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La Gazzetta, a pleasantly surprising restaurant not far from Bastille

December’s a horrible month. It’s cold and wet. Xmas looms, with all the stress that comes with it. Finding a safe haven with good food can be a welcome relief at this time of year, and La Gazzetta was exactly the nice surprise we were looking for…

photos : JasonW

La Gazzetta is one of those places where you feel at home straight away. On the cold night that we arrived, the staff welcomed us with big smiles (very obviously happy and proud of their work) and the décor was very much to our liking; art deco cosy with flickering little candles everywhere, huge mirrors, stained glass and a welcoming old-style bar. In an area known more for its cheap market than its posh eateries, we were surprised that we’d never heard of it before.

In fact, the restaurant has only recently taken off, thanks to the arrival of Swedish chef Peter Nilsson at the end of 2006. Since then, its reputation has been building steadily and now a lot of people are saying a lot of nice things about the place. We decided to see if they were true.

First up, cocktails! But none of your standards please; a little menu laid out the original selection on offer. We decided to try the Cachemire (Saffron-infused vodka, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice) and a Crocus Martini which is apparently a variant of the above containing Noilly Pratt that Audrey Hepburn used to like. The tone was set!

And being in France, barely had the cocktails been sunk than we started on the wine, a nice organic red…

OK, down to business. Let’s have a look at ‘la carte’. It’s a fixed menu with the choice of four or six dishes at 37€ or 49€ respectively, although it you want all 6 dishes then the whole table will have to order them too. We thought that four dishes would easily be enough (and we were right), and as usual we had to warn the waiter that – being vegetarian – we’d need a little leniency. This didn’t seem to be a problem, and we awaited our food with an optimistic air (probably helped along by the cocktail and the wine).

In a few minutes, the first dish arrived. It looked like something from outer space.

In fact, the dish is “carrot and ricotta ravioli with vegetable bouillon, botargo and apricots”. I actually had to look up ‘botargo’ when I got home. It’s sometimes called the poor man’s caviar, being the dried part of a fish (I’d rather not get into the details) that is sort of like anchovies, except a lot more expensive. The pasta was firm, holding the whole thing together, and the mix of tastes was very interesting. Our evening was off to a good start.

As one of the main dishes was meat, we were given two fish dishes one after the other. First came “Oven baked cod with puntarelle, pomelo and tarragon”. Puntarelle looks like wiry asparagus, except all the branches are attached at the base. As part of the chicory family, it is bitter though. Once again, the mix of tart and sweet counterpointed the fairly subtle taste of the fish, leaving you to move each mouthful around your tongue to get a full appreciation of the different tastes on offer. The fish itself melted away. Fish like this is one of my guilty pleasures…

The second fish dish, served after a respectable pause of ten minutes, looked sort of similar but tasted very different. It was gilt-head bream served on a bed of pumpkin (potimarron) and bitter orange. Very surprising and innovative.

By now we were starting to feel full, but even after several savoury dishes you always have room for dessert, don’t you? After a few minutes of helping our food go down (large glasses of wine always do the job well) our desserts arrived, and starting analysing the tastes in both of them. The russet apple compote, with ‘raw’ cream (unpasteurised) and cardamom with sweet and melty, and the cream extremely soft and rich.

The chocolate and dried fruit pudding was very Xmas-y and came served with almond milk sorbet and a caramel coulis. Once again, a surprising mix and a great success.

Finally, our coffee came served with two little cakes that looked so delicious, I didn’t even have time to get a photo of them before we had tucked in!

La Gazzetta isn’t the cheapest or most central restaurant in town, but it was an extremely agreeable surprise. The staff was uniformly pleasant, the atmosphere was cool and relaxed and the food was the most innovative and successful that we have tasted for a while. As they are often booked up, you really should call a couple of days before in order to reserve your table. We don’t think you’ll regret it.

You can check out our full Flickr gallery of the restaurant here.

La Gazzetta, 29 rue de Cotte, 75012 Paris. Métro Ledru-Rollin (line 8).
Tel. 01 43 47 47 05
Closed Sundays & Mondays
Official site: here.

Bigger map here