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El Fogon, Spanish restaurant in 6th arrondissement

El Fogon, a Spanish restaurant currently at the height of hype…

Paris is not only the city of lights. It’s also the city of stars. Film stars, theatre, TV stars. You bump into them in the street, in shops and in restaurants, at least certain restaurants. El Fogon, a Spanish restaurant currently at the height of hype, is one of them. Its designer interior and prohibitive prices attract those who want (or need) to be seen where it’s good to be seen.

And so it was when we went for lunch there. Well-known french actor Pierre Arditi was in one corner with a man who spoke far too loudly, interior design deity Andre Putnam was a couple of tables away. As mere mortals we were suitable impressed by the company, not so much by the food.

Not that it’s bad. It’s not, it’s rather good. But it’s dear for what it is. Our first course of gaspacho with almonds could be accused of being subtle to the point of bland. The tomato bread was OK, but cost 7 euros (in Barcelona you could have had seven plates of it for that price). The mini tapas that finished off the first course were inventive (sardine and watermelon anyone?) but sounded a lot more impressive than they tasted.

The main course was much more of a success. Specialising in paellas, we found theirs to be succulent, with beautifully fresh vegetables and rice cooked to perfection. Perhaps the designer décor (a little cold for our taste) isn’t the only reason for the restaurant’s hip reputation. Also, to be fair, it’s in a prime location just near the Seine in Saint Germain, and the service was impeccable.

The tapas sucré sounded like an original dessert, and came as a selection of four tiny desserts on an oblong wooden serving dish. The basil sorbet was brilliant, the ‘chocolat explosif’ really was exciting, and yet the apricot soup was dull, the fortified Spanish wine nothing special.

Altogether a hit and miss affair for us then. Admittedly, we did not try the special tapas menu (5 euros more expensive than ours at 40 euros per person) as we are vegetarian and it includes meat, but its concept of “a tour of Spain through a selection of tapas” sounded enticing. And eating à la carte may reveal further unexpected tastes. Our pocket wouldn’t quite stretch to that.

So Fogon is good for the company it keeps, and its adventurous – if not 100% successful – approach to giving traditional tapas a modern twist. The reputation and designer interior hike the prices up (although you could pay a lot more for a meal in central Paris), and whilst some dishes disappoint, you won’t forget the paella for a while.

Perhaps our photos will help you decide whether it’s somewhere you would like to try…

Andrée Putman at El Fogon