Described as a neo-brasserie, Astair is the trendy new restaurant by the owners of Canard & Champagne both nestled inside one of my favourite Paris passages, the Passage des Panoramas.
The very charming Passage des Panoramas is one Paris’ oldest dating back to 1799 and already has several well-known restaurants including Michelin starred La Table du 53, Racines and a gourmet gluten free option, Noglu. I came across Astair by complete accident while searching the internet for something completely different for my second night in Paris and it immediately appealed to me. However, what sealed the deal was the acclaimed food critic Alexander Lobrano’s fabulous review of Astair. One of the owners of Astair, Jean Valfort says that younger Parisians have found love for the traditional brasserie again but want something a little bit different which is why they hired chef Gilles Goujon, a three Michelin starred chef to design their menu. While there are traditional dishes like frog legs, snails and foie gras, there are inventive gems like squid ink linguine and black blood pudding with apples and mashed potatoes. The menu however changes regularly, and it’s already changed since my visit in July.
What I found really useful is that you’re able to make a reservation via their online portal; no need to ring the restaurant direct and so that’s what I did, I booked Restaurant Astair for my final night in Paris. An email always follows to confirm your reservation.
Designed by acclaimed designer Tristan Auer, the interiors are smouldering and sensual, the black and gold façade of Astair is striking, it’s quite easy to walk past though because the shops inside the Passage des Panoramas are of similar décor. But it’s so undeniably Parisian, gilt gold detailing, plush burnt orange sofa banquettes and those quintessential Parisian chairs I love so much. There are even musical instruments on display in the front of the restaurant! Walk further into the heart of Astair and you’ll be confronted with a beautiful Art Deco-ish central cocktail bar with bar stools to enjoy some drinks before dinner. The cuisine is definitely bistronomy at its best and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in accompanied by my daughter Zoe who was in Paris with me.
What we ate at Astair
We had our pick of seats since it was mid-week and half full at 9:00pm, rest assured the restaurant is fully booked at the weekend. Approached by a very handsome waiter, actually all the waiters were easy on the eye and so friendly; there was definitely some flirting going on according to my daughter, what would Mr A have to say about that!!We perused the menu, in fact, I studied it in some depth when I was at home, I had a pretty good idea of what we’d order. I ordered an aperitif and in homage to Mr A who wasn’t with us, I chose his favourite, the Old Fashioned cocktail which hit the spot perfectly while my daughter had a coke.
Naturally, for starter it had to be my much-loved oysters however, much to my disappointment, they were sold out. We definitely wanted to try some frogs’ legs having been brave enough to sample that other French delicacy, snails and the foie gras sounded appealing. The foie gras was served with a fig chutney and farmhouse bread and the frog legs smelt divine swimming in a heavenly garlic tomato broth with lots of parsley.
The foie gras was just delicious, if you’re a lover of this fine French delicacy very much frowned upon in the UK, you’ll love Astair’s thinly sliced circles of rich foie gras, the chutney a perfect accompaniment. Rather than chunky bread which was perfect for the snails to dip into that gorgeous sauce, I would have preferred thin crispy toasted bread, but it was still perfect.
Frog legs, well what can I say! They looked like frogs’ legs but I didn’t really know what I was expecting to be honest. “Of course they look like frog legs mum” was Zoe’s reaction, the unmistakable Z shaped legs of these familiar creatures was quite obvious. Many people say taste like chicken, but I beg to differ. I understand why this is said but they’re altogether very different. They’re like the sinewy bits of chicken; the flesh near the body and thigh that can sometimes remain a little bit undercooked and they’re a bit transparent. This is as near to what frogs’ legs tasted like in our opinion. We had bowls of citrus water to dip our fingers in because you’re supposed to eat them like chicken wings but in all honesty, I wasn’t that desperate to get every bit of meat off; we cut around the bone and that was enough. It was unanimous for both Zoe and I, frogs’ legs really aren’t our thing, we prefer snails but we’re really happy that we at least tried them and I’m so proud that Zoe enjoys food enough to be adventurous with it.
The highlight of evening was coming next, our main dishes and they were truly outstanding. Zoe chose the Pork Champ which had juices of garlic and thyme in a rich jus and a side of pommes frites while I chose the Veal Blanquette. Zoe’s pork was juicy and tender, the jus was meaty, salty and sweet which she dipped her crispy fries into and the last of the bread was used to mop up the remaining pork sauce, she was very pleased with her choice as I was with mine.
I’ve never had veal served in this way before, tender slices of veal in a rich creamy sauce with mushrooms and carrots, it’s a classic French dish. It was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before, it was sublime, just a stunning dish served alongside super fluffy basmati rice. This dish was probably one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever eaten in Paris to date.
Could we fit a dessert in? oh yes because when in Paris, cake is a must, but we had a good amount of time between our mains and dessert. Meanwhile the restaurant was filling up, there was a real buzz about the place with Parisian warmth and atmosphere.
Knowing there was Floating Islands on the menu, I knew Zoe would choose this as it’s her favourite dessert in Paris while I went very traditional and had rum cake or Rum Baba to give it its proper name. The crème anglaise in Zoe’s Îles flottantes et nougatine to give it its official name was thin as it should be but with the rich and creamy intensity of a much thicker custard and the meringues were like puffy light-as-air clouds trickled lightly with caramel and toasted almonds, I could see that Zoe was absolutely delighted with it.
Rum Baba is a yeasty cake soaked in a sugar rum syrup and topped with fruit and cream or ice-cream, it’s a dessert I’ve made many times before at home and I was looking forward to it as I haven’t eaten one in a good 2-3 years. Astair’s Rum Cake was moist and fragrant with the merest hint of rum accompanied with plump sweet strawberries and finished off with cream. If I had to pick fault and fault is overstating it, it would be that I wished there was slightly more syrup and moisture in the cake because the edges were just a little bit dry but nonetheless a super dessert and the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
Astair say their restaurant is about “The revival of the French Brasserie” and that it definitely is, warm and inviting in the wonderful mythical location inside one of Paris’ historical covered passages. The food was outstanding and the service spot on, there’s so much to love about Astair….
19 Passage des Panoramas
+33 09 81 29 50 95
Open Tues-Sat 12:00-14:30 and 19:00-22:30
Our meal cost 135 Euros. All photo’s are my own, main picture is courtesy of Restaurant Astair.
For more information and menus, have a look at the restaurants website