THE BLUE ELEPHANT IN PARIS

43-45 Rue de la Roquette 75011 Paris

The Blue Elephant in London is one of our favourite restaurants and widely considered the best of it's kind in the capital and by all accounts the best in the group. I was intrigued how the Paris version shaped up to it's renowned associate and can gladly report that the difference if any is marginal with Paris maybe being a little less expensive. The chain is going so well that Dubai has turned out to be a great success, and by the time you read this the Lyon version should be open for business. It's opening had been delayed by about a month due to administrative problems with the building it is situated in.

The restaurant is located in the Bastille area and only a short walk from the metro along Rue de la Roquette which like many areas of the French capital is simply bustling with activity in the food and drink area with every type of food imaginable to savour. The menu is printed in French and English and the place spaciously seats 240 in the expected exotic surroundings including a waterfall but not with the running stream that you will find in London. Mehdi Habab, a director of the company runs the restaurant with the usual blend of charm and authority that one comes to expect from such a classy operation.

Since all the chefs are classically trained in the tradition of Royal Thai cuisine, I always opt for the Menu Royal at Blue Elephant, and Paris was no exception. It features a variety of the chef's specialities like the Tom Yam Khung(spicy prawn soup) and a selection of starters all beautifully presented. Standouts included Brochette Samui(grilled seafood flavoured with turmeric) and a superb Bouchees Narai(crisp golden cake with prawns and sweet corn in a sour pineapple sauce). Also interesting was Kiss from Golf of Siam-must be a misprint in the menu there), prawns wrapped in rice paper stuffed with chicken in a plum sauce. It is important to point out that the Blue Elephant group strictly forbids MSG in it's food with most of the ingredients flown in to each As expected the service is like the place, full of action with people buzzing about and a general sense of anticipation and excitement. A word here about the extensive wine list. All the selections are French which is fine, and the St.Emilion we selected went perfectly with the food. When pressed Mehdi admitted that they have been seriously considering the possibility of New World wines such as the Cloudy Bay from New Zealand, but that day was still in the future.

Main courses were equally varied including the Coco Cabane(hot green beef curry in coconut with steamed rice noodles at 145ff). This dish is very hot and is best consumed quickly to sample the various flavours that the chef's conjure up. Homok Pla(grilled salmon, wrapped in banana leaves and flavoured with sweet basil, lime and dill at 128ff) is not quite as hot but remains one of the most popular Thai dishes. Emerald chicken (marinated chicken wrapped in toey leaves with sweet soja sauce at 90ff) was the mildest of the main courses we tried and went well with the Khao Niao (steamed rice) and the always delicious Crispy Caramel Noodles. Other main dishes to try at a later date include Massaman (slowly braised lamb) and the Scallops Farang (stir fried scallops with broccoli and mushrooms in an oyster sauce). All of these come from the Menu Royal, which is a bargain at 300ff for everything except drinks. Never having been to Thailand I have no idea how the Blue Elephant food rates against the best in Bangkok, but for atmosphere, service and range of exotic tasting food, the place can't be beaten.

The Coupe Thai Elephant dessert is the house speciality and is a variety of fruits topped with ice cream and raspberry sauce. Nice feeling after all the spicy food that preceded it. Competition in Paris is of course intense amongst restaurants, but next time you are in town make sure you try the Blue Elephant for a slightly different feel to the famed Fulham establishment.

Michael Hepworth, June 1999

Tel: 1-47 00 42 00
Fax: 1-47 00 45 44
Metro: Bastille
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