one we had the chance to visit during our last stay in Paris, a historical place, in the heart of the beautiful area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, founded in 1932 by Marthe Allard, a true “mother and cook” that brought her family recipes from Burgundy to Paris.

Since the 30’s it has been passing from generation to generation until 1985, staying loyal to Marthe’s cuisine, which captivated not only the local costumers but also international superstars like Marlon Brando or Orson Wells, a space that according to Andre Allard “clients don’t visit to make gastronomic discoveries, but because of the antique gastronomic knowledge”. And it’s that legacy Alain Ducasse proposes to respect and elevate since early in 2013.

Entering the restaurant, due to the decoration that was kept intact over the years, without looking an old or finished place but a piece of history, we feel like Gil, Owen Wilson’s character in the movie Midnight in Paris, as if the time went backwards and we were living other lives in other times.

allard - 12 The monumental butter of Allard

To start we are presented with the usual champagne glass, excellent quality bread and an amazing butter that was worth a whole meal (I must confess I’ve found myself thinking about it many, many times when spreading something in the bread).

allard - 13 Foie gras, Pickles and pâté en croûte d’Arnaud Nicolas
Followed a combo where two of the main starters of the restaurant were presented, the Foie Gras, cooked perfectly and with flawless flavor, and the Pâté en Croûte, created by Arnaud Nicolas (MOF in delicatessen). About the Pâté en Croûte, excellent dough, nicely cooked and crunchy, filled with Foie and pork, with an amazing result. Also the pickles, homemade, showed excellent quality and made very well the connection between the two starters, more fat and heavy.

allard - 11 Escargots, garlic-herb butter
One of the most traditional starters from Burgundy, the classic escargots with butter, herbs and lots of garlic. A simple dish that requires some care, namely the time it stays in the oven, so we don’t end up with rubber. In this case, very well accomplished, succulent and with an irresistible garlic and herb flavor, which was felt in the right amount. Capable of captivating the most reticent of the tasters.

Harmonized very nicely with a 2013 white Pouilly Fuissé of Domain Cornin, with white fruits and citrus notes and a very exotic mouth, which balanced very well the greasiness and the garlic of the escargots.

allard - 10Cocotte eggs with mushrooms, garlic bread
Another classic of the French traditional cuisine. Quite creamy eggs with the yolk involving with the rich mushroom sauce in an almost pornographic way. Well accompanied by the slightly toasted, and spread with garlic, bread. As a repair, it needed just a bit more salt.

For the wine, another good choice, with a red Maghani of Canet Valette, a wine full of elegance and still young, with plenty red fruit and chocolate.

allard - 7Turbot, Vegetables and Beurre blanc
A generous dose of what seemed to be a giant turbot (not those small ones sometimes sold as brill), still moist and succulent, and covered with magic: one of the sauces that became famous in Allard’s cuisine, the delicious and not so healthy Beurre Blanc, an emulsion of butter with a white wine vinegar reduction and shallots. Well sided by nicely turned vegetables with the correct texture.

To go with, a glass of Mas des Merveilles Viogner from 2012 of Château Lagrezette, of expressive nose and with notes of apricot and pineapple and a persistent ending that worked very well with the fish and its powerful sauce.

allard - 8Scallops “À la Grenobloise
Grenobloise, one of the classic ways of the French serving fish, accompanied with noisette butter, parsley, toasted bread and capers. The cooking of the scallops was perfect, with a nice contrast of flavors and textures in a dish that revealed to be slightly more heavy and difficult than the expected, much because of the excessive amount of capers.

Accompanying, a quite soft red that worked very well with the delicate scallops and the strongest flavors of the dish, a Crozes Hermitage, Cuvée Laurent 2013 of Domaine Combier.

allard - 6Selection of three cheeses
A goat cheese of the famous Dominique Fabre, a creamy and not so intense blue, and what seemed to me as a Livarot from Normandy. Correct temperatures and textures in a small and excellent selection.

With a 2010 Sauternes from Château Haut-Bergeron to accompany, with a nice complexity of aromas and a rich body that helped the degustation.

allard - 5 Lemon Meringue Tart
Very well prepared, thin and nicely cooked pastry, tasty cream with the right sweetness and acidity and a good meringue. Everything you can ask for in a good lemon tart.

allard - 4Vanilla Ile Flottante, praline
Another classic French dessert, very similar to the Portuguese “farófias”, but with another technical domain. Flawless presentation of the egg whites, correct texture and flavors, and a brilliant and intense vanilla sauce. Also important was the praline, whether by its texture whether by the caramel notes it brought to the dessert.

To finish, a wine that went with us from Porto, for a new rubric we’ll be presenting soon and which associates our travels to Portuguese wines, an excellent and versatile Graham’s Tawny 20 years to finish the meal in a brilliant way. An amazing wine for desserts as these ones, with eggs, vanilla, caramel and even the most acidic notes from the lemon.

allard - 3grThe wine list is filled with the most classic French references, normal once the house is always full of Anglo-Saxons seeking tradition, however the work of the young sommelier is notable, making all the harmonization’s work and not always with the most easy or obvious choices.

The Service was what we’re used to in a good French restaurant, very sharp and correct, with a good dose of sympathy and in this case, once it is a bistro, without most of the formalities and rules that sometimes make the meal a bit more “heavy”.

allard - 14Final Remarks
Ducasse gave new life to an historical restaurant of the city, with a respect for tradition like only the French can. Of his protégée’s hands, the young chef Laëtitia Rouabah, come out dishes full of soul, some of them dreamt and created by Marthe Allard almost a hundred years ago, nowadays recreated with accuracy, technique and the best ingredients. It is certain that no one is going to Allard in order to discover the French haute cuisine, or the mastery of Ducasse’s details, but they’ll certainly go to find the comfort and flavor of a tradition that passed from generation to generation, in that unique environment of a true and honest Bistro. It is not a cheap restaurant for sure, like any quality restaurant in Paris, but the lunch menu for 34€ can be an excellent way to enter the world of the most traditional French Bistros.

Restaurant Allard
41, rue Saint-André des Arts, Paris
+33 (0)1 58 00 23 42

Graham’s Tawny 20 years with the support of  Symington Family.

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