As French parliament considers an amendment that would place beer among the country’s protected gastronomic traditions, one wonders why craft beer isn’t available in more restaurants in Paris. While a few forward-thinking places like Septime and Frenchie To Go offer craft beer, only one has made it as important as the main course—La Fine Mousse Restaurant. It shouldn’t come as a surprise; this is the latest venture from the fellows behind Paris’ first craft beer bar of the same name, located across the street in the 11th arrondissement. LFM has set itself a lofty goal: bring beer to the dinner table and prove that it’s a worthy companion to exceptional food.
On a Friday evening in late June, the restaurant’s front windows were thrown wide open, casting a soft summer light on the high wooden tables in the India Pale Ale Room. On the other side of the bar, in the Barley Wine Room, a few diners settled into low booths, ready to experience the six-course tasting menu. In the India Pale Ale Room, I decided to sample the small plate menu, which changes weekly according to what’s in season and Californian chef William Ransome’s inspiration.
Ransome brings with him an appreciation for exceptional ingredients and provocative composition, honed in some of the city’s finest restaurants, including Le Saturne, Bistro Urbain and L’Agapé. Craft beer is in good company here.
After a long and indecisive moment—the menu ambles from smoked meats to seafood to poultry to greens—I settle on clams in bouillon with shiitake mushrooms, potatoes and smoky faisselle dotted with anchovies, anchovies on toast with wild garlic, and a cheese course. After flipping through the menu of 150 bottled beers from around the world with no idea what to pair with the small plates, I’m grateful when Laurent Cicurel, co-owner, appears by my side in a neat black apron. He suggests a smoky gose, a traditional beer from Germany brewed with coriander and salt. It’s one of my favorite styles and one my dinner companion has never heard of; craft beer regulars and the newly initiated are looked after equally well here.
The subtly salty gose marries well with the tender clams swimming in their buttery brine. Shiitake slivers and shellfish seem an unusual pair, but the mushrooms’ earthiness lends a pleasant depth to the dish. “You can do whatever you want [with food] as long as it’s interesting, delicious and the products are treated with respect,” says Ransome.
After the small plates, a little schooner of cheese shards arrives: aged Gouda, Etivaz and a smoked chèvre, accompanied by 12.5cl galopins of three different French craft beers. The creamy Gouda and Corrézienne dark porter is a classic, and the Etivaz and Saint Rieul an instant hit, although the smoked chèvre and peaty selection from Mont Salève is a little too piquant.
Choose a separate beer for each plate—we didn’t and the gose wasn’t as good with the potatoes—and consider going with a larger group. The India Pale Ale Room is bright and spacious with shared tables perfect for an apéro with friends. Given the price of dishes—5€ to 13€–and that many of the beers come in 50cl or 75cl, sharing is the best way to get the most out of the menu. For a true food pairing experience, reserve in the Barley Wine Room. There, each course is carefully crafted to harmonize with a specific beer. The menu changes regularly, to highlight the best of the season’s offerings and the chef’s creativity.
There’s no denying the quality of the ingredients or the creativity of the menu at LFM Restaurant. Like any innovative new venture, there are still a few wrinkles to iron out, especially considering the price point, but if you like craft beer and provocative food, or are simply curious, take a few friends and give La Fine Mousse a try.