Arnaud Nicolas, Paris

After already enjoying success at the restaurant Le Boudoir, Arnaud Nicolas, one of Paris’ rising young chefs, recently opened his own eponymous restaurant in the upmarket 8eme arrondissement of the city.

Recognised with the honour of being an ‘MOF,’ or Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the award recognises those who are experts in their craft. In Nicolas’ case this is charcuterie, or as he calls it “Gastronomic Charcuterie,” as he has managed to elevate what are traditionally peasant dishes, pork pies, terrines, foie gras, and pate, to an elegant evening dinner in his urban and contemporary restaurant. For those who prefer something lighter the menu also offers fish dishes as well as a vegetarian starter and main, and changes seasonally for a new experience every time.

Upon arrival we were great by Stephane, Nicolas’ business partner was our waiter and sommelier for the evening. Stephane made us feel very relaxed with our very French menu and wine list, and expertly handled any questions we had. We were also impressed at his simple but effective questions to find out more about our wine preferences, and sure enough Stephane found us something unique which complemented our tastes and dishes perfectly.

For our starters we opted for a seasonal vegetarian option, as well as Nicolas’ signature dish, aptly named “The Famous Poultry Pie with Foie Gras.” Although we had never tried foie gras before, the pate has a completely different reputation in France to at home. and we have to say it was in fact, delicious – we felt almost guilty for enjoying it so much. With just the right portion size it was also not as heavy as we imagined, especially for a starter, and we were keen for the next course to try another French speciality, duck magret with roasted fig and smoked celeriac puree, and the l’assiette de legumes vegetable plate.

The duck was, as expected, full of flavour and incredibly tender, and we loved the fruity addition of figs with celeriac to help lighten the richness of the dish. Perhaps surprisingly, Nicolas’ vegetarian dishes were also just as impressive as his charcuterie. Rather than being a token gesture on the menu, as is often the case, they were beautifully and colourfully presented, and full of flavour. Although Nicolas’ speciality may be in terrines and charcuterie, his talent and attention to detail also shows elsewhere.

Desserts were also a delight, in both presentation and taste. We opted for one of Nicolas’ specialities, the rum baba with vanilla cream, accompanied with a boozy jug of syrup for us to add as we wish, and a cheesecake with lime and speculoos biscuit, which made a light and refreshing choice after such an indulgent meal.

After seeing Nicolas popping in and out of the kitchen during our dinner to cut meat in a small charcuterie area at the front of the restaurant, we asked Stephane whether the pates and cooked meats were available to take home. We were told that the front of house does indeed also open as a shop during the day, with customers often coming in or reserving the terrines in advance for parties, especially during the festive season when foie gras is popular as part of a traditional French Christmas dinner. However, with the products being so fresh once they are gone, they are gone so if you’re planning on taking anything home plan in advance. This is a chef who is unsurprisingly, in high demand.

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