Paris puts British cuisine on the map

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FOR dessert there was an excellent flan brioche aux fruits confits, better known in its land of origin as bread and butter pudding.

An alternative was the entremet a la confiture de cerise parfume au sherry, or Wally's sherry trifle. These items, as well as croustillant aux pommes (apple crumble), are on the menu of one of Paris's newest restaurants, an establishment serving only British dishes.

Opened this month, it is called Bertie's, in honour of Edward VII. It could also be a tilt at another 'Bertie', the man who had the idea of bringing British food to Paris. Bertie as in Albert: Albert Roux. For Paris's new upscale British restaurant, using British products, roasts served from Simpson's-style trolleys and a sprinkling of staff who have lived in Britain, has perhaps found the secret of putting British cuisine on the French map: making sure that only the French do it.

Mr Roux is, with his brother Michel, one of the kings of French cuisine in Britain. Together they run the UK's two three-star restaurants, Le Gavroche in Mayfair and the Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire. Slipping back into his home country, where he is less well known than in Britain, Albert Roux was helped to choose recipes by such compatriots as Francois Huguet and Christian Simon.

The net result, noted Le Figaro last week, was that 'English cuisine exists. Bertie's is the proof. More than just a good idea, this is a rehabilitation.' The weekly L'Express said the cuisine 'is not as French rumour would have it'. It was 'delicious', particularly the eggs Arnold Bennett, the celery and Stilton soup with a hint of port and the calf's liver, bacon and onions. The light pastry and generous filling of the saute de boeuf et rognon en croute (steak and kidney pie) are so mouth-watering that it is easy to understand why William the Conqueror wanted Hastings.

A problem with the menu, said a waiter, was to find formulae which 'don't sound too much like school dinners'. In fact, the more school- dinnerish they sound to the British ear, the more of a must dishes such as bread and butter pudding in expert French hands become.

With imported products, except for a reasonably priced (French) wine list, Bertie's, in the smart 16th arrondissement, is not cheap. But nor, by Paris standards, is it exhorbitant: an average a la carte meal comes to 280 francs (pounds 32).