Circus Teatime in Paris – Homage to the New French Film “Chocolat”

News is spreading in Paris this week of tomorrow’s release of Roschdy Zem’s new French film, “Chocolat”.

Chocolat French film Paris advert

Thankfully the shiny billboard’s image of a clown dispels any confusion with the previous film about a woman and a daughter opening a chocolate shop in rural France. Instead, this film is based on the true-life story of Raphael Padilla, nicknamed “Chocolat”, a former Cuban-born slave who became the first black circus artist in France at the end of the 19th Century.

Nouveau Cirque rue saint honore paris 19th century

Photos currently on display at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris

Historical Address

Most of the film’s story takes place at number 251, rue Saint Honoré – now the modern location of the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The hotel is proud of its prestigious historical past: previously a convent, a hippodrome, royal equestrian school then the Nouveau Cirque. The film centres round the renowned modern circus popular with the elite Parisians from 1886 during the Belle Epoque era.

Mandarin Oriental Paris plaque Foottit et Chocolat Paris clowns

On 20 January, a commemorative plaque was unveiled outside the hotel by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the “Chocolat” film crew. It reads:

“Here, at the Nouveau Cirque Raphael Padilla known as the “Chocolate Clown” (c. 1868-1917), born a slave in Cuba, and Georges Foottit (1864-1921) invented the clown comedy, associating the White Clown and Auguste”.


White Clown and Auguste; Foottit and Chocolat

It’s no surprise that the role of the more sophisticated, “sad” White Clown, George Foottit, is played by James Thierrée, a celebrated circus performer himself – and grandson of Charlie Chaplin. Known on film as a character clown, Chaplin wrote and directed the blockbuster silent film, The Circus (1928), considered one of his best comedies.

Clowns Foottit et Chocolat poster

Omar Sy plays the role of Raphael Padilla. Padilla was sold into slavery at age 9, then escaped to Europe to be discovered by Foottit when he was 18. As the outrageous Auguste clown, Padilla was known as “Chocolat” on stage. It’s a term that made it into French slang, as the expression “Être chocolat” (to be chocolate), means to be ridiculed or abused.
Foottit repeated, “Monsieur Chocolat, I’m obliged to hit you”. After being regularly duped, Padilla announced to his captivated audience, “I’m Chocolate” – a formula that would lead to 15 years of phenomenal clowning comic success.

Bento Circus Teatime Paris

Candy Floss, Clown Bow Ties and Red Noses

To celebrate the historical duo and such a glorious history of the Mandarin Oriental’s location, Thierry Marx and pastry chef Pierre Mathieu have created an exceptional gourmet duo together with their afternoon tea in Paris – with a difference. Be prepared to tickle your taste-buds with the “Bento Circus” at the Camélia restaurant and Cake Shop.

Three mysteriously stacked dishes gradually unveil a clown-inspired feast of nine entertaining treats for the senses.

Circus Bento Teatime Thierry Marx Camelia Paris

The three mini “starters” are perhaps savoury but with a Pomme d’Amour of fresh goats cheese rolled in piquillo pepper, sesame and parmesan, the first smiles are guaranteed.
An adult version of candy-floss has us deliciously tricked with hidden foie-gras, but for me the showstopper is the more serious mini tart of smoked duck, sweetcorn cream and caramelized popcorn.

Smoked duck tartlet sweetcorn cream and caramelised popcorn

The Auguste clown comes more into play with the next sweets on stage: a pistachio flowered hat, a crispy praline chocolate mousse with a lion ring – and a memorable coconut star crowning an exotic fruit tartlet that has me believe my feet have outgrown their shoes.

pistachio exotic fruit praline tartlets Thierry Marx Paris

As our charming server poured more tea from an oversized pot, he seemed surprised how little milk was used for a cloud of milk (“une nuage de lait”). No clowning about: for just a drop of milk, next time I’ll remember clowns’ tears: “Une larme de lait.”

At this point, it’s hard to believe that the show still goes on. The finale demonstrates an inventive vanilla clown’s eye, an explosive lemon bow-tie and an oversized red nose, concealing blackcurrant-blackberry confit and a vanilla-rose mousse in white chocolate.

Clown bento teatime Paris for French film Chocolat

Service is faultless: attentive, friendly yet relaxing – all ingredients for the perfect teatime of stylishly clowning about in Paris! And at 38 euros for such a prominent address, this celebratory Circus Teatime at the Camélia is great clowning value.

Bento Circus Teatime (until 31 March 2016)
Camélia Cake Shop
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré
75001 Paris

Tel: (+33) 01 70 98 78 88

Update February 2017: Winter Teatime at the Camélia.

This article was first published by


Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to taste the Circus Teatime. I was not required to write a review. As always, all opinions are my own.

A Perfect Lunch, Vegan Teatime & History of the Shangri-La Palace, Paris

It was an unusual time last week. Only a mere few days after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the already serene and discrete neighbourhood in Paris’s chic 16th arrondissement was particularly quiet.

Cast iron original gates to Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, Shangri-La Hotel Paris

Security was welcomingly tight and the original cast iron gates to the Palais d’Iéna were unusually ajar, but business was open as usual.  I was glad my lunch date wasn’t called off as I jumped on the RER train into the City. I just wished more visitors could have shared moments like this, rather than naturally take fright and cancel their trip.

All of us have been shocked, subdued, apprehensive, pensive, confused, but it’s time to get back to life and celebrate it, not let terrorism win. So let me whisk you back to Paris where life goes on, and come inside to admire a unique blend of Asian hospitality and French art de vivre.

Entrance to Shangri-La Palace hotel Paris

As soon as you walk into the welcoming lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, it clear that it’s not just one of the most elegant Palace hotels in Paris. It’s a fascinating step back to 1896 when Prince Roland Bonaparte (1858-1924), the grand-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, moved in to his residential home after four years of construction.

Today, thanks to the Shangri-La Hotel – who bought the palace from the French Centre of Foreign Trade in 2006 (it previously belonged to the Suez Canal Bank Company from 1925 amongst others) – the palace opened in 2010 after a mammoth four-year renovation project respecting its French heritage and, since 2009, much of the building is listed as a National Historical Monument.

Lobby of the Shangri-La Paris

The Palace retains its mix of 17th and 19th century eclectic styles plus is given a clever, contemporary luxury feel with all the comforts of a modern Palace hotel.

It’s no coincidence that the main grand Staircase of Honour looks so regal: it was designed by the Moreau brothers of the Château de Chantilly. The bronze statue of a child holding a torch leads us upstairs to the residential salons.

Grand Staircase Shangri-La Palace Paris

On the first floor with its giant reception rooms, the original marble continues throughout, as does renovated and original wooden flooring, stained glass and the likes.

Shangri-La Paris Hotel original marble from Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace

Original marble. In the ceiling, an original zodiac sculpture

The impressive main reception or banquet space is the Grand Salon, decorated in Louis XIV style. What a venue for a wedding, and just across the landing is yet another terrace looking over at the Eiffel Tower. It’s enough incentive to get married again, even to the same husband!

This trumeaux mirror reflects yet another mirror which previously framed a large portrait of Prince Roland’s Grand Uncle, Napoleon I (his brother was Roland’s grandfather, Lucien Bonaparte).

Grand Salon of Prince Roland Bonaparte's Palace, now the Shangri-La Paris

Imperial signs of Prince Roland are reminders of the Bonapartes, with recurring eagles and bees of the first and later second empire in the architecture throughout the palace.  Look out for the beautiful bees in the Chimneys – and you’ll see them flying around many lush curtains and other furnishings.

Prince Roland Bonaparte's ornamental symbols in the Palace Iena

Bonaparte imperial emblems of the eagle and the bee are present throughout the architecture

But reminders of his presence don’t just include the ornate bells and whistles that remind us that he was last male descendent of the Lucien Bonaparte line. Clever clogs Prince Roland was foremost an explorer, geographer and botanist, named president of the Geographical Society in 1910 – a position he held until his death in 1924 at age 66 – plus nominated President of the Scientific Academy.

Forced to abandon a military career due to new legislation in 1886 banning the relations of French rulers to serve in the armed forces, Prince Roland was devoted to botany. He cultivated the world’s largest private herbarium (2nd largest in France and 7th in the world), comprised of more than 2.5 million samples of about 300,000 herb and fern species. They were eventually moved to Lyon as there wasn’t enough space within Paris’ Natural History Museum!

Botanist drawings of Prince Roland Bonaparte's herbarium collection

Examples of his botanical collections are showcased in the lifts taking us to the 65 hotel rooms and 33 suites – many of them with unique views of the Eiffel Tower.

I was given a sneak peek at the spacious and bright Chaillot Suite, called after the Chaillot Hill upon which the hotel is located, and is the smallest of the three signature suites. That would do me fine, imagining myself as Julia Roberts sitting elegantly on this wrap-around balcony enjoying the Paris skyline sipping on something festive when the sun goes down and the City of Lights sparkle. But I dreamily digress.

Balcony of the Chaillot Suite, Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris

Prince Roland wasn’t keen on the new Eiffel Tower built for the World Fair in 1900. His private apartments (now the vast Suite Impériale which is also listed with Monuments Historiques) are on the other side of the building, facing Avenue d’Iéna and overlooking the Guimet Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the West.

Is it coincidence? The Prince was particularly fascinated by the Eastern world and his world expeditions inspired him to write one such essay on the rising curiosity within Europe about China and its culture. I bet he would also have had a few things to say at the Climate Conference next week in Paris.

Gardens at the Iena Palace overlooked by the Eiffel Tower Paris

Back on ground to the present, another conference was taking place in the Michelin starred Abeille restaurant, with the view over the pristine garden. Their other restaurant, the Shang Palace, is the only Cantonese restaurant in France with a Michelin Star. But for teatime and for a light lunch or dinner, the social hub venue is here at La Bauhinia.



La Bauhinia takes its name from the iconic five-petalled orchid flower that graces the Hong Kong flag. This is a contemporary restaurant where creative executive Michelin star Chef, Christophe Moret offers French and South-East Asian cuisine, complete with a popular “100% Green Menu” with constantly varying vegan dishes since the summer.

I chose their signature Asian favourites since, although there are many contemporary French dishes to tempt, I felt the need to turn up the Autumn heat and make a culinary stop in Malaysia with this classic coconut chicken soup with lemongrass, Sup Santan Ayam. On the menu, it wasn’t given a spicy chili sign but had just the loveliest, hint of background kick to warm the senses.

Malaysian chicken coconut lemongrass soup Shangri-La Paris

The menu is beautifully varied and there’s temptation for all palates. Two lightly spiced salads could have also been just the ticket – how about a grapefruit salad with prawns, coriander, peanuts and lime?  The soup went best with the main course, although the vegan options with mushrooms in thin sheets of chestnut with a hazelnut and soy emulsion were swaying me to confuse the waiter.

Even during the darkest of French winter days with a Murano three-tiered chandelier, the natural light still shines through directly from above in the 1930s-era restaurant. During the renovations of the courtyard, this glass and steel Eiffel Tower inspired treasure was discovered completely by surprise behind a false dropped ceiling put in place by the building’s former corporate residents.

La Bauhinia Shangri-La Paris Hotel - Coupole light ceiling

One of my most memorable dishes was Pad Thai when I visited Thailand.  I had a few of them but only one stands out in Bangkok, served in a banana leaf boat.  This didn’t need a boat as Chef Moret’s Shrimp Pad Thai just hit the spot and took me back to that special taste with its mix of textures, flavours and colours of rice noodles sautéed with shrimp, scrambled egg, soy bean sprouts, daikon, cabbage, peanuts, lime, garlic, tamarind.

A recommended glass of Savennières, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire, was the perfect partner with such exquisite exotic flavours. It was also the ideal excuse as a sipping break when noodles slipped between undisciplined chopsticks.

Next time, I could catch the waiter for the fish of the day with its saffron and truffle risotto or the Sole Meunière, opt for an Aberdeen Angus steak, or choose from the vegan menu with a pumpkin and squash Tatin with coconut.  If you prefer to light up the winter fire, then the stewed lamb in a Malaysian red curry with coconut would change the inner climate and possibly produce condensation on the coupole glass roof.

Shrimp Pad Thai from the Shangri-La Paris

Vegan Teatime Paris

Would you believe I couldn’t even manage dessert? How could I possibly turn down a chocolate tart on the menu, exotic fruits or even an Asian-style exotic puff pastry with Tahitian vanilla and spiced caramel?  Perhaps I’ve been deliciously sweetened out, tasting and testing so many of the recipes before Teatime in Paris was published!

Instead, I was surprised with a mini-tasting of the most innovative and healthy vegan French pastries, brilliantly crafted by the head pastry chef, Michaël Bartocetti, who joined the team in June.

Vegan teatime Paris or afternoon tea at the Shangri-La Palace

Vegan pastry treats including a nutty financier, a fruity-nutty mosaîc, chocolate cookie,”les Figolu” fig roll cake, and a lime shortbread

Following nearly three months of research, chef Bartocetti recently introduced these healthy pastries which not only use seasonal products, but eggs are cleverly replaced by vegetable proteins; non-refined sugars (such as coconut oil and maple syrup) are used; and there are no additives. Flour is replaced by a range of chestnut, buckwheat “flour” (I say flour but chestnut is gluten-free and so is buckwheat which isn’t wheat at all – it comes from the rhubarb family!). Milk is replaced by homemade vegetable milks (almond, soya etc.)

About ten pastries fall under this vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free choice.

Vegan Teatime Paris with a Mont-Blanc

As for the other exquisite-looking vegan pastries, including this Chestnut and Blackcurrant Mont-Blanc (uses no egg whites), I’ll just have to save my appetite for another visit or perhaps I may have tempted you to get there before me.

As of 28th November, the hotel will be glowing with festive cheer and holiday magic – and, if you’re lucky to be in Paris between 5-25 December, I hear that Chef Michaël Bartocetti has created a special “Christmas Sphere” yule log!

Shangri-La Palace Hotel Paris
10 Avenue d’Iéna
75116 Paris
Tel: 01 53 67 19 98

La Bauhinia Restaurant
Reservations: 01-53 67 19 91

Eiffel Tower Paris, November 2015

With sincere thanks to the Shangri-La Paris for sharing such an enlightening bite of French history.
Vive la France, its heritage and cheers to the French art of living!

Camélia Restaurant in Paris by Thierry Marx

When the entrance to a restaurant is a pâtisserie known as le ‘Cake-Shop’, wouldn’t you be excited?

Camelia restaurant Thierry Marx Paris

Antoine didn’t need any sweet-talking to treat me here for lunch. It has been on my top restaurant dream list for months (OK, I’ll be honest – since 2011 when it opened) since the Chef, Thierry Marx, is one of my French super-heroes! So what was the special occasion? An early Valentine’s Day ‘surprise’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Valentine’s Day and eating out we avoid it and prefer to spend the evening at home over a romantic dinner with our girls. So the timing was perfect.

Calm. Cool. Cosy. The Camélia at the Hôtel Mandarin Oriental in Paris.  It’s more accessible and less sophisticated than the more chic, bigger brother restaurant, Sur Mesure.  The room is airy and light and when the weather is more clement, guests can eat in the gardens surrounded by camellias.

Entrance to Mandarin Oriental Hotel Paris

The Camélia also happens to be in one of my favourite delicious streets of Paris, Rue Saint-Honoré. If you follow me on Instragram or Facebook you’ll have a taster of Pierre Marcolini’s new chocolate boutique just a few doors down – where the macarons take pride of place – and that’s only just a few doors down again from Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate shop and bar.  So whoah – what a street!

First off, let me explain that when I’m in a restaurant, I don’t click and point the camera at all angles.  I also respect fellow diners, so my apologies for the lack of photos, all taken discretely with my ‘phone.

Are you ready for lunch?  On your Marx, get set, what a menu!

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Paris apéritif time

A lovely touch from the Sommelier, David Biraud, is that wines by the glass are poured at the table from impressive Magnum bottles.  Most important, however, are the wines.  The choice was excellent, even if my favourite Condrieu was out of stock but a glass of Marsannay from Burgundy had ample long-lingering creamy floral flavours, served with the most succulent olives and truffle roasted nuts.

While I was tempted to go for the chef’s speciality of squid tagliatelle on a bed of squid ink risoni, I instead opted for the lunch menu, Daily Marx. 48 euros for either starter and main or main and dessert with a choice of 2 dishes per course.  Service was swift, friendly and the staff knew the menu inside out.  Our inquisitive neighbours certainly put them through their paces, while we just sat back and took in the delicious ambience of a couple of chefs in the centre island, chopping up vegetables and preparing the more intricate parts to each dish.

Gambas prawns in bonito broth by Thierry Marx

Tiger prawns, (snackées and tempura) with blood orange, endives (chicory) and a Dashi and bonito broth.  Although this is French cuisine, the chef makes his Marx (sorry, couldn’t resist that) with Japanese influences.

The main dish was where Chef Marx really strutted his Michelin-starred stuff by transforming the classic Blanquette de Veau in the most exquisite presentation.  As in my previous post, what’s so important in this dish is the sauce – and he certainly didn’t disappoint, with extra served separately on the side.  The classic vegetables were tasty, glistening jewels and the surprise was the crispy rice.  He did, however, add some comté cheese to the rice, which is the only ingredient altering the classic dish.

Blanquette of veal by Thierry Marx chef Camelia Restaurant Paris

This may look small in portion size but, for lunch, the veal was huge!  What with the homemade bread, rolls and salted Normandy butter (yes, butter is not often served in restaurants in Paris), it was difficult to refuse.  Oh, and I also just had to try the Alsace Riesling, as the sommelier insisted suggested that it was perfect with the veal.  If you know me well, you’ll understand how I love wine tasting…

I simply couldn’t manage dessert.  However, as we were settling the bill, the tastiest little sablés shortbread biscuits arrived with the lightest of chouquettes.

Mignardises sweet treats Camelia restaurant Paris

Don’t worry. I’m not going to disappoint you. That way I’ll be back here soon to fully enjoy the cake-shop for you.  Don’t you think that merits a separate post for the perfect teatime in Paris? Hopefully next time, I may even get to meet the great man himself?

Cake shop Mandarin Oriental Paris

Well I hear snow is on its way to Paris this week.  Wish us luck, as we’re driving down to Burgundy this weekend for the Fête de Saint Vincent Tournante – coming up next week!

Camélia Restaurant
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint-Honoré
75001 PARIS
Tel: 70 98 78 88

Daily Marx Menu served Monday-Friday 12h30-14h30.

Disclaimer: We were not guests of the hotel or restaurant.  This post is entirely personal and not sponsored in any way.

Les Enfants Rouges Restaurant & Wine Bar, Paris

I didn’t think this meal would happen finally.  Hubby announced he was running late, just as I arrived at the restaurant/wine bar. It’s normal.  He usually works late on a Friday night (he’s not your average Corsican). So I waited.

Ping. Text from daughter. Papa came home and panicked. Er, date night? He acted quick and took the car. The car? Let me explain: Les Enfants Rouges is in the heart of the Marais (centre east) in Paris; we live in the suburbs, nearer Versailles (south-west). Parking around this part of the Marais is not a piece of cake, either. Nearest is at République.

Les Enfants Rouges Restaurant wine bar Paris

With nothing to read except the menu card and wine list – plus my phone unable to capture any signal except for texts – I mentally altered my choices of intriguing bistro fare over a glass of Juraçon sec.  No nibbles. This is the kind of place you just get stuck in to the menu. As people arrived and were tucking in, the decibels in the room escalated.  The decor is simple and the chairs hard, so if you do have back problems and your date is prone to being late, take a cushion.

glass of jurancon sec at les enfants rouges wine bar Paris

All the emphasis is on the cooking.  Chef Shinozuka is Japanese – an exciting ingredient added to typical French fare which drew me here in the first place, along that he previously worked next to Yves Camdeborde at his famous Le Comptoir du Relais in St Germain-des-Prés. This was our occasional hangout before Camdeborde became a French MasterChef judge. Hence Les Enfants Rouges is a promising Paris bistro address I’ve been meaning to visit ever since it opened last year.

Chef Shinozuka’s smiling, welcoming wife works in the dining room. We immediately recognised her (and the waitress) from Le Comptoir.  We already felt at home.

menu and wine list at les enfants rouges restaurant paris

A surprise amuse-bouche arrived: a potato soup with bacon mousse that announced classic, or surprises to come?

My entrée was impeccable.  It doesn’t look much from here in that little black pan but the combined flavours of the fried egg, pleurette mushrooms and exploding vinegar pearls surprised the tastebuds. The egg was perfection: bursting into a creamy pool of sunshine for the mushrooms. Antoine’s foaming herring caviar with Provençal asparagus was good, but I wasn’t sharing much of mine. Heaven.

starter courses of asparagus and mushroom egg, les enfants rouges Paris

It’s hard to believe I was vegetarian when I arrived in Paris over 20 years ago. Think what I could have missed here!  The beef cheeks (joues de boeuf) with green spring vegetables was where Chef Shinozuka strutted his stuff, twisting this bistro classic with the exotic. The sauce was more like a bouillon, with distinct notes of citronella lemon grass and a slight spicy heat.

cheeky dish of beef and lemongrass

What would you have ordered from the dessert menu?

The Corsican grapefruit with vanilla ice cream; or mint pannacotta with bitter chocolate and black pepper; or soup of fromage blanc with strawberries and speculoos biscuits?  Or perhaps you would go for the classic Baba au Rhum served with a side of Chantilly cream (this needs to be ordered at the start of the meal)?  I’d already made my mind up since the beginning.

I don’t know why I’m even telling you about this place, as I want to ensure I have a table easily here and wish I lived close enough to make it my canteen. But, because you’re mad about macarons, I’m sharing the bistro love… Les Enfants Rouges is excellent value for money and at 35 euros for the evening menu, I’m returning soon. Even with Antoine.

Les Enfants Rouge

9 rue de Beauce
75003 Paris

Metros:  Temple, Filles du Calvaire, Arts-et-Métiers or Saint Sébastien-Froissart

Open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday.

Reservations recommended.
Tel: 01  48 87 80 61

Date Night in Paris: Brasserie Thoumieux

It was way overdue. A night out.  On our own.  With dusk falling later on a clear Paris Spring Friday evening, I was meeting Antoine at the Brasserie Thoumieux. It was date night. Who says the French aren’t romantic?

Rue Saint Dominique Eiffel Tower view Paris

Brasserie Thoumieux is on one of my favourite streets in Paris, rue Saint-Dominique in the 7th arrondissement.  Not only is it dominated by the Eiffel Tower but it’s home to many other great eateries, patisseries, bakeries and chocolate shops. It’s also parallel to the quiet, hidden rue Bosquet, where we lived for 5 years. Twenty years on, walking around its neighbouring lively rue Cler, it’s filled with many more tourists than before and happy – often embarrassing – memories of being a newcomer in Paris. Moving swiftly on…

menu and aperitif Thoumieux brasserie 7th Paris

… like the waiters here. Service was attentive and swift but with enough time to peruse the interesting menu of chef Jean-François Piège. He’s perhaps more well known for being on the jury of France’s TopChef but he opened Thoumieux (also a restaurant and boutique hotel) with Thierry Costes, after leaving the hotel Crillon 5 years ago. Sipping on our apéritif (white Vinsobres wine – fun translation as sober wine!), we sat comfortably into the elegant Burgundy red velvety chairs while we spread the customary on-the-house smoked sardine rillettes (or pâté) on crusty bread, as we finally made our choices.

asparagus starter and pizza soufflé Brasserie Thoumieux Paris

Antoine normally goes for brasserie classics, although here they had a fun twist like the legendary pizza soufflé to start.  Chef Piège has put up the recipe here.  As the first of the asparagus from Provence poked its head on the menu, I couldn’t resist trying them with this puff pastry flower-pot presentation. Slightly too sweet for me but loved the sauce mousseline and toasted hazelnuts.  I’m definitely adding toasted hazelnuts to this asparagus clafoutis recipe (uses 4 egg yolks, macaron lovers!).

main courses at brasserie Thoumieux Paris

It’s hard to believe I was vegetarian for so long.  As Antoine loved his French take on a hamburger served in paper, I took my time with the perfectly cooked pigeon (pigeonneau is a young pigeon). As you can tell from the terrible photos, there wasn’t much light and by dessert, it was impossible to shoot something worthy of its taste. I went for the simple Gariguette sweet strawberries with a mint emulsion, although I got a strong tang of lime rather than mint which was just as good. (Incidentally, Thoumieux sounds like tout mieux, meaning ‘everything’s better’).

dessert menu proposals by chef Jean-Francois Piege

What’s also surprising are the value-for-money prices for such an elegant address.  The wine list is impressive and can rocket the bill but there are many by the glass and carafe options that are great value. Tables are not too close, either, so you can actually have a conversation at the table – although that Friday night it was perhaps different than usual but it was pleasantly calm.  I’m definitely returning to try other tempting dishes and lure hubby on another date night.

Brasserie near Eiffel Tower Paris

And it goes without saying, an after-dinner stroll to the Eiffel Tower is a romantic must. When in Paris…

Eiffel Tower night shot in Paris

Like date nights, this post is also way overdue. Blame it on being cut off from the internet for nearly two weeks!  Have you gone that long being disconnected?  Ouf!  It’s good to be back. Oh, and a quick disclaimer: all opinions are my own, this visit was purely personal and I was hubby’s guest.

Update 8 December:

I’m sad to report that on returning to the restaurant this weekend, we had an unlucky experience and feel you should be informed.  We arrived with friends on a Saturday night, assuring them this was going to be great.  No so.  By 8.30pm they dramatically turn down the lights.  So much so, it’s difficult to read the menu!  And if it’s hard trying to read the menu, you can imagine that eating isn’t that much easier: we could hardly see what I was on our plates!  Diners at neighbouring tables were also disturbed by this, as we were all fighting for more candles and using our mobile phone torches! Not one member of staff reacted to our asking for the lights to be turned up. What’s worse?  Yes, I’m afraid to say it continues: the service was not nearly up to the same quality as the previous time.  Sadly, we shall not be returning.

Brasserie Thoumieux
58 rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris
I found table reservations were easy by email via their website.
Open on Sundays and Mondays, too

Sweet Potato, Crab & Thai Herb Croquettes

There’s something magical about holidays.  It’s not only a precious time to reconnect with the family, unwind, stand back and gather our thoughts – but it’s also a vital break from the kitchen. There’s nothing more inspiring than eating out and discovering new flavours.

Just before Paris shut down for the holidays in August, Antoine and I headed to KGB in Paris to tickle the tastebuds.  Don’t you love the name, KGB?  When you book, there’s that inner excitement thinking that Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore could be reserved at the next table – although I’d prefer the original James Bond via my favourite Scot, Sean Connery (even if he came up to me and complained that we’d run out of programmes during the Edinburgh Festival, as I was ushering people to their seats as a student – but that’s another story.  All is forgiven, Sean: I couldn’t have agreed more with you – I was just swooning so much I did nothing about it.)

However, KGB stands for Kitchen Galérie Bis, as it’s the bistro version of William Ledeuil’s Michelin-starred restaurant in the same street, Ze Kitchen Galérie, on rue des Grands Augustins.

As we were headed for Thailand this summer, this was the perfect restaurant featuring fusion food at its best between Thai cooking and French cuisine. The service was just as attentive as its big brother and it was a privilege that the Executive Chef, Yariv Berrebi, invited me for a look behind the scenes in the bustling kitchen. What an impressive team they have that can produce such amazing dishes out of such a stifling small kitchen!

KGB “Zors-d’oeuvre”, cod croquette on basil béarnaise

The menu is almost like a Tapas menu in style, with the first array of amuse-bouches arriving called “zors-d’oeuvre”. I was immediately inspired with the cod croquettes with a basil béarnaise sauce and couldn’t wait to get back in ze kitchen back home to try out one of the recipes in my new cookbook, Ze Kitchen Galerie: La Cuisine de William Ledeuil.  The nearest was his Sweet Potato Croquettes, Crab and Thai Herbs with an Spicy Artichoke Condiment – although I’ve adapted it a bit, made a quick spicy basil mayonnaise instead, plus made bigger portions for a first course starter.

Crispy balls of sweet & spicy thai flavours

Sweet Potato, Crab & Thai Herb Croquettes with Spicy Basil Mayonnaise

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: Approx 30 minutes total


2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 lemongrass sticks
3 cloves garlic
240 g tinned crab (Ledeuil uses 200g fresh crabmeat but I didn’t have any to hand)
5 branches of fresh Thai basil, leaves only (chopped)
5 branches of fresh coriander, leaves only (chopped)
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 lime, untreated
3 tbps olive oil


100g egg whites
100g flour
150g panko breadcrumbs

1.  Cut the sweet potatoes into small cubes.  Cut the bottom off the lemongrass, remove the first 2 outer hard layers and cut in 2 horizontally.  Peel the garlic and chop finely.

2.  In a heavy frying pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil then sauté the garlic and lemongrass for a couple of minutes until fragrant.  Add the sweet potato and kaffir lime leaves and leave to sweat with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

3.  Once the sweet potato mixture is cooked, remove the lime leaves, crush the potato with a fork or masher (still over the heat to dry it a bit) and add the salt.  Take off the heat, add the crab, chopped herbs and the zest of the lime.  Mix well and leave to cool.

Mixing ourselves up before the messy palm roll

4.  Form the mixture into small balls, using the palm of your hands.  Place them on a baking tray and put them aside in the freezer for 20 minutes.  This will make it easier to work the mixture with the coating later.

5.  Prepare 3 separate bowls of egg white, flour and the panko (Japanese breadcrumbs.)

Roll in flour, egg white and panko

6.  Roll the balls successively in the flour, then egg white and finish off with the panko.  If the ‘phone rings, only pick up with these hands if urgent. 🙂

7.  Prepare the sauce: whisk up 4 tbsps of mayonnaise with 2 tsps of lime pesto (without the cheese), adding a finely chopped half red chili.

8.  Heat the fryer to 180°C and when hot, plunge the croquettes in for about 1min30 or until they are crisp and golden.  Repeat the process until all the mix is used up.

Quick sizzle in the frier

9. Drain on absorbant kitchen paper and serve.


Et voilà. Ready for some holiday fun in Thailand?  First Thai island adventure is coming up shortly…