“Avoir l’eau à la bouche”, which means “mouth-watering”. This expression assumes its full meaning at 85 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, rightly named “Bouche”. A local restaurant in Paris’s 11th arrondissement – the...
Some people like to share a snack with friends; others will say it’s all about nibbling! But for Vincent Bielhy and Anastasia Rohaut, there is nothing better than sharing a bite to eat. These are the best moments life has to offer, with friends gathered around the table. A culture of great but uncomplicated food that they were itching to present in the Paris bistrot they have named “Becquetance”. A light-hearted play on words that perfectly embodies their love of language. A language that laughs, delights and savours. The premises they redesigned together as a family – from the renovation to the structural work – are intimate, to say the least, and the duo does not deviate from the rule – quite the contrary – of closeness and camaraderie that is so typical of places up on the Butte de Ménilmontant. “Honest, unpretentious and generous”, the chef’s cooking combines with her team-mate’s assured taste in selecting “eclectic and serious” organic wines. The meaningful marriage of a mutual desire for simplicity to create a restaurant that is “demanding but readily accessible”. Because there is no question of the chef theorising about her cooking. She doesn’t intellectualise; she follows her instincts and adopts a fresh, new approach to traditional concepts by “(associating) one or more elements from other culinary cultures”. A true taste for mixing and mingling that is reflected in the very fabric of 67 Rue de Ménilmontant. The old, like the Trash wall – a genuine vestige of the past life of the place – rubs shoulders with vibrant ceramic creations from the Zoug Zoug workshop and the graphic lighting by Clément Jacq. These creations form an ideal backdrop for meeting up with other cheeky food lovers to (re)discover seasonal dishes that have as much spirit as their creators!
Restaurant Becquetance, 67 Rue de Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris. Open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 3pm and from 7pm to midnight. Reservations at 01 40 30 22 97.
Anastasia and Vincent, can you introduce yourselves, please?
What is your background?
Why did you both decide to become partners?
We met through our respective spouses, both architects. They were working in the same agency at the time. Anastasia was running the kitchen of a small bistrot near the Bourse, and we were both looking for something to reflect our personalities. The outlines of what we wanted were very vague at the time. We got to know each other by discussing what we liked about food and morning and by drawing upon our respective experiences. I thought Anastasia’s cooking was both traditional and generous, with a touch of creativity that kept the food from being boring. And it goes without saying that it was delicious.
We found ourselves coming round to the idea of a bistrot, a welcoming neighbourhood place where you eat a variety of unpretentious seasonal dishes prepared without fuss but with great care.
What is the aim of Becquetance in terms of its offer?
Why did you choose such a small space to set yourselves up in?
When we first visited the premises, we had to be really imaginative because there was nothing inside. Everything was a shambles, but we felt we could do something good with it. We wanted a small place, because it has a feeling of closeness and camaraderie. And a small place was ideal because we are a small team. Our friend Hugo Marchal has joined us in the kitchen for the evening service. And finally, we wanted a small space because our setup budget was limited.
Why did you choose this name for your bistrot?
This name had been on Vincent’s mind for some time, I think. We share a certain taste for the French language and its different shades of meaning. “Becquetance” is a slang word for food, and slang is a dialect more than approved on the Butte de Ménilmontant. We wanted a word that evoked simplicity and conviviality, while showing our cheeky side. The idea of honest food, unpretentious and made with high-quality products.
We share a certain taste for the French language and its different shades of meaning. “Becquetance” is a slang word for food, and slang is a dialect more than approved on the Butte de Ménilmontant
What materials did you choose to use here, and why?
Which craftspeople did you work with when it came to decoration?
This is probably the most difficult question for me, because I don’t theorise about my cooking at all. My dishes and menus are mostly conceived instinctively, using the season and what it offers us as a basis. I like to work on the principle that things that grow at the same time must go together in at least one way, perhaps even in a hundred ways. I work closely with producers and suppliers, and quality is of primary importance. Jean-Luc Larcade, from Les Petites Fermes, has had my complete trust for years now. We have been working with wonderful vegetables from Les Trois Parcelles farm since the beginning, and Tom Saveurs and Le Bateau de Thibault supply us with seafood. The delicious creams and cottage cheese from Maison Borniambuc are also great allies. And we mustn’t forget our local friends, Benoît Castel, for the bread, and Crème for the cheese. As well as carefully chosen seasonal products, the basis of my cooking is traditional bistrot food and sometimes even the food my grandmother made. I love honest, unpretentious and generous cooking. I especially like to take a new approach to a dish by adding one or more elements from other culinary cultures. Mixing cultures in cooking is something that is quite central to what I enjoy doing.
The menu changes very frequently, several times a week, and some dishes are one-offs. I work a lot on instinct, so it is rare to eat exactly the same thing twice at Becquetance. However, a few dishes come up regularly, and are very popular: there’s the country terrine, the gravlax salmon and sticky rice, and the sausage with a purée on Monday lunchtime. Then there’s the bao with smoked black pudding, the chocolate buckwheat fondant and a pistachio-orange blossom cottage cheese brûlé. The lunch and dinner menus are published each day in a story on Instagram.
You keep a very good cellar. Where does this love of wine come from? Ans what will we find on the wine list?
My taste for wine, and especially for natural wine, came gradually. I was converted after being stopped in my tracks by an amazing bottle of wine at Michel Guignier, La Petite Oseille. I wasn’t really a wine drinker, to begin with. I became passionate about it because the wines tasted different from what I had seen of “conventional” wine – that is, the sort of wines we drank when we were younger, on a night out, or with the family when they were medium-quality bottles at the table. We took some time to build up this cellar. In terms of atmosphere, we want the wine in our restaurant to be a friend thing, wine of quality, of course, but above all, to bring people together. You can enjoy wines from talented young winemakers such as Lambert Spielmann or Corentin Houillon, as well as those from more experienced winemakers such as Gérald and Jocelyne Oustric and Patrick Meyer, or Georgian wines that we share with the Supra cellar in Belleville.
Your bistrot is located in the 20th arrondissement. Why did you choose this particular district?
We wanted to set up in the 20th arrondissement because we spend most of our time there. We feel comfortable there, and we wanted to set up a canteen in a place where we like to be. Ménilmontant is a neighbourhood that still has a real social mix and a friendly atmosphere maintained by the inhabitants, the shopkeepers, and the community.
Where will we find you in the coming months?
We’ll be at Becquetance from Monday to Friday, obviously! We’re closing in August, but we’ll be back in full swing in the autumn.
The menu changes very frequently, several times a week, and some dishes are one-offs. I work a lot on instinct, so it is rare to eat exactly the same thing twice at Becquetance.
Photographies : Jeanne Perrotte – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily