The chef out to show the French there’s more to British cooking than rostbif

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How Calum Franklin is showing the French there’s more to British cooking than rostbif with his new Paris restaurant Public House

Related tags Calum Franklin Paris Restaurant Chef Fine dining

Former Holborn Dining Room chef and self-styled pie master Calum Franklin is on a mission to bring the best of British cuisine to Paris with his new restaurant.

There was always going to be pies on the menu at Calum Franklin’s new restaurant. In his previous role as executive chef of the Rosewood London hotel’s Holborn Dining Room, the self-described ‘pastry deviant’ forged an unassailable reputation with his pie-making prowess. It put the restaurant on the gastronomic map, and eventually led to the establishment of a Pie Room within Holborn Dining Room dedicated to making Franklin’s intricately decorated creations. An award-winning cookbook detailing his meticulous recipes soon followed.  

With all that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that when Restaurant ​calls Franklin to chat about his latest restaurant venture, Public House – a British brassiere he’s just opened in the heart of Paris – he’s in the midst of researching pie tools. Antique leather embossing tools, to be precise. “A friend of mine told me they would be great for pie making,” he says, with an audible chuckle.

“Hot pie isn’t something they’re used to in France”

More surprising, perhaps, is the location. The French capital isn’t exactly renowned for possessing a favourable attitude towards British cuisine and the term ‘rostbif’ has long been a derogatory slur used in France to describe an English person. Franklin, though, believes there’s an appetite in the city for a culinary reappraisal. “I love Paris. I’ve been coming here for the past two decades, and the foodscape has changed a lot,” he explains. 

“Traditionally, Paris is famous for French food, but now we’re beginning to see a hunger for something different. For other cuisines. And that’s what Public House is offering. It’s an authentic British restaurant that combines the best of British cooking with the best French ingredients.”

To Paris with love

Plans for Public House began percolating around 18 months ago. Franklin left Holborn Dining Room in the summer of 2022 after eight years as executive chef. Prior to that his career included stints at One Aldwych in Covent Garden and Roast in Borough Market, and the decision to leave was spurred by a want to explore opportunities outside of the capital.

“It was time for a new challenge, and I wanted to look outside of London. I’d cooked there for 20 years and staying felt like too easy an option.”

The opportunity to relocate to Paris came about after he was approached by investors looking to open a restaurant in the city’s 9th arrondissement, otherwise known as the opera district. Franklin had long been enamoured with the Parisian dining scene, and the opportunity to open his own restaurant there was hard to say no to.

“Paris hadn’t been part of my career beforehand and that’s a big part of the story. When I was a young chef, a lot of my contemporaries and friends went out and cooked in Paris, but I didn’t. And I always regretted not doing it as I saw the impact it had on their careers and their skillset. When this opportunity came up, I thought it was a chance to address that.”


Billed as a ‘unique venue at the crossroads of France and England’, Public House is spread over three floors and, as the name hints at, is designed to fuse ‘the styles of the Parisian brasserie with those of the English pub’. In charge of the look was French architect and interior designer Laura Gonzalez, whose vision combines British-inspired tartans and leathers with brassiere-style floor tiles and impressionist art works.

“People expect it to be a bit dingy and dark inside, but it’s so bright and airy,” says Franklin of the restaurant’s design. “We wanted the look to be a tasteful blend of British pub and the environment we’re in of opera in Paris, and Laura has absolutely knocked it out the park. What she’s created is such a unique space in the city.”

Going beyond fish and chips

Even with a desire to broaden their gastronomic palate, trying to convince Parisians of the merits of British cooking was always going to be a hard sell. Franklin says that Parisians don’t know British food outside of fish and chips but believes that attitude is slowly changing, crediting the likes of Clare Smyth, the chef behind the three Michelin-starred London restaurant Core, with helping to revamp the perception of British cooking across the Channel.

Pies, as mentioned, were always destined to be a key element of the Public House menu, with the restaurant having its own separate pie kitchen. “Hot pie isn’t something they’re used to in France,” he notes. “They’re more used to savoury pastry being served in a cold format.” Fillings are kept traditional and include braised beef served with a thick piece of bone marrow sticking out the top of the pie crust; a dauphinoise potato and aged cheddar option; and a lobster pie to share that features a lobster head sticking out of the side, stargazy style.


Taken as a whole, however, the food offer is designed to concentrate on a broader cross section of British food that’s underpinned with French produce. Starters include a Cumberland sausage roll with date ketchup; Scottish salmon marinated in gin and beetroot and served with homemade Guinness bread; and a ploughman’s platter featuring ham from famed French-Basque charcutier Éric Ospital. Mains, meanwhile, feature fish and chips (of course), alongside Maison Bazochon sausages with mash served and stout and onion gravy; and Boucherie Nivernaise dry-aged beef fillet with bone marrow gravy and homemade French fries. And then there are the desserts, which encompass sticky toffee pudding; trifle; and even cheese and crackers.

One of the most intriguing dishes Franklin points to so far has been the scotch egg, which features boudin noir from Éric Ospital mixed into the sausage meat and comes served, somewhat unconventionally, with a caper mayonnaise. “The scotch egg has been something that’s fascinated local diners as they’ve not seen it before. They often look at it suspiciously, but then they taste it and think it’s really good. There’s a sense of gentle and pleasant surprise.”

What dishes haven’t translated? “Fish pie was a step too far,” laughs Franklin. “I think it’s because largely all the textures are quite soft, but it’s funny as culturally it’s such a big thing for us.” Bread and butter pudding is another. “We did a tasting at the beginning, and no one got it. I put it up on the pass and thought it was the best bread and butter pudding I’d ever made, but the reaction was much more ambivalent.”

Franklin’s approach to the menu development has been to do things in stages. Next up will be a beef wellington, which he is currently working on, and beyond that the addition of a roast. “We want to make sure we get it right before we put it on the menu. Take the beef wellington, it’s not a dish you see much in Paris, so when I serve it, I want to know it’s the best you can get in the city.”

Overcoming obstacles

Given that Public House is still in its infancy – it officially opened in late March – the restaurant is still in the throes of finding its feet, as a recent visit by The Observer’s ​Jay Rayner​ attests. Despite wanting to love it, Rayner’s experience could politely be described as lukewarm (the headline described it as a ‘calamitous experience’) with Franklin’s beloved pies even coming in for an unexpected kicking.

Franklin later took to social media, describing Rayner’s review as ‘devastating reading’ but with true grace also said that he appreciated the critic’s honesty and would learn from it. “We need to improve quickly,” he wrote. “All I can say for now is that we will get better quickly.”

Feeling the sharp end of a national restaurant critic’s judgment isn’t the only obstacle Franklin has had to face. He notes that staffing in Paris, as it is in London, is tough, although the fact that there’s more of a cultural respect for hospitality careers in France has made the recruitment process easier.

“There’s a real joy in working with suppliers here.
The quality is as good as it is in the UK, but the variety is bigger”

More challenging to deal with was the bureaucracy around trying to get the restaurant open in the first place. “We’ve definitely learnt the hard way a few times. Getting approval for things is complex and made me realise how efficient the UK system is by comparison. You ask for an appointment here for the gas system or something and just get told it’ll be in the next year. And when you ask if they can narrow it down, they say ‘no’.”

On the flipside, though, the abundance of choice when it comes to produce is much vaster. “There’s a real joy in working with suppliers here. The quality is as good as it is in the UK, but the variety is bigger.”

London - and more international - goals

For now, Franklin’s focus is squarely on Public House, but there are other ventures on the horizon, including a restorative project around London’s pie and mash shops, which recently saw him join forces with Native chef Ivan Tisdall-Downes for a pop up at Manzes, the capital’s oldest-running pie and mash shop. “The gap between London and Paris isn’t that big,” says Franklin. “I have long term goals for London, and there are things I’m working on there.”


Beyond that, he’s also open to other ventures. “I’m interested in doing things on a more global scale. Not because it’s really fucking glamourous, but because I’m very proud of British food and I would like to extoll that around the world.”

A brief pause, and then Franklin recalls an encounter with the deputy British ambassador to Paris, who visited Public House not long after its launch. “He told me that they’re so happy I’m in Paris. I know it’s because he thinks I’m going to represent British food in a good way here and that makes me proud. And I’m going to carry on doing that wherever I go.”

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