Boire et manger at The Hairy Lemon

© Saskia Vanderstichele
Onze score

It was on a beautiful Saturday in May, of which there have been a few this year, that we discovered Le Citron Poilu (“the hairy lemon”). It was hard not to stop, if only to take a moment to register the name.

A new place has opened, in what was formerly Chez Max, with an emphasis on Mediterranean snacks and natural wines. It could be a future classic. According to the Italian proprietor, there are two explanations for it. To start with, this outsider in the restaurant trade worked in London for a long time and succumbed to a certain British influence. It’s not uncommon, in the British capital, for places to be given eccentric names. On a street with so many places to eat, it certainly stands out. The name also comes from the common denominator that the staff settled on when they asked themselves what the Mediterranean regions, from Portugal to Italy, have in common. The answer: lemons and hair! And so, the tone was set for a place which refuses to take itself seriously.

Its tagline, in contrast, is as simple as possible: “Boire et Manger” (“drinking and eating”), in that order. In keeping with this order of priorities, the space is dominated by a large bar. Out of the four beer pumps, emerging from a small red-tiled wall, flows some of the best craft beer around (from the Brasserie Dupont, Blanche du Hainaut and Rédor Pils for €2.50, and organic Saison for €3.50). There’s not just beer, though. There are also cocktails, and real consideration has been given to the wine, which features a great selection of natural growers. We ordered the excellent Travel (€28.40) by Domaine Mosse, a rosé made with grapes purchased in the Gard, but the selection also includes growers and domains such as Jean-François Nicq (Les Foulards Rouges) and La Grange aux Belles.

A wine list of this standard calls for food to match. It didn’t disappoint, with a choice of dishes (from €12 to €35) and “cicchetti”, Venetian tapas (from €4 to €12), which they have put their own spin on. The most memorable dishes were, without a doubt, the “pão de queijo”, a little bread roll made with cassava flour and served in the form of a mini-burger, stuffed with pulled chicken, Chioggia beetroot, and mint. It was mouth-watering. We also enjoyed the succulent Iberian ham and Parmesan croquette, a dish consisting of a cut of beef rump steak with a deliberately burnt crust, and, for dessert, cannolo (€3.50), a Sicilian speciality consisting of a crunchy biscuit filled with homemade lemon-flavoured cream. Guaranteed hair-free!

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