October 14, 2011
Paris is teeming with cool dining experiences, for those prepared to seek them out. New Friends Table, a new addition to the Paris scene, aims to bring together an eclectic yet compatible group of like-minded foodies around a delicious meal in a real Parisian apartment. Our very own Erica Berman also recently checked it out; during her dinner, she mingled with a former Moulin Rouge dancer, a Cartier wedding planner, an Argentinian working for the BBC and an organic spa owner! -Geneviève
The possibilities for private dining experiences in Paris continue to expand with yet another new addition: New Friends Table. This ‘secret eating and meeting club’ appeared on the scene last spring thanks to a multi-national group of friendly and fun, food-minded locals. With my penchant for new and unusual eating experiences, I requested a booking as soon as it popped up on my radar.
To secure an invitation, you introduce yourself by email with some basic background information such as food preferences, interests and what languages you speak. While some might consider the necessity of introducing themselves a nuisance, it’s completely in line with the principles of this club. New Friends Table is about more than just putting something tasty in your belly. It’s about conversation, interaction, getting to know your fellow diners, and hopefully even fostering new friendships.
Homemade parmesan chips and cocktails - Forest Collins
Dinner locations rotate and each meal varies depending on what’s fresh, who’s coming and who’s cooking. On this visit, I was welcomed into a cozy loft decorated with fun brocante curios by our hostess for the evening, a friendly Englishwoman. Our group was a mix of Americans, French, English and Italians, with an even split of locals and visitors. We settled into sofas and chairs and started to get to know each other over an apero of negroni sbagliato (Campari, martini rosso and cremante d’alsace) accompanied by homemade Parmesan biscuits edged with poppy seeds.
After cocktail hour, we were invited to move to an exquisitely set table where we were seated apart from those we came with to encourage us to chat with our ‘new friends’ for the night. Our group of eight (nine when our hostess had a moment to join us) was large enough to allow for intimate, one-on-one conversations, but still small enough for group table talk as well. To my left I was entertained by a friendly traveling American – who occasionally broke off to translate for two of the Italian guests – and to my right I was charmed by a delightful Englishman.
The meal began with an amuse bouche of lamb kidneys braised in sweet Madeira celery leaves, quail eggs and a warning from our hostess that this would be the last “small” dish we’d see for the night. Keeping with the convivial spirit of the dinner, the next courses were served family style. First was the salad of rocket, fleshy figs, fresh Ewe’s milk ricotta and ‘wet’ walnuts served with a Medoc wine.
The next course shook things up a bit with a smoked mackerel paté alongside an orange and grapefruit salad paired. The dish was paired with a somewhat sweet Gewurzttramminer, and I admit to being surprised at the switch from red to this particular white, but the resulting flavor combination was impressive. Back again to red wine, the meat-and-veg girl in me devoured the next course of polpette (veal and pork meatballs) and stewed fresh cannelini with tomato and basil.
Always my favorite course, the cheese plate did not disappoint with a nice hunk of comte and charouse fermier served up with a 2009 Brouilly. I generally pass up the sweets for savory, but my curiosity was piqued by warm pitchers of sauce, freshly whipped English jersey cream and cake that appeared on the table as I was greedily taking one more ‘tiny’ cheese slice. I had never had sticky toffee pudding before. Why had I never had sticky toffee pudding before? I have no idea. It was a blissful experience that made me regret missing out on this treat for so many years.
After I inhaled my substantial portion of sticky toffee pudding (ceremoniously leaving one little bite untouched so as not to appear a glutton – which my dinner date then happily finished off for me), tea and coffee were served with silky, dark truffles laced with Campari and lime. The wink to our aperitif cocktail brought our meal full circle, a gesture meant to echo the meal’s seasonal symbolism: we enjoyed the last of summer’s bounty while welcoming fall’s new offerings.
As much as I enjoyed the meal, the biggest draw for me was meeting new and interesting people, and I fully expect to spend a bit of time in the future with some new friends I made that evening. During the meal I even got word of an entirely different private dining experience in Paris, but I’ve promised to keep mum on that one for the moment. In the meantime, solo diners, curious gourmets and open-minded folks seeking new food fun in Paris, with a healthy dose of socializing on the side, should seek out this Table for tasty family style meals.
New Friends Table; suggested donation: approximately 50 Euros (prices may vary depending on meal)
- Prefer a quick bite to a complicated meal? This Paris butcher is serving house-made meals up on his butcher counter
- For a comprehensive list of Paris’ best private dining options, check out Bryan’s article on HiP Paris here
- If you’re confused by the dining options in Paris, check out this comprehensive guide from Parisien Salon
Written by Forest Collins
Forest Collins chronicles her search for the finest cocktails in Paris on her blog, 52 Martinis. Every Wednesday, she tries a new place. She starts with a martini for a standard of comparison and then usually orders a second. Got a bar you think makes great drinks? Let her know, she'd love to try it!
Website: 52 Martinis