SEEDS OF CHANGE
A COMMUNITY OF RESTAURANTS AND PROVEDORES WITH A FOCUS ON SUSTAINABLE, LOCAL AND ORGANIC PRODUCE IS TAKING A STEP AWAY FROM PARIS’S NOTORIOUSLY STUFFY FOOD CULTURE
Last year when word spread around Paris that much-loved Argentinian restaurant Anahi would be closing its doors, the locals were bereft. The low-lit bistro was the perfect late-night haunt to enjoy a succulent fauxfilet and a glass of Malbec, not to mention celebrity spotting: photographer Mario Testino and designer Haider Ackermann were regulars. Soon after, even bigger news emerged: a new landlord, unknown Parisian businessman Cedric Naudon, had acquired not just Anahi, but improbably, a total of 35 properties on and around the Haut Marais’s rue du Vertbois.
While many wealthy entrepreneurs have hightailed it out of Paris to avoid the high taxes and fussy employee contracts, Naudon has invested a rumoured
30 million-plus on this development, a project he has called La Jeune Rue (The Young Street). His plan: to install a ready-made utopian Parisian community where quality produce, concerned with sustainability, is married with modern design.
The chosen quartier, between the hubs of Republique and Arts et Metiers, was previously a no man’s land save for a few fabric shops, cheap jewellery stores and the electronic cigarette sellers that have recently become ubiquitous in Paris. Now you’ll find the reopened and revamped Anahi; Korean restaurant Ibaji Coren, offering a fresh, seasonal approach to street food, and designed by Paola Navone; and Pan, a Sicilian restaurant a few minutes away from the main precinct on rue Martel. Over the next 12 months, a fromagerie, a patisserie, a wild oyster bar, a creperie, an Italian restaurant, and a speakeasy will follow. Each space has been coupled with a high-profile designer — Tom Dixon and Jasper Morrison are among the other names on the list.
Fancy trappings aside, when I meet with Naudon — an immense man who is never without a colourful silk scarf — he insists that the real star of La Jeune Rue will be the produce. “We want it to be accessible to everyone, we don’t want it to be a luxury place; just something beautiful with good products all in the one place. France has amazing products, but on Saturdays I used to have to travel all over Paris to find the right ingredients — now there’s no need.”
In Paris, the organic or “bio” food movement has been slow-moving compared with other major international cities. Aside from the enduring ritual of shopping at weekly farmers’ markets, there are only a few retailers — Naturalia and Bio C’est Moi — and the product is often expensive, the selection uninspiring. Naudon hopes to change all that. His team have spent the past two years crusading around France looking for quality suppliers to work with: those who prioritise sustainable farming methods, such as the permaculture Bec-Hollouin farm in Normandy, which is now the main vegetable supplier for La Jeune Rue. In all, the team deal with more than 600 farmers directly and have almost entirely cut out the middleman, to ensure not only that the product is as fresh as possible but also that the prices remain reasonable.
“There is an elitist reputation in the organic trend but
“WE DON’T WANT IT TO BE A LUXURY PLACE; JUST SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL WITH GOOD PRODUCTS”
The bright interior of Korean restaurant Ibaji Coren, the first La Jeune Rue restaurant to open