lundi 13 avril 2009

Is it worth giving a second chance?

I first heard about La Bellevilloise from Red Addict who had gone there to watch a concert. Based on her review of her evening it seemed like a nice place and I dutifully noted the address in my notebook. I was especially interested in trying it out since they served Sunday brunch. The perfect occasion arose recently when we needed to find a place for brunch in the general direction of Bobigny where an afternoon at the theatre awaited us. La Belleviloise seemed to be just the right place
So we set out with great anticipation. On that particularly quiet Sunday afternoon when it seemed that the whole neighborhood of Menilmontant had gone indoors for the familial lunch, it hardly looked like a place where a restaurant would be open. It was another thing all together within La Belleviloise. It is much larger than what you’d expect from its somewhat humble exterior. All together there are at least two buildings next to each other, one of which has three floors and the other called La Halle aux Oliviers where they have brunch. It actually has a long history behind it. The complex was founded in 1877 as the first cooperative in Paris. Its members intended to have a place where people could have free access to music, arts, politics and general culture. During the war, it served as a resistance center and was one of the first places to have equitable commerce among the different neighborhood merchants. It played quite an important role in the cultural and economic life of the Eastern side of Paris from 1910-1949. Currently it aims to provide ample space for all kinds of spectacles, exhibitions and concerts.
My first glimpse of La Halle aux Oliviers was promising. It’s a large light filled room with olive trees literally planted strategically in different parts of the room. It was also packed with people eating and chatting away while a jazz band played. And while we had taken precautions to reserve a table for six, in our case it meant being shoved near the entrance where a draft blew incessantly and next to the spread of fruits and jams. I was less than thrilled but I have to grudgingly admit that perhaps without a reservation, we might not have been even accommodated. Next unpleasant bit was the grumpy and snotty attitude of the person who was assigned to our table. I have come to accept (with great difficulty) the quality of French service (often mediocre, sometimes good) but this time around she was downright unpleasant. Its quite a testament to our patience (okay, mine) that we didn’t call her out on her surliness. After all, we were paying clients!
It’s a shame that service wasn’t better, though to be fair the other waitresses circling around were a bit friendlier than the unfortunate one we had, because the food while plentiful, isn’t exactly going to win any Michelin stars or even a value for money award. The way it works is that all the sweet stuff are laid out while you had a choice of three different plates of savories. There was a big spread of croissants, viennoiserie, pain perdu (which was my favorite of the whole spread), cookies and bread. They also had a big bowl of yogurt that you helped yourself to and a fruit salad to accompany it. For the hot plates, they had an English plate consisting of bacon (though they served it that day with normal ham)and eggs, Cheeseburger served with fries and the Charcuterie plate filled with cheese and at least two kinds of ham.

The nicest thing about the place was probably the Jazz Band. They were very good and it’s a shame I wasn’t able to get their name as I wouldn’t mind watching them again at a proper concert. And the room itself is quite charming with their olive trees here and there. It was also nice that it was very family oriented as attested to by the number of children running about and playing. I suppose I also have to mention that there is a chance that you will see some French actors having brunch too as we saw at least two while we were there. Granted, they weren’t Marion or Audrey, but I can attest that the other girls nonetheless recognized them!

Here you can get a glimpse of the buffet of sweets...

Practical Details (Maybe someone wants to give them a try nonetheless)
La Bellevilloise
19-21 rue Boyer
75020 Paris
01 46 36 07 07
Metro Gambetta or Menilmontant
Bus no 96

1 commentaire:

Peach Ledesma a dit…

Go go go Menilmontant! :-) Or as Carol and I would call it - Meni. Hahaha! Fond memories of that place...