Par Margaret Kemp
A BIG FISH LANDS ON THE PLACE VICTOR HUGO
Funny name for a fish restaurant, or is it a new kind of poisson? No, but the owner is a bit of an intellectual who admires Victor Hugo. After many years as owner of the La Marée, Versailles, the city's top de chez top fish emporium, Dominique Bellugeon, commerҫant, maryeur, restaurateur, fishmonger and big-fish vice-President of Syndicat de la Poissonnerie, decided to transform a run down Bistro Romain
in the 16th, and dedicate it to Hugo. Why?
Because, " Le plus grand ennui, c'est d'exister sans vivre
", wrote Hugo in LES DEBATS , the journal that inspired the name of Bellugeon's seafood brasserie.
Alert readers will recall Les Debats won Brasserie Chic award in the recently published Pudlo Paris Bistrots & Brasseries 2010. Bellugeon, a tall man with a healthy glow, says he eats fish every day, has no preferences but does admit to a certain weakness for a nice bit of raie (skate).
He doesn't ignore meat on his menu: Filet de boeuf "Black Angus" (38€) can be grilled or roasted. Beef tartare "au couteau" (20€), Chicken from the Gers region is served demi-deuil (sauced with black and white truffles) with organic vegetables (30€). Free range veal's liver, is grilled, paired with compôte de fruits rouges and balsamic (28€).
But what about the fish?
As well as the menu, there's daily suggestions according to the catch. Salads will delight the ladies who lunch, César, classic or with lobster, or just pop in for a traditional Club Sandwich (18€) and a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé "tete de cru". Starters include Tartare de poisson du marché (a different fish daily) with smoked herring eggs (20€). Fresh crab with avocado, sucrine, tomato, red onion and pimento sauce (22€).
Sometimes there's a fish soup and always excellent platters of oysters and seafood, Belons, Fines de Claires, Bulots about 39€ per person, you compose your platter. Mains include Cabillaud en Aioli, cuit à la porte du four, petits légumes confit au safran, tian de legumes méditerranéens (25€). Saint-Jacques à la plancha, risotto primavera, jeunes pousses (25€).
And talking of jeunes pousses, chef Sébastian Dagoneau, ex- Ritz, Lucas Carton, Grand Véfour, shows a wonderful understanding of fish and seafood and how it must be presented. He talks lovingly of the neo-nostalgie of his Merlan Colbert or en colère (36€), his classic grilled sole or the more modern rouget snaké. He grills or roasts his "turbo entier" (38€), Bar is en croute de sel de Guérande (39€). Bread is by Master Baker, Marc Bigot www.maison-bigot.com as are some of the desserts. Baba au rhum classique, crème fouettée à la vanille (12€). Cafe gourmand (8€), Crème brulée, et son sorbet du moment.
From the well chosen wine card, it's Spring, think of Chateau Minuty's rosé cuvée réserve 2008 (38€). Or the red Médoc Chateau la Tour de By (48€).
Les Debats, with its' fresh seafood counter and blue-smocked ecailleur outside, divides into three: the terrace: the ground floor and sprawling first floor with a champagne and piano bar (live music at night) and dark corners for romantic evenings. We have a lot of celebs and politicians
, says director Benjamin Roux, who speaks perfect English.
The designer décor is fish related, like being underwater without getting wet.
And wonderful glass sculptures by Biot's Master glass-blower Jean-Claude Novaro punctuate the walls and gaze into the distance on high pedestals.
Go if only to meet Monsieur Bellugeon, whose name seems to be a mix of "beluga" and "sturgeon", very apropriate n'est pas? Le poisson, ma vocation
, is his motto.
6 place Victor Hugo, 16
Metro: Victor Hugo
T: 01 45 01 22 22
Open 7/7 Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Lunch formula - 35€ Entree - Plat du jour or Plat - dessert
Average Spend A La Carte - 48€ + wine.