Albion, Restaurant/Cave a Vin – 80, rue de Faubourg Poissonière, Paris 75010
Métro Poissonière (7) – For reservations (recommended) call 011 33 1 42 46 02 44 from the US
I am not a food critic. That being said, just because someone you know decides to open a restaurant doesn’t mean it will be good. But, if that person has a vision, the right business partner/chef, a great location and a design flair, endless opportunity exists. I can honestly say that Auckland, New Zealand’s Hayden Clout has built a strong foundation for success at Albion in Paris’ 10th arrondisement, not far from Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord.
Both Hayden and his business partner/chef Matt Ong, are “graduates” of “Fish” La Boissonerie in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quartier on the Left Bank of Paris. Like some other young chefs and restauranteurs in Paris, Hayden and Matt have wisely opened their restaurant in the area near Canal St Martin that is undergoing gentrification, thus providing them with a trendy yet more affordable spot than the traditional enclaves of Central Paris. I know Hayden from his days of serving me dinner and wine at Fish’s bar, along with many other English-speaking tourists, ex-pats and locals.
Albion is located just down the street from the Poissonière Métro station on Line 7. From the minute I saw its sign, which spells out the restaurant’s name on wine bottle labels, (see above photo) I had a good feeling. The clever logo also graces the business card. My first impression upon entering Albion was its substantial size by Parisian standards. Hayden and Matt provide their clientele with a comfortable dining space, including a bar (not yet licensed for service) on the right and a retail wine wall display to the left and center, where one can purchase wines from various French regions and price points, to take home.
Hayden has maximized his space nicely by utilizing the cellar (cave) below for wine storage, with visible access from two stairwells beneath the floor of the restaurant. The kitchen is visible, and the adjacent bathrooms are neatly tucked away behind a panel.
The decor is somewhat reminiscent of Restoration Hardware, with unmatched simple chairs, hardwood floors, hanging exposed light bulbs, original exposed stone walls and a paint color matching the sign and business cards. Clean, simple style, but not austere.
The “Vins de la Semaine” (Wines of the Week) and menu are naturally reminiscent of Hayden and Matt’s stint at Fish. Their affordable wines are primarily from the south of France, from Languedoc west of the Rhone to Provence just east, with an emphasis on reds. They are offered by the glass, the pot (pronounced “po”) of 50 cl (2/3 bottle) or by the bottle.
The menu is simple, minimal (3 Entree/starter choices, 4 Plats/main courses and 4 dessert/cheese choices) and changes somewhat every week or so. I visited the restaurant twice during my October trip to Paris and enjoyed the Gnochi starter, a scallop and Chanterelle starter, Jambon de Parme and Lardon starter, Filet de Boeuf, Filet Mignon de Porc, and two seasonal desserts with chocolate, pumpkin (potimarron) and orange. Each meal and course was consistent, flavorful and beautifully presented, a hallmark of Matt’s cuisine. I enjoyed a pot of red wine with each meal, a Domaine Aupilhac from Languedoc and a nice Côte de Rhone. My first visit was solo, thus my total bill, including wine was about $65 US. My second meal, with shared wine, was in the $50 US range. For a high quality, well presented Modern French meal, nice wine and good service, the prices are reasonable for a night out in the French capital.
The artwork in the restaurant is from Matt’s collection. I especially enjoyed this one…
With a clientele of French locals, tourists and those who remember Hayden and Matthew from Fish, Albion has a bright future in the crowded, ever-changing Paris restaurant scene. The force will certainly be with them forever!
Until next time…à votre santé!
Photos by Christine Humphrey ©2012