As a visitor to Paris my top consideration is where to eat, then what to do and finally where to stay. Mama Shelter allows me to sort out two of those dilemmas in one decision. In what used to be a disused carpark in the unloved 20th arrondissement in Paris, Mama Shelter was designed by Philippe Starck and is now a boutique hotel and the place to eat in Paris.
This is not your typical hotel restaurant. The restaurant and bar covers almost the entire bottom floor of Mama Shelter. From the chalkboard ceiling covered in quotes to the TV screens flashing photos of guests every detail is design driven. A large island bar dominates the space while a varied mix of sofas and quirkily designed chairs make up the dining area.
Small plastic tree stumps are conveniently provided at each table to rest your handbag on. Yes, it is that sort of place but I must admit that I approve. Safety first ladies. From what I can decipher with my school girl French of the “mission statement” on the menu, Chef Alain Senderens is aiming for simple, good quality food at Mama Shelter. There has been some criticism in Paris of the contrast between this menu style and the avant garde design of the hotel. It seems people wish that Senderens had taken more risks with the menu, however to be honest it is exactly the sort of food I feel like eating on a winters night. Probably the most adventurous item on the menu (although one of the most traditional) is the escargots au beurre d’herbes. Despite a little uncertainty on my behalf as to how to attack these critters (see the full report here), I am soon a convert. The rich, earthy flavour of ths snails is really quite delectable. Mind you, anything with this much garlic butter on could not help but taste good.
My waitress is very friendly and recommends the Poulet roti en cocotte as a main. That’s chicken in a pot for the non French speakers although it does sound so much nicer in French. A steaming cast iron pot of chicken and potatoes is brought to my table. The chicken has been slow cooked in wine so that it falls off the bone and is really tender with subtle flavours from the wine and thyme. Just the ticket when it is minus six outside. The waitress also recommends a glass of the Saumer Champigny. I have been trying to forgo alcohol for January, but I suppose when in Paris…
The dessert menu is sensational but I cannot go past the cheese plate. Although sadly not served on one of those trolleys that they wheel around I receive three generous chunks of cheese, wedges of steaming hot toasted bread, apple chutney and a salad of lambs lettuce. It appears that the cheese plate is a three course meal in itself. The cheese is fantastic but I am disappointed that it is served fridge cold rather than room temperature. Essentially this is my only gripe, Mama Shelter is a really fun place to eat and stay. It won’t be for everyone, as I leave the restaurant a DJ is setting up decks in one corner, but with the arrival of Mama Shelter things are looking up for the 20th arrondissement and for food fanatics visiting Paris.
Details: 109 rue de Bagnolet 75020, Paris, France (Ph +33 (0) 143 484848