By Guest Contributor and all around food, drink, and travel pal, Linda French:
L’Esquisse sits at the bottom of the butte of Montmartre, 2 sets of stairs below the Lamarck-Coulaincourt metro stop, on a small residential side street. It’s owned by two friends – Thomas runs the front of the house and his friend makes the food. The menu is on a large standing chalkboard that Thomas will bring over after seating you and lean it up against whatever wall is closest to you. The place is small enough that only one table can see the menu at a time.
I found L’Esquisse in August of 2014 when I was staying at a hotel just down the street. My aunt and I were traipsing back from the ballet, looking for a late night snack and a glass of wine. Thomas welcomed us into L’Esquisse, which we quickly learned had opened only a month before. We asked Thomas for a glass of wine and he started asking questions. “White or red?” I was in the mood for white. “Are you looking for something particular or are you open to trying something . . . interesting?”
I, of course, opted for interesting. (Editor’s note: really, is there any other way to answer that question?) I remember very clearly my first whiff of that glass of wine. It smelled like mellow burnt toast. The toast rapidly morphed into something else that I don’t exactly remember. Instead I have a memory of the sensation of tasting that wine – I remember looking at my aunt in wonder and thrusting the glass at her saying, “just smell this!” I was taking huge unladylike sniffs in shock at how the smell kept changing. I also ordered an oeuf aux champignons, which was a poached egg cradled in a dense mushroom foam. And then I saw figs, mint, and Parmesan marshmallows on the dessert menu and had to have it.
I returned in August of 2015. I was traveling with my husband and insistent on going back to L’Esquisse. Thomas greeted us and paused – “wait, you were here right after we opened . . . with your mom?” I texted my aunt after dinner to let her know Thomas remembered us. This time I knew exactly what to do. I confidently asked Thomas to pair wine with our dinner.
I should have taken pictures of the labels, but I have a thing about using my phone during meals and I foolishly let that hold me back. Eventually I gave in and snapped the label of this one particular bottle that Thomas described at length. Something about how they harvested the grapes after this huge storm and found that the flavors had intensified in this odd way. I also remember being shocked at how articulate he was in English. It’s hard enough to describe wine in your native tongue. Then again, it’s clear he’s obsessed. Thomas told us he bought as many bottles of that vintage as he could, but that there were only a few he could get his hands on.
The oeuf aux champignons was, thankfully, still on the menu. Again, I don’t have a factual memory of the rest of that dinner, just a memory of the feeling of being that level of delighted where I was bouncing in my chair, almost vibrating in ecstasy.
Address: L’Esquisse, 151 bis, Rue Marcadet, 75018 Paris, France