This fine dining restaurant, named after the award-winning French chef, opened in 2013 in the French capital’s quiet and residential 7th arrondissement.
The restaurant has two Michelin stars as well as a green star – an award introduced by the Michelin Guide last year as a means to champion restaurants at the forefront of sustainability with a third green Michelin star for its sustainable endeavours.
Toutain’s upbringing and CV provide a window into his environmentally friendly approach to cuisine. The French chef enjoyed farm-to-fork produce from a young age, spending weekends and holidays at his grandparents’ farm in Normandy.
Later in his life, he worked as a sous-chef under Alain Passard at the three Michelin-starred vegetarian venue l’Arpège, and subsequently learnt to cook with mountain plants and herbs under chef Marc Veyrat in the Alps.
While its environs include grand attractions such as Invalides and the Eiffel Tower, David Toutain is far more understated. We initially walked past the dining venue, recognisable only by its discreet ‘db’ initials on a wooden frame.
This subtlety is reflected inside, with sleek Scandi-style interiors featuring cool blue-grey walls, double-height ceilings, large glass windows, pale oak furnishings and bouquets curated by Toutain’s wife Thaï.
Architect Thierry Chalaux has focused on raw natural materials to create an environment which fits with the ethos of the restaurant. The wall, for instance, displays bespoke wooden pieces by carpenter Jean-Marie Lacombe rather than loud contemporary artworks. The result is a laidback ambience which is far from intimidating despite its starry status.
The restaurant is split into various dining rooms, which includes a mezzanine-style space upstairs, a section with a glass window looking into the busy kitchen and a room dripping in jars of fermented products and wild herbs. The layout means that it never feels crowded, even though it’s almost always fully booked.
Staff took our coats and showed us to our large table, fashioned from a beautiful piece of wood.
Delicate ceramic crockery is sourced from Patricia Vieljeux, who has a boutique in the 11th arrondissement, and fits with the earthy décor.
Food and drink
The restaurant has four tasting menus named after vegetables or plants, although only two are available at dinner – Lierre Terrestre (ground-ivy) and Queen Of The Meadows (a woodland herb).
Dietary requirements should be provided when making a reservation, and make sure to keep many hours free as there are countless courses – note that I won’t be able to discuss them all, you’ll want to be surprised after all!
The menu is dictated by seasonal produce and Toutain works with independent environmentally friendly producers, sourcing produce locally and ordering food based on the number of confirmed reservations. The menu is, therefore, ever-changing and is neither listed online nor presented to diners upon arrival.
There are some dishes, however, that always feature – including the first and very memorable dish of salsify, camouflaged amongst twigs and paired with a bowl of peanut-dusted cream.
We began the meal with a glass of Champagne Rosé Insouciance by Huré Frères, poured in such a way that the bubbly white foam crowns the pale pink hue of the rosé.
The experience kicks off with courses of very fancy finger food – bite-sized dishes such as the aforementioned salsify which aim to bring you closer to the roots by engaging your senses.
The main section “au fil du temps” is the most time-consuming section, as suggested by the ‘over time’ name. This began with one our favourite dishes – creamy hollandaise-style egg presented in its shell in a raffia nest, paired with an irresistible madeleine-style maize cake that I would happily eat on a daily basis.
Toutain also has a penchant for pairing ingredients with the same colouring. Crispy brussels sprouts, for example, are combined with watercress and capers – the varying hues of green standing out against the pale cream ceramic bowl.
As a pescatarian (most of the time, at least), I was thrilled with the fish dishes – land and sea combined with smoky lobster presented on pine twigs, there was a melt-in-your mouth confit cod, and a humorous goujon presented on a fish bone and paired with a larger fillet and crunchy Romanesco broccoli.
Any jealousy on the part of my carnivore guest was quickly abandoned when the staff arrived with two racks of lamb, before returning to the kitchen to plate up a tender cutlet with a rich gravy that even I sneaked a taste of – something that didn’t go unnoticed by our friendly waiter (though he promised to keep it on the quiet).
Sourdough bread is served throughout the main section, sourced locally from the wonderful Ten Belles bakery, with a rich and incredibly yellow butter (which I’m told has that appearance as it’s rich in beta carotene).
The service ends with a variety of desserts – from pear pâtisserie to a coffee and chestnut concoction with a shot of espresso, and an almond and caramel cookie presented in a large wooden vessel.
Wine pairings throughout are sophisticated, with bottles including Alexandre Bain La Levée Pouilly-Fumé and Chateauneuf du Pape, as well as the smooth honeyed Barbeito Boal Old Reserve 10 Year Old Madeira to finish.
The team are incredibly friendly and professional, while still approachable should you have a question about some of the complex flavours.
All were happy to share information when I asked questions about sustainability and how the restaurant fared during the pandemic (it did a click and collect service).
A special mention to our lead waiter, Francois Xavier Beussant, who has previously worked in kitchens across Asia and shows his experience in his knowledge about the sector. I was also lucky enough to meet David Toutain after the meal, whose enthusiasm about the natural focus of his food was immediately evident.
Dining at David Toutain is an adventure into creative gastronomy which manages to feel luxurious without seeming pretentious thanks to sleek minimalist interior design and warm service.
The theme of nature pervades both the design and food, with the emphasis on local produce and reduction of waste setting a good example for fine dining in a climate-conscious world.
Monday 12.30pm-2.30pm; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12pm-2.30pm
Tasting menus range from €130 to €280
Sommelier wine pairings range from €80-€180
*All include service charge
For those interested in corporate events, the restaurant can be privatised exclusively for events, with capacity for 50 people for a meal or 60 for a cocktail reception, or there are two spaces for hire. ‘Identi-T’, accessible by a private entrance, has a long oak table which can seat 18 people, and next door there is a new tasting area (‘the living room’) which can be privatised for 10-13 guests interested in discovering Toutain’s craft.
29 Rue Surcouf, 7007 Paris; +33 01 45 50 11 10; davidtoutain.com