When Chef-Owner Gregory Marchand came out of nowhere five years ago and opened this cute little neighborhood bistro on an alley in the garment district – he surprised everyone with its urban location and affordable high quality food. When the buzz started, I remember thinking, “Who in their right mind would go to Les Halles to eat in a (then) seedy alley?” – and what he was charging for an entire meal of that quality used to be what Parisians paid for one starter. Little did he know he would redefine how we eat in Paris. Today, crossing town to eat in an alley is completely cool, especially when the restaurant is Frenchie.
Despite its huge international success, it still has its relaxed neighborhood vibe. Monday – Friday nights, it is buzzing with regulars who know each other and also visitors thrilled to have scored a table.
It looks like a bistro, but with staggered seating times (starting at 6:30pm) diners are given proper restaurant-style service (which one does not get in a bistro) – and Greg is even in the dining room putting the finishing touches on the plates and mingling with guests.
The cream-colored ivory leather banquettes, zinc tables and whitewashed brick walls give the tiny space an intimate feel – especially for diners lucky enough to sit at the new two-person bar seats next to Greg and watch him work.
His menus change with the seasons and are either a la carte or carte blanche (5 courses for 58€) – with each course taking you on Greg’s travels to Hong Kong, London & NYC.
Choose from entrees of layered fig & duck foie gras drizzled with Xeres sherry vinegar (18€), delicate Banka trout, cauliflower & tangy kalamantsi citrus (16€), and gently seared red tuna (from fab French fishing port St Jean de Luz) nestled on a bed of mussels/baby tomatoes & confit lemon (17€).
Mains could be roasted chicken with sweet corn, combawa & shoulder of pork raised in the Basque mountains (28€), Ile d’Yeu monkfish cooked on the bone with summer vegetables & soubressade sausage (24€), or short horn beef with cepes mushrooms & crispy green salt marsh salicornes (34€).
Choosing from either British cheese from everyone’s favorite Neal’s Yard Dairy (14€) is tough, when followed by ripe peaches, verveine, pecans & vanilla ice cream (10€), or red fruits, passion fruit crème & fromage blanc (11€).
If you are like me and are just as interested in wine as the food and ambiance, no worries at Frenchie. Sommelier Caroline Loiseleux is relentless in finding interesting small producers from all over the world and has crafted a beautiful wine program featuring small French & world producers. She can guide you through the cocktails, French/Italian/British artisanal beers and over a dozen wines by the glass (6€-13€), such as Jacques Selosse and Ulysse Collin (Champagne) to Matthieu Barret (Rhone), Eric Pfifferling (Tavel), Philippe Pacalet (Burgundy), Thomas Pico (Loire), Giacomo Conterno (Italy), Olivier Riviere (Spain) & Vincent Wallard (Argentina).
Frenchie is that kind of feel-good place that when your taxi whisks you away after the meal and you see others still in the dining room, you feel like you’ve left the dinner party just a bit too early.