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“I am more useful here, in Noisy-le-Grand, than in the sore neighborhoods of Paris”

A strong wind seems to be pushing Jacky Ribault east. A wind of freedom. The chef, already a star in Paris (at the restaurant Qui plume la lune) and in Vincennes (L’Ours), in the Val-de-Marne, opened on 1er November 2021 a large brasserie, Les Mérovingiens, in Noisy-le-Grand (Seine-Saint-Denis). This beautiful establishment with seventy covers is located about fifteen minutes on foot from an RER station, in a charmless avenue dotted with beige buildings.

Passing the heavy door, on which the name of the restaurant is written in gold letters, one enters another universe, like a mansion where heterogeneous artefacts appear here and there evoking the powerful dynasty. Animal skins are spread over the seats, antique flea thrones furnish the room, gigantic crowns (elements of 18th century canopiesand) are suspended above the tables, portraits of Childéric and Frédégonde adorn the walls… The crowded brasserie, vibrant with movement, laughter and discussion, seems cut out for feasting!

Salmon confit in oil, grilled leeks, straw potatoes with parmentière sauce and Merovingian wasabi condiment.

He is a pure Noiseen, Arnaud Baptiste (ex-Top chef), who runs the stoves and imagines dishes of the day at 20 euros. With a small mustache, arms devoured by tattoos, the 35-year-old executive chef gives a life-saving boost to the classics: the pig’s trotter appears on the plate as a pancake streaked with barbecue sauce, the poultry is smoked with hay, the snails are come in risotto… “For a long time, suburbanites did not have the culture of good food, but today we eat better here than in many Parisian institutions”, welcomes the thirty-something.

The boss, Jacky Ribault, has never been far since the opening. And he may huddle in a corner of the counter, we only see him. Mouth and build à la Chabal, carpenter’s hands and delicacy of a pianist: the 50-year-old discreetly observes, smiling, the room full of life. This Noisy adventure, the creation of a good table in a suburban town, was not easy… The stress of the opening even caused him health problems. But, after a few months of activity, the project finally seems viable.

Our column: The Merovingians will reign

There are still few starred chefs in poor or modest towns in the Parisian suburbs…

And that makes me angry! I’m thinking of all those chefs who claim an ethic, who have talent and media visibility, but who settle in the same places to make money. I too could have gone to the Hauts-de-Seine on the 16thand arrondissement, or boho neighborhoods in the center of Paris. But I think I’m more useful here. I’m taking a risk, that’s for sure: I haven’t even done any market research! And the city still suffers from a bad reputation. In 2019, near the Arcades shopping center, a guy got unsolder because he didn’t serve a kebab fast enough… But this does not at all reflect the daily life of the inhabitants. I lived in Noisy for three years and I’ve never been bothered.

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