Brigitte and Michel Fredy operate La Normandie Restaurant Français at 625 Ann Street in the Place d'Armes Hotel. The concept of the restaurant is to prepare and serve one dish well, and they succeed. Their speciality is crêpes.
The menu lists ten entree crêpes and five dessert crêpes. The pancake-like delicacies are amazingly thin and light, and the fillings are varied and imaginative. Michel, who does the cooking, uses classic French recipes.
The best entree crêpe is Les Crêpes à la Façon St. Jacques, two crêpes filled with scallops and mushrooms in a Parisienne Sauce. Another delicious choice is Les Crêpes aux Crevettes, Sauce Nantau, crêpes filled with a crawfish buttersauce and garnished with a goodly number of shrimp in a cream sauce. Les Crêpes au Crabe Pontchartrain is also noteworthy, as is Les Crêpes à la Saucisse de Louisianne, crêpes with Louisiana smoked hot sausage and Dijon mustard.
The dessert crêpes are excellent. Try La Crêpe Normandie, a heady combination of fresh apples and Calvados.
To go with the crêpes, the restaurant offers three superb courses: soup, salad, and cheese. Their authentic French Onion Soup is the best in town. It is correctly served in a small casserole with the bread and cheese bubbling on top. It is a hearty soup with plenty of onions in it.
A “salad of the season” is offered. Usually it is spinach leaves with French dressing. It is simple, and effectively clears the palate. You may have it before or after your main course.
The Brie cheese with butter and warm French bread is better than any other cheese course sampled in New Orleans' restaurants. The cheese is perfectly ripe and served at room temperature.
After-dinner drinks such as Espresso, Cognac, and Calvados are available.
Brigitte waits on the tables. Occasionally, when the little dining room is full, she gets rushed, so this is not a place to grab a quick meal. Leisurely dining is the idea.
La Normandie serves only French wines. Selections are not written down. The list is recited verbally, and it is somewhat limited. The wine prices start at $5.50 per bottle.
The atmosphere of La Normandie is delightfully French. Tapes of French songs provide background music and Brigitte speaks with a Parisian accent. The cuisine and decor are authentically French.
The restaurant is open every day except Monday. Breakfast is offered for the convenience of guests at the Place d'Armes. Lunch is served from 12 to 3 (prices are slightly lower than at night). Dinner is served from 6 to 11.
The owners of La Normandie Restaurant Français, Brigitte and Michel Fredy, are originally from Paris. They came to New Orleans in April, 1973. For the first six months, Michel worked as a waiter in the Rib Room of the Royal Orleans Hotel. Then the couple rented the coffee shop at the Place d'Armes Hotel, and transformed it into a French restaurant. The Community Standard talked to Michel and Brigitte about coming to the United States and setting up a business. They speak English quite well, but Michel is more loquacious, and, in the French tradition, serves as spokesman for the family. In other words, he did all the talking.
Community Standard: Why did you decide to open a restaurant in New Orleans?
Michel: I knew the North weather-wise and mentality-wise, and I really didn't care for it. The South was a good alternative, and New Orleans is the only place to be in the South, culture-wise and atmosphere-wise.
Community Standard: Do you have relatives here in the restaurant business?
Michel: My father and two uncles are in the restaurant business in Florida.
Community Standard: Why did you decide to serve only crêpes in your restaurant?
Michel: Americans like a gimmick, so it was a necessity to find something original. There were no crêpes in New Orleans and through my period at the Royal Orleans I found that a lot of people were curious and thought that New Orleans was a place where crêpes existed. Also, because of the set-up of this location it would have been hard for us (because of the refrigeration, etc.) to have a complete à la carte French restaurant with thirty-five items.
Community Standard: If you did not have a restaurant, would you cook at home?
Michel: I will always cook because I like it, personally. I can easily spend a day fixing something and still sit down and enjoy it very much. Like we say in France, you know, “First is sex, and second is the pleasure of the palate.”
Copyright © 1975–2006 Henry H. Mitchell.