June 14, 2012
The Paris weather has been decidedly grey and overcast this spring, with only brief displays of sunshine punctuating what seem like never-ending downpours. The usual sunny Paris picnic season has been mostly rained off—and this is where Le Conservatoire comes to the fore.
Le Conservatoire, the latest private dining experience from Cédric Casanova, is a Sicilian grocery store-cum-restaurant, much like its predecessor and sister establishment, La Tête dans les Olives. Most of the time it’s a small shop selling Sicilian produce. During mealtimes, however, it welcomes a table of up to nine lucky diners for a no-choice menu, created in front of you by your amiable host Alix, who showcases the Italian ingredients for sale in the store with simple, fresh Sicilian fare.
It is, as Alix explains, a laid-back way to sample a selection of small dishes, on a table set with a blue-and-white checked tablecloth, bread, olive oil, olives, tapenade, and sun-dried tomatoes for all the guests to pick at—much like a picnic but without the risk of getting drenched.
On a recent grey Parisian day, Erica from HiP Paris, Kasia from Love in the City of Lights, Caroline from Sweet Caroline in Paris and I from I Heart Paris, checked it out for lunch. As well as the bread and delicious olive oil, we also had a vegetable course including pickled carrots and bite-size mushrooms, followed by perfectly al dente tomato and eggplant pasta and a sweet and light dessert of granita and Sicilian almond cookies.
After our meal, I went round the table to see what each of us thought of the Conservatoire experience.
Erica, what did you think of the one-table experience?
First with La Tête dans les Olives and now with this, his new venture, Cedric Casanova proves (and improves upon) his one-table concept. More space, same hip neighborhood, slightly different products (most straight from Sicily). The emphasis is on preserving and conserving vegetables and fruits brought in from Sicily. The signature Cedric Casanova olive oil and olives are, of course, on hand as well.
This is another ‘must do’ for those seeking an offbeat and intimate dining experience. At Le Conservatoire, it’s just your group, the host, and a lot of tasty picnic-style delicacies. Not to miss: the mandarin orange granita covered in almond sprinkles. With a bit of sea, sun and warmth, we just might have been in Sicily.
Kasia, what about the products?
With jars of fresh preserves and a variety of olive oils lining the shelves, ripe lemons spilling out of cartons as though just picked from the orchard, you can easily imagine being at the local market of a quaint Italian village, right in the heart of Paris. It is these ingredients that set Le Conservatoire apart.
Caroline, we all loved the dessert Erica mentioned. Tell us a bit more about it.
The day we shared our lingering lunch at Le Conservatoire was grey and cold—as it has been for the majority of spring so far in Paris this year. The time arrived for dessert, and gazing outside, I couldn’t help but hope it would be some kind of warm hazelnut cake. But this was Sicilian food, after all, and keeping with the theme, little glasses of mandarin granita arrived in front of us. It was topped with an almond crumble, and I seriously wanted to lick the glass.
This is what I want to eat all day, every day, in summer months. And now that the weather will hopefully take a turn for the better, I think the people behind Le Conservatoire should very seriously consider opening a granita stand, or even better a granita truck. I’d be happy to lend them my parking spot, should they be inclined.
In the meantime, you can sample the delicious, simple Sicilian food and the intimacy of the private dining experience in the comfort of this charming little grocery shop, come rain or shine. Buon appetito!
14 rue St Marthe, 75010
Métro: Belleville, Goncourt, Coloniel Fabien
Open: Monday – Friday, for lunch and dinner
- Paris Picnic Etiquette (if ever it gets warm enough to picnic in Paris)
- Paris’ best picnic spots
- Cross Pollinate’s Guide to Eating and Picnicing in Italy
Written by Kim Laidlaw
London-import Kim Laidlaw is the creator of insider city guide Unlock Paris. After studying History of Art at the Ecole du Louvre, she decided to make Paris her home and has lived here for 8 years and counting. Kim writes travel guides for Lonely Planet, Thames and Hudson and Dorling Kindersley, and articles for the BBC and Conde Nast, as well as copywriting for ad agencies in Paris and copyediting for several fashion magazines, including Fashion For Men and Self Service.
Website: Unlock Paris
Tags: Didier Gauducheau, Erica Berman, Food, Hip dining Paris, Kasia Dietz, Kim Laidlaw Aidrey, La Conservatoire, Love in the City of Lights, One Table, Paris restaurant, Restaurant Paris, Restaurants Paris, Sweet Caroline in Paris
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