Olive by the Sea
It’s an idyllic set-up. A single room with a stone counter and a few high stools, a handful of small tables and chairs wedged in corners and, when the sun’s out, a couple more on the pavement outside. Neighbours wave and stop for a chat, dropping in just to say bonjour. Olive Davoux, the chef and owner of Sur Mer, a restaurant that is an essential seafood stop-off in Paris, used to throw block parties here. A whole neighbourhood showing up to socialise, and eat, just off the banks of Canal Saint-Martin.
“Everything is here!” says Olive, who opened Sur Mer in 2017. We were introduced by our friend and one-time Paris resident, Emily Chia, formerly of St. JOHN and now head chef at Sargasso in Margate. “There’s a small prep space, some room for the wine, but otherwise all of the cooking and serving is just this one room.” Olive learned to cook at the esteemed Ferrandi culinary school, moving to the city after studying business in Cardiff and working for an NGO in Africa.
A natural, before opening her own place she worked at institutions like Mary Celeste, Le Verre Volé and L’ecailler du Bistrot. “I caught the cooking bug.”
Open for lunch and dinner a few days a week, Olive has a reputation for unfussy, impeccable seafood and great ingredients. Oysters served with seaweed butter, snails, ceviche that changes with the seasons, and a tuna tartar worth travelling for. She sources from Brittany and the South of France, and has built a relationship with a fisherman who uses a single boat to bring in his catch. “You can eat badly in Paris,” says Olive, “which sometimes surprises people. So we try to focus on the ingredients and doing things the right way. We have some people who come every week. Having regulars is always a good sign!”
After service finishes at Sur Mer, Olive can walk home in a few minutes, waving to her neighbours as she goes. “I’m really a creature of habit,” she says. “Sometimes I think about moving, but then why would I?”
“Everything I need is here.”