Paris : Simon Cutts & Erica Van Horn
Here I am, breaking it again my unwritten rule not to write about food! But when you recognize someone’s style, you have to go with it. I enjoyed it as much as anywhere for a long time.Ribouldingue is in the unlikely quarter of the heavy tourism industry, just round the corner from the much mythologised and not now very interesting Shakespeare & Co. It is the kitchen of Nadege Varigny, who I read comes from Grenoble, and she cooks in a refreshingly non-Parisian way, where the only change seems to be that Tiramisu has replaced the Floating Island.
I love the name of this restaurant, which is, apart from a term of general ribaldry and good times, a female name, deriving from vagabond, a wayward girl. From now on I think I shall use its name to describe a condition, a waywardness. I shall not think of her as anything other than an adjective.
There are a lot of baie-rose pinks about her plates, perhaps too much dusting, too many scatterings. It was overall perhaps too meaty for my companions, but my cheek and groin of pork in its lentil broth was one of the best things I have eaten.There was a mysterious fragrance of rosewater coming from the pork, and a satisfying gumminess on the lips which lasted all the way home. Erica’s magret was canard straight from the farmyard, and maybe a bit too highly flavoured for her. Marianne’s onglet was over-cooked, but she did ask for it bien-cuit, and I think this was some sort of punishment! On the menu it said that the onglet was Irish which amused me as I can remember talking to a butcher in Tipperary about cutting me a couple of onglets or hanger-steaks as Americans call them, and it was not easy. They are barely known about, and he certainly had never cut them before, and usually threw them out with redundant parts, or at best they were ground up as general burgers.
As a non-drinker, I would still propose to friends a St Joseph night at Ribouldingue, with the wonderful white and red that they have there.Even at the height of my condition, there was always a certain comfort in being surrounded by a good wine list, and for a while in London, I often ate at a place where Domaine de Vieux Telegraph 2004 Chateauneuf was at the head of the list.
For desert at Ribouldingue, a slightly too present a hint of cloves in the poached pear was bettered by the chestnut sorbet.Sometimes I feel I have the palette of a dog, but with language and memory for its reconsideration. SC