“My main of quail was delightfully slow-roasted”

Paris “neo-bistro” Le Grand Bain brings convivial locavore dining to Belleville

Chef Edward Delling-Williams (left) with sommelier Edouard Lax outside Le Grand Bain
Chef Edward Delling-Williams (left) with sommelier Edouard Lax outside Le Grand Bain

Past the arty Marais, past hip Bastille, Paris’s far-east 20th arrondissement is a multicultural melting pot with much more to offer than Père Lachaise Cemetery. I love this part of Paris; Belleville feels all Edith Piaf, full of cool old boutiques, bakeries and bars; a maze of colourful, graffiti-tagged streets amid which lies an adresse confidentielle well worth seeking out. Le Grand Bain is a 44-seater, dinner-only neo-bistro attracting a steady stream of local regulars and curious foodie tourists with its locavore menu headed up by Bristol-born Edward Delling-Williams, former chef at Fergus Henderson’s St John in Clerkenwell.

Lax’s extensive wine list provides plenty of red wine pairings for roast lamb
Lax’s extensive wine list provides plenty of red wine pairings for roast lamb

It was while working at Paris restaurant Au Passage that Delling-Williams met sommelier Edouard Lax, with whom he turned a tumbledown tapas bar into Le Grand Bain – with a nod and wink to the municipal swimming pool next door. The best table in the intimate space is number 18, according to Lax, but I like the bustling bar. On a recent visit I ordered gleaming scallop carpaccio with rhubarb and fennel (€9), wafer-thin pollock in a lemon confit topped with wild cress (€8), and celery-root curls with creamy goats’ cheese and kumquat (€8) – all set out on artisan ceramic plates to share (or not), and all extremely tasty. 

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“The menu changes daily – sometimes even mid-service,” says Delling-Williams, adding that vegetables are delivered by electric bicycle from La Caverne underground organic farm in the 18th arrondissement. “If we have a signature dish, it’s the thick-cut chickpea chips with Worcestershire mayo [€6.50].” Golden, soothing and perfectly seasoned, they were delicious – as was my main of quail (€15), which had arrived that morning and was delightfully slow-roasted, served with beetroot and a bed of acidic grilled radicchio leaves. It was well matched with Julien Guillot’s rich and fruity natural Burgundy Ultimatum Climat Chenas (€52) – suggested by Lax from some 150 references. 

The bistro’s menu changes daily and the food is prepared in an open kitchen
The bistro’s menu changes daily and the food is prepared in an open kitchen

To finish, the trio of perfectly ripened cheeses (€14) – Old Comté, Brillat Savarin, Gruyère du Jura – was a good excuse to continue breaking warm bread from Le Petit Grain, the sister bakery on the opposite side of the cobblestone alley. Their next ambitious project is an organic farm – on the rooftop of the restaurant. I’ll certainly be back to see that. 

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