You can easily walk right past the front door – there’s no sign of your conventional restaurant: no chairs outside, no diners in the window seats. But yes, this is indeed l’Alcazar, and first impressions are that you are entering a nightclub not a restaurant. Perhaps it’s not so surprising as it transpires that this interesting building was not only once a 17th century royal tennis court but in more recent times, it was also home to a popular cabaret show for many years. Later in the 1990s it metamorphosed into a stylish restaurant under the direction of Sir Terence Conran when he was at the helm of the Conran Restaurant group.
An unusual choice of venue, but Sir Terence had form in this respect, having triumphantly re-launched in 1993 the wonderful 400 seater Quaglinos in London, which stunned recession-burdened Brits with its open-plan kitchens, its “movie star entrance” golden staircase and its echoes of grand Parisian brasseries. While less dramatic, l’Alcazar still surprises you as you leave behind the world of Rue Mazarine and enter a spacious triple height room, with a glazed atrium ceiling shedding light on both the mezzanine and the downstairs dining area.
It’s elegant and comfortable in a contemporary vein, with classic linen on the tables matched with smart black chairs and purple velvet banquettes. There’s plenty of room between tables so you don’t feel you are eating in a canteen (the noise levels at Quaglinos were sometimes intolerable). In fact, quite the opposite, it feels calm; there’s modern art and photography on the walls (they have regular exhibitions) and classy, friendly service to go with the classy decor.
I met my friend and long-serving France Today writer Jennifer Ladonne for lunch. At 12:30 pm we were almost alone – but by 1:00 pm the place was filling up with interesting clientele, nearly all French, probably business or creative types. Always good to find somewhere the locals like to eat.
The British/French affair continues on the menu – Scottish salmon, Leg of lamb with mint, fish and chips compete for your attention with classic French brasserie fare such as foie gras and a selection of Mediterranean seafoods. And on the dessert menu the showdown continues between old French favourites like rum baba squaring up to English Stilton, pickled pear and Eccles cakes.
Dear reader, you may imagine that we creative types would now proceed to indulge in a long afternoon of gastronomic indulgence and fine wine sampling. Alas, I’m sorry to disappoint but the business of editing and writing for France Today had to be discussed over a lighter and swifter lunch on this occasion. But we can report that the Black pudding Scotch Egg with piccalilli was a sensational appetiser, the perfectly cooked deep yellow yolked soft egg nestling cheerily in a crispy coat stuffed with earthy and rich black pudding. Yes, it’s a Scotch egg I know, but really a very fine Scotch egg. Scottish salmon tataki, pickled ginger with soy and wasabi made for a pleasing plat – simple flavours, with high quality ingredients, executed properly.
I’m told that the place has a lively atmosphere in the evening and is popular with a different crowd. Some evenings there’s a DJ and/or live music and the mezzanine bar area starts to fill up with trend-setters and trend-seekers. In the evening you can eat upstairs from a lighter menu for only 27 Euros to include a drink, which seems like a bargain if you enjoy that kind of vibe. There are themed party nights too so check the Events part of their website to be sure what’s on!
Based on our albeit modest sampling, l’Alcazar has something a little different to offer in terms of both the atmosphere and the menu – it’s definitely worth a visit, especially as prices are relatively inexpensive for this part of Paris.
Tel: +33 (0)1-53-10-19-99. Lunch set menus at 22, 31 and 40 Euros. Dinner set menu at 44 Euros (downstairs).