Friday 30 January 2009

La Mirabelle

The sight of a closed down restaurant should not be surprise in these economic conditions, but the striking element of the Mirabelle in the Rue Taitbout (75009) is what has been left behind - the poignant 1960s style block lettering and decaying facade. This is an establishment which seems rather to have been a survivor from a much earlier time, not a victim of the recent crisis. Indeed, with the tough trading conditions not yet noticeable in the Paris streetscape, this was surely a banal victim of circumstance, or perhaps simply an establishment that had reached the end of its natural lifespan.

I've passed by this spot many times in recent months and there has never been any change. The unit remains hidden behind breeze blocks, but now even the demolition permit has dropped forlornly down to the ground. I feel moved to compose an ode to a restaurant I never knew;

La Mirabelle, a sweet name for a restaurant that never had a plum position in the city.
La Mirabelle a tree that put down roots, resisting being transformed into a simple branch.

This is a restaurant that left little trace in guides, but did anybody mourn the day the restaurant closed for the last time? Is there still a ghost telephone number that people try to ring to make reservations?

It reminds me of another similar sized venue that I used to frequent, called Chez Danie in the Rue De Louvois in the 2nd arrondissement. Danie beavered away in the kitchen, preparing her daily 8 Euro menus whilst her one employee, a lady called Maria who looked a little like Edith Piaf, eagerly waited on the 5 or 6 tables. Danie spoke to everyone in the room through the kitchen hatch, and often talked of her desire to sell up and retire to 'the islands'. The restaurant was only open 5 days a week and only at lunchtimes, but seemingly generated enough income from the rapid turnover to keep Danie in business. One day though I turned up and the door was locked. It was closed for a long time until it eventually became a Korean restaurant. I guess she made it to La Reunion.

Maria and Danie at the end of a shift, 2004

I am full of admiration for anybody who attempts to open a restaurant. These people need to find a hefty initial investment, to choose a decor that attracts, then have confidence that their cooking will find an appreciative audience. It’s something I could never do as I'm haunted by the ridiculous French themed restaurant called 'The Regret Rien' that Timothy Spall opens in Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet. On opening night, not a single customer.

How long will such establishments be able to survive across Paris? Run by passionate individuals with overheads cut down to a maximum, they attempt to offer a decent home-made meal to match the price of the average luncheon voucher. With rents rising and bank loans getting more and more difficult to obtain, will there always be people ready to take the plunge into this industry? We should support such individuals before all that is left are the large multinationals.


Anonymous said...

Ah... Chez Danie! Arguably the best tartes tatins in Paris! Sorely missed...

PeterParis said...

A very honorable "fight" you propose here; let's defend all small independent restaurants! I do my best already, but you can always do better!! Fortunately I live in an area where there are a number of them available, hopefully still for long! What would Paris be without them?

It seems that you use your lunch time for posting; don't you forget about eating - and defending the small restaurants? :-)

Have a nice weekend with some decent eating!

Starman said...

As long as there breathes a soul who thinks he/she has something to offer, there will be those who dream to open their own restaurant. Some will realize those dreams, others will not. I have friend in Toulouse who dreamed of opening a restaurant in New York. He even went so far as to go to New York and investigate the possibility. He discovered that there is as much bureaucracy to be overcome in the US as there is in France. He is still in Toulouse. Dreaming.

Adam said...

Peter: I try to alternate. On busy days, I support the local independant boulanger and buy a sandwich!

Starman: I believe like you that there will always be people ready to give it a go, but this a very particular kind of restaurant I was trying to describe here. A one or two person operation, not offering haute cuisine, but just honest food at an affordable price for the lunchtime crowd. There isn't a great deal of money in that.

Squirrel said...

I think these photos of Mirabelle are wonderful, and sad of course.

we have one spot in Nyack where restaurants come and go, maybe it is a bad luck spot or something.

PeterParis said...

(I talk about you on my post today, Monday 2/2. Referring to Auscher. You gave me the idea.)

Cergie said...

Tous ces posts en quelques jours ! Celui ci très nostalgique, c'est drôle je parle de mirabelle aujourd'hui. As tu remarqué que l'ananas qui est l'or de la Côte d'Ivoire est jaune, l'orange l'or du Maroc et de la Floride jaune ou orange, et la mirabelle, l'or de la Lorraine jaune... Comme chaque fois un éclat de soleil....
Les restaurants qui disparaissent, comme les commerces, sont des échecs de personnes courageuses dans un monde de concurrence et de profit. C'est toujours triste. C'est le triomphe des chaînes, et de l'uniformisation.

Christian Duplessy said...

Ahhh... chez Danie, ça fleure bon la fin des 90's et la bulle Internet ! Merci à Tim de m'avoir transmis ce lien, et à Adam d'avoir immortalisé les 2 patronnes ! Comme cela, il reste quelque chose de ce petit resto quelque part ;o)

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