Freshly launched in Le Marais, néo-bistrot Les Foodies is already becoming an unforgettable name! It all began in the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school, where Alex Kogan...
Oliver, what is your story?
Coming from a family PR & Retail Background, I love to tell a story and sell stuff. I originally arrived in France aged 19 during what in the U.K. is called a ‘Gap Year’, when students take a year off between their A-Levels and University to travel and broaden their outlook on life before taking their degree. I was supposed to come to France for six months to learn French but ended-up staying a bit longer.
How did the idea of this British brasserie come into being?
Most people fall-back sooner or later into what they instinctively know, and British Cuisine is what I grew-up with, my mother is a formidable cook. I combined that with being fed-up of being permanently wound-up by my French friends that British food was rubbish, (sometimes it is, but that can also be said about all countries), with the dearth of any restaurants that are British-inspired, semi-formal, à la fois Casual yet Excellent, and so it was an obvious choice for me. In the UK there are over five hundred official French restaurants, and though there are plenty of British Chefs cooking in France and Paris today, there is only one truly British Brasserie that flies the British Flag, metaphorically speaking of course, as here at L’Entente, we try to avoid the obvious clichés such as Union Jacks, Fish & Chips and portraits of Her Majesty.
In the kitchen, what is your philosophy?
We are inspired by Traditional British Cuisine but totally focussed on our French Terroir-driven suppliers, except for our Cheese, which comes from all over the U.K., and our organic smoked salmon, which comes from Northern Ireland (we are the only stockists in France). Keep it Simple. Source the absolute best. Do it Well. When Trevor Gulliver, owner of St. John was here last, those were his words of support to us and that encapsulates it all. A great simple dish that we do for Brunch, my ultimate comfort food, is Black Pudding & Fried Eggs on toast, the marriage of runny egg yolk and Black-pud, nothing beats-it. Which also brings me to another interesting point, everything is fresh and homemade at the restaurant, from our Muffins and Hollandaise sauce every Saturday and Sunday morning, for our weekend Brunch Eggs Benedicte, to our ketchups, pickles & chutneys, except, and this is more due to the politics of buying five litre cartons of pigs blood from which you cannot know the providence, our Boudin Noir, which comes from one of the best producers in France, Anne Rozès, next to Bayonne.
Let’s talk about wine and other drinks, what are your criteria when you are choosing them?
This is a tricky one. It basically started off with everything that I like and products from my friends and people that I respect; Horse’s Necks with Armagnac, wines from Jean Gardies and Michel Issaly, endless Liquors & Spirits from Laurent Cazottes, Coffee from the lads over at Coutume, Teas from Henrietta at The Rare Tea Co. and then I filled-in the gaps.
Why the name, L’Entente?
The L’Entente Cordiale, 1904, signed between Great Britain and France. Sums us up rather well.
Your logo deserves a mention, why a blackbird in a pie?
Pies are one of the often-unsung national dishes of the U.K., savoury or sweet and the combinations of ingredients are endless, we are currently changing over from Chicken & Leek to Ham & Pea. With this in mind, I wanted a logo that encapsulated British Cuisine in one image, and our Pie logo, which is a Registered Trademark, was created by Clifford Harper. The Blackbird signifies an earlier time, in the middle-ages, the C16th, for Henry VIII, with the poem “Four & Twenty Blackbirds baked in a pie, wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King”, which is painted onto one of our walls at the restaurant. That was when once the suet-crust pie had been baked, the cooks would slip a live bird or two into the boiling pie and when it was cut-open, they would fly-out. Nowadays the symbolic blackbird is thankfully in ceramic and is used as a chimney to let the steam out whilst cooking so that your puff pastry won’t collapse.
For the decor, what were your ambitions and inspirations?
Not being a trained Interior Designer, this is also a tricky question. It really just did happen naturally. The colour palette came through personal acquaintance of the Pastelle de Bleu de Lectoure in the Gers, (sadly no longer in existence), otherwise known as wode.
You have numerous vintage pieces (paintings, cutlery), do you have any stories to tell about these?
Anecdote – Well I wish I had more spare-time to keep on treasure hunting. I currently need a couple of small old wooden frames and solid, plain ice-buckets with no logos, which are harder to find than you think. The silverware though comes through three different agents, and a lot of it is British – except our knives which come from Le Train Bleu before they had their fit-out a few years ago. In an age when companies, particularly in France, are striving to cut-down on staffing costs, using machine-washable stainless-steel cutlery over silver-plate that needs to be hand-polished is of course, an obvious choice for the bean-counters. Too bad for them! (Astier & Villate mention this too in their amazing book, which gave me a grin).
And if you had to describe the ambiance of L’Entente in just a few words?
Photography & Text: Eve Campestrini – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily