It’s not very often I write a negative review; as an ex-restaurateur I know what it’s like to have an off day, and customers are sometimes too quick to judge when things are less than perfect. This is the problem and the challenge when running a restaurant: you are always on show, and a customer gets but a snapshot. However, before Christmas, I went to Paris for the day. It was a Tuesday and I needed to be around the 2eme. Alexander Lobrano’s blog Hungry for Paris is usually pretty reliable, so I booked one of his recommendations. After his description, I was looking forward to lunch all the way there on the Eurostar.
L’Hedoniste looks as completely unlike its name as is possible. There are whiffs of the modern pared-down distressed look, but not in a good way. It is just plain drab and joyless. The bar front was faced in wallpaper to simulate a metallic finish and the stools were cheap. There were eight other lunchers as I entered the premises at 1.30, and two menu formules: two courses from a no choice menu for 19€, or two courses from a 28.50€ menu which had three choices in each section. Confused? So was I with this bizarrely complicated offering. For non meat eaters, there was fish or fish, and one of those was with meat.
After five minutes, I had to ask for a drink; at no time was a wine list offered, and I didn’t feel inclined to add to the fun, but was completely starving, so decided to stay, and just drink tap water. To start I chose a cauliflower velouté with red mullet from the more expensive menu. Veloutés are often found on menus in French restaurants, with mixed results. This one tasted much better than it looked, with Asian spices and some miniscule crunchy garnishes for texture, but was simply too thick. The high point was a scallop dish which showcased the talents of the chef partner, Sebastien Dubulle. It was cooked with endive, dill, jus de boeuf and citron caviar, completely delicious and memorable ie I can recall it now vividly. But unfortunately this did not compensate for the tinny music being played through some inadequate speakers, the sight of the staff coats hung up in the seating area, and reviews from the press stuck up on the window with blue tack.
As I got up to leave at 2.40, I looked behind at the natural light streaming in from above to the space behind the kitchen. With my consultant’s hat on, I wanted to suggest how the premises could be re-organised, so that the customer area could benefit from this; the staff seemed to be enjoying the best spot. But they were too busy turning off the lights.
A few streets away, Gregory Marchand has just opened Frenchie Bar à Vins, a more relaxed version of his legendary Frenchie restaurant opposite, with much more professionalism and atmosphere, and cheaper. l’Hedoniste has to get a bit more hedonistic if it is going to stay in the competition.
14 Rue Léopold Bellan
Tel: 0033 1 40 26 87 33