Brazilian flare ignites memories of a beautiful era

Wandering through the shady chic of Montmartre you can see the remnants of what once was the beating cabaret heart of the La Belle Époque (the beautiful era).

Daniel Ferguson

Wandering through the shady chic of Montmartre you can see the remnants of what once was the beating cabaret heart of the La Belle Époque (the beautiful era). The windmill of Moulin Rouge or the grandness of Folies Bergeres still stand but at the foot of the famous hill lies the red light district of Pigalle and its smattering of sex shops, peep shows and whatever else might tickle your fancy.

At the intersection of Rue de Trois Frères and Rue d’Orsel, tourists mill about and live out their faux-Parisian fantasies in faux-rattan chairs at tacky brasseries. Every chair is filled with anyone except a local.

Once inhabited by the cool and poor, Montmartre gave up its muse long ago. Now it’s a dreary mix of postcard photo opportunities and bored looking illustrators drawing cheap caricatures of wide-eyed tourists with a neon skyline lying dark in the daylight behind them.

Standing out and slightly away from the tawdry commercial horror, a small restaurant catches my eye. A little way down rue d’Orsel, Gloria’s sidewalk tables are few and made of simple wood and steel. Moreover, the people seated are clearly local - identified as such by the leashed pets at their feet.

Gloria, Montmartre, Paris
The outside of Gloria in Montmartre, Paris

Inside, a sparse seating arrangement is framed by a crate-stack wooden bar and walled kitchen section. Inside the staff seem to work with a quiet efficiency and without the hackery of black and white uniforms and bowties seen in the nearby tourist traps. Diners talk amongst themselves in small groups and there’s not a camera, smartphone or selfie-stick in sight.

On entering, a piece of paper handed to me reinforces my suspicion that I’ve found a serious contender for brunch. Handwritten in French the menu changes daily and explains all the produce is sourced from agriculturally responsible sources and with everything but the bread made in house.

Gloria’s approach is an accessible fusion of French and Brazilian dishes that offer an authentic point of difference to the tired French staples.

A simple and rustic pork terrine is given an extra dimension by the inclusion of a smooth prune puree - depending on the day of the week you may also find it served with pineapple or mango. The rich sweetness of the prune enhances the herbed flavour of the terrine and although I’m sitting down to eat in mid-November, I can easily see it being a summer dish.

The Pão de queijo.

A Brazilian breakfast staple, the Pão de queijo or baked cheese-stuffed bread rolls fit well as part of a modern French brunch. Served warm with a dill and yogurt dipping sauce, the cheese permeates the spherical crust and offers an interesting texture that I can only describe as biting into mozzarella if it had the consistency of sourdough bread.

A salad of beetroot with goats cheese
A salad of beetroot with goats cheese.

The fromage dishes offer a combination of goat’s cheese served with beetroot, tomato and parsley adding a freshness and colour to the table and to the palate.

Of special note on the day is the rillette of mackerel with fresh lime. Served with a generous basket of still warm baguette, it makes a pleasant departure from the regular pork or chicken rillettes found in brasseries. The lime provides a zesty counterpoint to the richness of the mackerel.

Gloria is a relatively new addition to the city of light’s wondrous culinary scene. It doesn’t try to be haute cuisine, nor does it seek to compete with the cacophonic tourist traps surrounding it. It’s a restaurant comfortable in its own skin - in an area filled with a lot of tourist dreck and I look forward to revisiting it and seeing how its Latin-American flare evolves.

48 Rue d’Orsel, Montmartre, Paris

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