Spring: hype and pretentious

In the 1930s a certain Colonel Harland Sanders opened a café in Corbin, Kentucky, and started selling chicken. You might think you’ve never heard of him but I bet you have: two decades later the Colonel already counted over 800 branches in the US and his brand „Kentucky Fried Chicken“ soon conquered the whole world. Why am I telling you this story? Because it has to do with Spring, a restaurant in the 1st arrondissement in Paris.

This observation doesn’t concern the food quality, obviously. I would go so far as to say that the calf’s sweetbreads that we had at Spring just a few days ago was one of the best and tastiest dishes I’ve eaten in months. The fish course, a generous chunk of Shade- fish, maigre in French, was equally delicious, cooked perfectly, seasoned skillfully. The scallops, served as a starter, were less brilliant but still good, same is true for the desserts – across the board, it was a very good dinner.

How explain the hype around Spring?

It was not, as many people have written and broadcast since Spring’s opening in summer, a life changing experience. It wasn’t a philosophical journey either or an artshow-like event or the holy service of a cooking genius. It was, at 64 Euros (87 US$) for a set menu without any alternative, quite an expensive meal. How to explain the hype around Spring? Here, we come to the parallels between this restaurant and its rogue brother KFC.

In my memory it was that Colonel Sanders who has been quoted to say: „Don’t bring me chicken, bring me a concept.“ The same is true for Spring. To begin with, it’s not even clear whether this place is a restaurant. You could call it a very large kitchen, too, furnished with enough chairs and tables to feed your family including aunts and uncles. But it’s not an open kitchen as you can find it everywhere in Paris nowadays in chique places like Ze Kitchen Gallerie or Yam’Tcha, no: the Spring kitchen fully dominates the restaurant, it is the center stage, it seems to take more space than the dining area and that – started to bother me.

The cooking show

I’m not against admiring chefs (especially when they’re as good-looking as Daniel Rose and the Spring guys). But I’m opposed to the idea that the guests of a restaurant mainly serve as an audience for the cook. When I’m dining out, I far prefer the idea that the show revolves around me: that the chefs take care of me, that the staff wants to serve me, that I’m the main actor on the public stage. At Spring, it is the other way round.

While sitting there, the closer to the inox world, the more you can’t avoid the feeling that you’re not really welcome but just allowed to dine here, kind of a tolerated spectator, and the staff dressed in black (what else?) looks down upon you a bit (like starring in a TV series dealing with urban stories about life and love). Let me put it like this: all of this could be acceptable, if the food was absolutely sensational. But it is just good and, in parts, very good. That’s not enough to flaunt so much pride and even vanity. Spring is pretentious.

Booked a couple of weeks in advanced

But never mind. You will probably never eat there because you would have to book your table at least a couple of weeks in advance (and this will become worse over time). Should you be sad? Only a little bit. You can find quite a few equally good places to eat in Paris. And most of them are much cosier.

6, rue Bailleul
75001 Paris
+33(0)1 45 96 05 72
Métro: Louvre-Rivoli  
Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, for lunch Wednesday to Friday. Make your reservation well in advance.