I knew we were in for a treat at Heimat the minute we walked in the door. For one of Paris’ most anticipated new restaurants, located in the swanky Palais Royal neighborhood, my expectation was to encounter that certain form of snobbery that increases the closer you get to the center of the city. But the greeting at Heimat is just the opposite; despite being housed in a stony cellar space on rue de Montpensier, the welcome is warm, as is the lighting and the conversation that fill the cavernous yet cosy dining rooms.
Pierre Jancou, the man behind Racines and Vivant, seems to have stepped back from the pretense of his earlier exploits in opening Heimat. It offers a legit list of natural wines, but clearly has an interest in making these wines, and the food they are paired with, accessible to a curious lunch crowd. Heimat joins a handful of comfortable dining spaces – Café de la Nouvelle Mairie and Le Siffleur de Ballons also come to mind – that prove that natural wines have found their home in Paris, and the restaurants that serve them no longer need to have an achingly cool aura or inflated prices.
As someone who never found the funds to dine at Vivant, I was excited to avail myself of Heimat’s accessible lunch menu (26 euro for a starter and a main or main and dessert / 36 euro for all three courses). A visit to the restaurant afforded me the opportunity to have my first Jancou experience, someone I have followed closely ever since reading his 2011 tribute to natural wine and winemakers, Vin Vivant.
Heimat has a family feel that is instantly endearing. Pierre Jancou happily hangs out behind the counter during the lunch service, while his adorable young daughter watches Kung Fu Panda on a computer in the corner. Both of them occasionally come into the dining room to check up on things.
Tables of restaurant professionals, visiting winemakers, oenophiles, and well-heeled neighborhood regulars linger at tables long after they’ve finished their meals. The restaurant is already a destination for wine lovers from near and far; we were seated between a pair of unmistakable Parisians and a couple of visiting natural winemakers from Vermont that we had met a week earlier at a La Dive Bouteille tasting in Saumur.
The service is friendly and espoused what I hope becomes a dining norm and not just a rare occurrence: our server poured a small amount of wine for each of us to taste, rather than assuming the male at the table would be the one to sign off on our wine selection. Simple attention like that shows respect for the wine on Heimat’s menu as well as an intention to demystify the experience of ordering and enjoying wine in restaurants.
The lunch selections were classic French- and Italian-inspired creations prepared with an obvious Asian influence. This was particularly evident in our entrées, which had slightly citrus and sweet twists, like my tempura-style fried whitefish and my lunch date’s dumpling-style duck tortellini served in a bittersweet broth.
The main dishes on the lunch menu could fit as easily at a winemaker’s lunch table as at this downtown Paris restaurant. A classic roasted chicken with hearty mushrooms and a spoonful of mashed potatoes was dressed up with fresh bitter greens and lightly steamed branches of parsley. My simple orecchiette pasta was prepared with a healthy amount of garlic and smoked ricotta that reminded me of my favorite simple lunches in a kitchen in the Loire, warming up by a wood-burning stove after spending a day pruning grapevines.
Heimat, whose name is taken from a German word that expresses an attachement to a particular place or region, obviously has a special meaning and intent for Pierre Jancou. Eating there felt like a combination of all the places I’ve felt at home in France; restaurants tucked away from the busy streets of Paris, lively conversation-inspiring rural cafés, and intimate countryside kitchen tables all come together here, where you’ll find good food, wine, and the antidote to a case of homesickness.
Heimat – 37 Rue de Montpensier, 75001. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 26 78 25
- Emily also reviews Inaro restaurant, perfect for local, artisanal, and organic small plates.
- Check out Jancou’s Vivant restaurant in Paris’ 10th arrondissement
- Chef Pierre Jancou is one of Paris By Mouth’s picks for the best Parisian chefs to follow on Instagram. Check out his mouth-watering foodie photos!