La Condesa, a neighbourhood in Mexico City and a dream come true, for the young and highly talented Indra Carrillo. To open her own restaurant was a childhood dream of this globe-trotting chef and above all the logical next step in a brilliant and faultless career path. Brilliant and curious, Indra learned to cook from the greats. In Écully at the Institut Paul Bocuse, in Paris with Michel Rostang, Yannick Alléno at Le Meurice, Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance, and then Italy, Japan and India too. A creative ferment that you’ll find in the dishes, with a surprising menu, that you’ll only discover when you actually taste it. When it came to the design of La Condesa, Indra worked with the architect Camille Flammarion. The result is a marvellous mix of sobriety and elegance. A new restaurant to be discovered ASAP.
La Condesa, 17 rue Rodier – 75009 Paris
Indra, Camille: what is you story so far?
It’s a story of daily efforts, of a life centred around the pleasure of cooking and above all a desire – to share this passion with others through my dishes. For nearly ten years, I worked in the kitchens of a worldwide cultural organisation and thanks to that I very soon had the opportunity to work in the evenings and at the weekend. This experience brought me a more global and international vision of dining. Eduardo Pérez was my first mentor, from the age of 12 to 18. My passion for cooking then led me to study at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon and then to work with the great masters of cookery, such as Paul Bocuse himself in Collonges, Michel Rostang, Yannick Alleno, Eric Fréchon, Pascal Barbot in Paris, Annie Fiolde in Florence, Toru Okuda in Tokyo and Yoshihiro Murata in Kyoto. My search for excellence also drove me to train with the best people in the worlds of chocolate (Bernarchon), bread-making (François Pozzoli), butchery (Maurice Trollier, Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec) and lastly fishmongery (Cédric Bejaoui). They all were and will remain a source of inspiration throughout my career.
After graduating, I spent five years working for the Jacques Ferrier architectural practice as a project manager. I then decided to branch out a little and to operate on a smaller scale, focusing on the design of objects, by pursuing an MA in applied arts at the Royal College of Art in London. In addition to perfecting my design skills, this change of direction enabled me to take a different approach to architectural projects on every level. In 2012, I took things a step further by opening my own architectural practice in Paris to continue to work at different scales (which you can learn more about on our website). I worked on a variety of interior design projects in places like Brussels and La Baule as well as a series of modular objects to make our everyday lives easier, which led to my work being exhibited in London, Milan, and Paris. My designs are now marketed by Fauvel-Normandy Céramiques. More recently, in 2015, I won the Design Brussels Award and I was a finalist at the City of Paris’s Grand Prix de la Création. A year ago, my TUBA tubular project won an award at the Valorization of Innovation Awards.
Where did the name La Condesa come from?
La Condesa is the neighbourhood in Mexico City where I grew up. The name is an allusion to my roots and makes me feel at home, even though I’m so far away.
How did the idea of La Condesa come about and what’s the idea/concept behind it?
I’ve always longed to have my own restaurant. For me, the recent opening of La Condesa marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. As a chef-owner, I’m free to blend all the knowledge I’ve gained with my wishes, my research and my experiments. I also want to continue to evolve technically, to continue to travel and learn as I have throughout my life. We could say that La Condesa is a laboratory, a pretext, a test bench where I can be more daring, express myself with greater freedom through the creation of new flavours, and innovation in combinations, contrasts and textures. Briefly, it’s a new destination in my ongoing journey of learning. The idea of La Condesa is to invite my customers to a culinary experience of the highest level. The concept was built with my brother, Andrés who’s an international business consultant and who aspires to the expansion of long-term global vision.
How do you put your menus together?
I always take inspiration from seasonal products, those of the best possible quality, that offer me a palette of unparalleled flavours. Added to that there’s a mixture of traditional techniques, influences from all over the world and my own experiences. There’s no fixed creative template. Inspiration might come from the most unexpected quarter – a method of cooking, a memory or a texture. The most important thing is not just to create a dish, but to create a balanced, congruent menu that’s both exciting and delicious. Sometimes, it’s the wine that forms the basis when designing a dish. Also, since the start of the restaurant, I’ve been working with the great sommelier Alexandre Jean (Best Sommelier in France) who supports us in the pairing and preparation of the menu.
How did you come up with the idea for this project, and how did you work on it?
I worked with Indra to translate his ideas for the restaurant into a stylish, comfortable and fairly original space that would highlight his sophisticated and inventive cuisine. The space in the dining area was poorly defined, overloaded, and dark. There was no room for the kitchen and the service area. We gave the dining area its definition back, and added more room for the kitchen and the service area. To give the room more light and a sense of space, the back wall was completely covered with a mirror. This makes the dining area appear twice as large. This feeling is enhanced by the vertical cleats that decorate the walls at regular intervals, and the symmetrical layout of the dining room which now works as well at lunchtimes as it does in the evenings.
Let’s focus on the details. Can you tell us a little more about your choice of furniture, fabric, paint, and so on?
The aim was to have comfortable, upholstered seating that was also light (with black tubular bases!) The benches were also custom-designed. They are covered with dark green Kvadart Fjord cloth. The chairs are the Verpan Series 430 chair designed by Verner Panton in 1967. They are covered in pine green Kvadrat velour. The wall lamps are also made of black metal and are the Cone sconce by Atelier Areti. The tables were carried over from before; we just refreshed the edges and their oak tabletops, which recall the parquet flooring. The restaurant’s walls are grey. Splashes of saffron yellow paint by Marius Aurenti contrast with the modest background colour for a touch of the exotic.
Indra, tell us how you came to choose the ceramics.
For several months, I searched for artisans whom I could work with to create something unique that would reflect the atmosphere of the restaurant. When I was travelling in New Zealand, I came across the work of Richard Naylor, a very talented craftsman. We met up and their was an immediate special connection between us that led us to work together for several months to create most of the dishes for the restaurant. The other objects come from a Red Cross workshop (in Lyon) or other companies in the Bernardeau area. As in my cuisine, I’m looking for contrasts in textures and styles.
If you had to describe La Condesa in a few words?
La Condesa is Indra Carillo’s baby. He is a very gifted and sensitive young chef, which gives him the gift of listening to those he works with and those he has introduced to his art. Subtlety, elegance, discretion: those qualities are all reflected in La Condesa. A venue that is designed for culinary pleasure and a place that I would recommend to anyone.
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Eve Campestrini – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily