Escoffier & escargot in an unlikely market. ♦
Henri Cartier-Bresson took an iconic image of a Parisian boy with a bottle of wine tucked under each arm, and a saucy grin on his face. The same joie de vivre runs through Jerome Cousin’s latest Delhi establishment (after Petit Bar, Rara Avis, and the Q Cafe). The decor is cabaret meets Cabernet: it’s campy, with an overdose of purple and a fish-tank; but also kind of familiar and comfortable. The stamp of Escoffier frowns up from the menu while a colourful Mona Lisa smirks down from a canvas. The soundtrack is bubbly: Edith Piaf and French versions of English pop songs. Then there’s Jerome, tattooed and portly, who leans over conspiratorially to ask if we eat anything when we ask him what’s best.
The exuberant atmosphere, despite the fact that we’re the only diners in the place on a Wednesday night, is infectious. We’re already in good spirits when we take a look at the menu. Our dining partner has promptly ordered a cheese platter (blue, brie, Swiss and something bland; along with honey, salad, walnuts and apples), so we obviously must have wine. Happily, Chez Jerome has a small but relatively affordable selection of easy-drinking whites, roses and reds beyond the stable of Fratellis on offer. We choose a cheerful Torres Mas Rabell (Rs 2,000), a table red from Catalunya that keeps us going through the courses.
The menu seems to be a pared-down version of Rara Avis, and the baguettes are still lovely and baked in-house. They’re a good vehicle for the warm, salty mushroom sauce in the croûte aux morilles, but this dish takes a backseat to the fat black escargots, plumped in a hot garlic butter, that have crawled to us all the way from France to be devoured.
We’re already having a snail of a time (sorry!) when our mains arrive. Both the tenderloin steak and the duck confit are unfussy, with the focus squarely on the protein rather than the roasted baby potatoes, vegetables, or salads on the side. We figure a place that boasts about its “fameux” steak tartare will do a rare tenderloin steak—well, well—and we’re not disappointed. The meat has at least four shades of rareness but no oozing blood, and it goes down smooth with a little green pepper sauce. The confit is subdued in comparison but well-cooked.
For dessert we order the Tarte Tatin, which à la Jerome is on the savoury side, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. A light, honied crème caramel rounds off the meal. The restaurant serves a handful of Asian items and interesting pizzas, which might be a good gateway for new patrons. As we totter down the creaking wooden stairs, past a Buddha-bedecked spa, we hope Chez Jerome feels at home in this somewhat unlikely market.
Getting there: Second Floor, M-71 M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-I, call 4011-2838. Meal for two costs Rs. 2,500 (without alcohol or taxes).
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.