It is little wonder ‘Mariette,’ a cosy restaurant in the fashionable 7th arrondissement in Paris, called Palais-Bourbon, close to the Eiffel Tower, is named after the owner-chef’s grandmother.
It was she, following a visit to the City of Light, fell in love with French cuisine and introduced classic dishes to her family back in Caracas in her native Venezuela where 12-year-old Alfredo Martin tasted it for the first time.
Many years later, Alfredo’s adopted cuisine led him to Europe in the footsteps of his grandmother and train with legendary chef, Paul Bocuse in Lyon, the regional French city famed for its high-quality food.
Now Alfredo has created an intimate restaurant in a compact ground-floor space off Rue Cler, one of the best market streets in the city, with minimalist furnishings and his ‘kingdom’ – the kitchen – located discreetly a few steps under the restaurant.
A simple white-shelved bar stands on the right as you enter and beyond that a quiet, intimate atmosphere awaits, comprising six tables, each with seating for two to four people, and an intriguing wall design with gold highlights reflecting aspects of Nature painted by Alfredo’s cousin, Mercedes Mellior. Delicate wall lamps entitled ‘love in a cage’ are shaped like physalis flowers.
From 2010 when he opened ‘Mariette’ until four years ago, Alfredo’s food offer was a general à la carte one but he has since changed to what he now terms a ‘discovery menu’ that changes every week depending on his inclination and what is fresh on the market. He feels the sense of mystery intrigues clients.
Our evening began with a starter of black mullet, its skin cooked delightfully crispy, with roasted broccoli followed by an innovative layered pasta dish featuring a combination of crab, foie gras and ravioli. A generous fillet of grilled monkfish was cut table-side and served with with green asparagus and vinagrette. Our meal was accompanied by delicious sourdough bread from a neighbouring bakery using a hundred-years old ‘mother’ or starter. Dessert comprised Alfredo’s unique version of the traditional mille-feuille, puff pastry with layers of vanilla cream inside topped off with a dollop of caramel ice-cream.
Throughout our meal, Valentina Maiuri, our server and sommelier, kept us well informed about the wine selections and ingredients in the dishes, which made our culinary experience all the more interesting, even telling us that the glasses in which wine was served were of pure Austrian crystal.
Asked why he decided to open a small, intimate restaurant, Alfredo said, “I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m a chef. So when I decided to open my own restaurant I wanted it to be smaller so I could create food tailored to a small clientele rather than a bigger restaurant where I wouldn’t have a strong personal relationship with my customers.”
Reflecting the popularity of ‘Mariette,’ we were there mid-week and clients at other tables included French and American nationals.