Dinner after the blow-out meal at L’Astrance was a more modest affair. We ventured over to a quiet neighbourhood in the 5th arrondissement, to check out L’Agrume, a bistro barely 6 months old. The casual eatery could not be more different from chef/owner Franck Marchesi-Grandi’s former workplace (the prestigious Plaza Athénée), aiming to offer quality fare with no-frills, and at affordable prices. We went with the prix-fixe tasting menu that looked a lot more appealing (and was better value) than the short token list of à la carte options.
Our first course was a generous mound of Sea Bream Tartare with Spider Crab, Granny Smith and Pink Grapefruit. The lightly-seasoned fish was fresh and meaty, and the tart apple, zesty grapefruit and citrus oil offered a nice lift to the dish. The crab meat although sweet, had not been properly picked and we both found several sizeable fragments of crab shell, which dampened our enthusiasm for the tartare considerably.
The creamy Lemon Risotto with Hazelnuts was well-made and perfectly al dente, but the salty slices of bottarga (generous as they were), jarred with the otherwise beautifully understated dish. Like the cold starter, plating was pretty slap-dash, but at €35 for 5 courses, I had no problem overlooking the rustic presentation.
The Poached Cod with Courgettes and Cockles had a tasty poaching liquor that we both couldn’t resist mopping up with the roughly-cut chunks of baguette from the bread basket. However B failed to finish off his cod, complaining that it was more than a little fishy. Mine was fine, but my enjoyment of the dish was marred by the stench of oil that lingered in the air every time Marchesi-Grandi took to the deep-fryer in the open kitchen.
A simply Roasted Veal with Confit Shallots and Tomatoes followed. It was a juicy thick cut of veal, but quite pedestrian in its preparation. Good ingredients, but nothing a half decent home cook could not rustle together.
Dessert was a Cherry Soup with Red Fruit Sorbet and Rosemary which I struggled to eat more than a few spoonfuls of – the hot soup was so unbearably sweet and concentrated it was more of a syrup, and the specks of rosemary were rather unpleasant. The sorbet, if possible, was even sweeter, and I doubt any amount of tweaking would have turned that monstrosity into a good dish.
Despite some clear issues, L’Agrume is still exceedingly good value, especially considering some of the ingredients. Fine for a no-fuss meal if you happened to live down the road but don’t bother making a special trip there – the cooking lacks care and refinement, and in a city famed for “Le Fooding”, there are plenty of other bargains to be had elsewhere.
15 Rue des Fossés Saint-Marcel
75005 Paris, France
t: +33 (0)1 43 31 86 48