Erwin and Edgar: Two Jewels in Paris This Month

I go through months where I feel I haven’t discovered anything new. Then I walk around the city and stumble across lots of new things and realize that I just need to get out more. Like last Saturay. My close friend from Dublin was over and we decided to walk around the Marais where she had stayed with me when I first moved here five years ago. Walking past the cute little stores on Rue Vieille du Temple, I saw a name I knew but from where? Erwin Olaf in big bold letters. A designer? A painter?
I had to find out how I knew that name. So we went in to a medium-sized gallery full of big, intimidating portraits of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf.

I remembered. Of course, Erwin Olaf, the renowned fashion photographer for Gucci, Diesel and many other brands. It was his Levis campaign with an old couple in Levi jeans that won many awards in Cannes years ago. Once you’re in the gallery, whether you know photography or not, you cannot stop looking at these polished, provocative shots that hark back to advertising in the 1980s.??

What strikes you is that Olaf is an ambitious and ambiguous photographer. And there is a lot more than shock value here. He captures solitude, remorse and sadness in his sumptuous, luscious compositions. His portraits of women, are works of art, reminding you of paintings of Rembrandt and Hopper.

For his new series, ‘Berlin’, Olaf left his studio to mix with street life, interacting with the city spaces and architecture. He expresses the city and the conflict between generations, finding in the German capital the same flavour of a century ago, the tense uncertainty of the inter-war period. Watch the video of him talking about ‘steps’ and how there are so many in Berlin. Listening to him speak, you realize he’s as fascinating as his works. This is an expo not to be missed. And best of all it’s free, so no excuse.

Galerie Rabouan Moussian, 121 rue Vieille du Temple, Paris 75003, Metro: Rambuteau, free entrance, from 10am – 7pm, running now until Nov 23.

Having walked from the 3rd into Paris’ garment district, Sentier (the second arrondissement), we noticed an interesting new boutiquey hotel and resto called, Hôtel Edgar and decided to check it out. We were drawn in by its unusual setting with its blue walls broken up by wood paneling, 1950s-style furnishings, subtle lighting from modern light fixtures to highlight 1950s advertising posters showing ladies in girdles and pointy bras. Even more unusual, everyone in the large dining room seemed to be having a good time. Mon Dieu! We were sold.

The menu showed it was mainly seafood so I was delighted. This wasn’t your typical steak-frites joint, though they did offer aged sirloin steak for two and grilled Basque blood sausage, for all you carnivores out there.

Edgar’s menu recommended sharing three dishes between two people so we ordered six. We were hungry. It wasn’t long before our table was full of dishes including a big plate of crispy French fries and two dishes of nicely cooked vegetables. We loved everything especially the scallops which were served on the shell with a dab of creamy sauce made with the fish juices. Be sure to try the creamy burrata with poutargue (dried fish roe) and the non-greasy fried calamari which comes with a homemade tartar sauce. Swoon!

Best of all, the mussels are cooked with bits of chorizo so they have a nice spicy flavor. For dessert, we shared a mug of warm, foamy chocolate sauce on top of cold and rich homemade ice cream on the bottom. In between were chunks of banana and crunchy crumble. Wow! Even more surprising was the bill. All of this, plus a carafe of a good white wine cost us €31.50 each. ($42.) And the service? Different waiters and waitresses looked after us and all of them were attentive, efficient and charming. Quelle surprise!

From the décor to the food to the ambiance, Edgar is a real Paris treasure.

Edgar Hotel and Restaurant 31 rue d’Alexandrie, 75002 Paris. Métro: Sentier. Tel.: 01 45 51 41 77. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price menus: €10-€21 per dish. Check out the website. It gives you an idea of how cool the hotel rooms are. I must review it next!