Larue Restaurant, Paris
One of the most fashionable restaurants in Paris during the Jazz Age was Larue, which was renowned for its excellent cuisine that had a Russian twist.
Larue Restaurant was opened in 1886 and belonged to the Duke of Uzès. Situated at 27 Rue Royal, it was in a sense where Paris began at the head of the Grand Boulevards which flowed away from Larue’s corner in the place de la Madeleine forming a mighty arc that enclosed in its sweep four arrondissements.
At first Larue was not regarded too highly and it did not rise to any great distinction until it was bought by Edouard Nignon in 1908. From this date and thereafter, it became highly regarded as one of the best places to eat in Paris and some of its more noticeable clients were politicians such as Clemenceau, Grévy and Briand.
Edouard Nignon was born in 1865 and became an apprentice at Cambronne Restaurant at the age of 9. A year later he joined Monier Restaurant, where he learned to read and write and spent sometime in Angers and Cholet, he arrived to Paris, where he assisted famous chefs and eventually became a chef himself. It was said that he graduated from the kitchens of such renowned establishments as the Maison d’Or, Cafe Anglais, Paillards and the Cafe de Paix. From 1894 to 1901 Nignon worked as the chef at Claridge’s in London.
Sometime after 1900, Nignon and his nephew Célestin Duplet became chefs to Russian nobleman and the Court of the Tsars in St. Petersburg and became adept at Russian cuisine. Nignon also spend sometime in Austria and cooked for Franz Joseph I of Austria. On acquiring Larue’s Nignon and Duplet made a determined effort to popularise Russian food and they introduced many Russian dishes including Bortsch and quail a la Souvaroff.
Nignon is also credited with inventing the beuchelle tourangelle, a veal kidney and rice stew inspired by the Austrian beuschel stew and because of his interested in unusual taste combinations, created oysters with camembert and homard a la dinardaise, a lobster salad with a trio of truffles, mustard and pickles.
Larue became a place for the wealthy and rose to become one of the most fashionable and expensive restaurants in Paris. As you entered Larue you were saluted by three smart chasseurs and, there was a right side and a wrong side to sit. There was no real reason for this – it was just an established tradition. The maitre’hotel and his assistants ‘deftly and with an air of great respect’ directed incoming strangers to the right and regulars to the left.
The interior was as it had always been – white and gold panels and mirrors with chairs and banquettes upholstered in rose-pink coloured velvet. It was regarded as a little bit old fashioned and yet stylish. ‘It does not look like the dining room of a great hotel nor like certain other restaurants de grand luxe, where though cooking and service are good, so many Americans go primarily to see to be seen.’
It was regarded as ‘quite a gay, pleasant place’ where the food is choice and there was always music playing. It was observed that ‘it certainly gives you your money’s worth, if not in food, at least in good company.’
One observer said ‘I have heard that much wit sparkles in this famous restaurant, and though I am unable to deny or confirm the rumour, I can assure you that multitudinous diamonds, sapphires, pearls, rubies and other gems beyond price sparkle here nightly.’
Nignon retired in 1928 in his 70s, and his pupil and nephew Célestin Duplet became the director. Nignon’s only son was killed on the Somme during the Great War. Nignon retired to his place near Rennes in Brittany where he experimented with cooking and wrote on culinary topics. Two of his books were Les PLaisirs de la Table and L’Heptameron des Gourmets. In retrospective, Nignon has been recognized by contemporary chefs as ‘visionary’ and as one of the fathers of modern cuisine and one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine. He died in 1934.
All images (unless specified in the caption) and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent
The Gay City by Arthur Phillips
Dining in Paris by Sommerville Story
Where Paris Dines by Julian Street
L’Histoire à la carte. Édouard Nignon : le littéraire des fourneaux by Bernard Thomasson
La Beuchelle tourangelle by Nicolas Raduget
La cantine du troquetby Christian Etchebest
La nourriture de l’art by Elisabeth Couturier
Entry on Wikipedia for Edouard Nignon