The idea of a concept store may no longer be a novelty, but La Jeune Rue has taken the notion one step further: it’s a whole concept street, which aims to celebrate France’s enviable food culture. Situated in the northern Marais district, La Jeune Rue (‘the young street’) is actually a network of three streets: rue du Vertbois, rue Volta and rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth. The name is taken from a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire: ‘Here’s the young street and you’re still a baby/Dressed by your mother in blue and white only.’
A gourmet dream
The area has been designed to be an epicurean quarter, filled with carefully curated – and beautiful – bars, restaurants and shops. La Jeune Rue’s founder, enigmatic multi-millionaire Cédric Naudon, has called it ‘a gourmet dream, a cultural challenge and a social project’, while his collaborators Behind the Scene describe it as ‘more than a street, a bridge – a living area where food shops meet cultural events on the pavement, to warm the hearts of pedestrians, locals and travellers’.
To help achieve these lofty aspirations, Naudon has bought 45 shops fronts in the area and has already started filling them with gastronomic delights. Each new opening is designed to have interiors that are as tempting as the food on offer: leading designer Tom Dixon has overseen the design of a fishmonger, while modern minimalist Jasper Morrison has turned his hand to a tapas bar down the street. At the Korean street-food restaurant, Italian designer Paola Navone has created an interior that combines luxury materials such as marble with more quotidian woven plastic and broken white tiles.
A grand plan
Naudon is also working with a group of leading creatives on the next wave of planned cultural and culinary openings: a covered food market designed by Marc Ange; Studio Job’s take on a crêperie, a bakery by Japanese architects Nendo, a Wallpaper magazine concept store, a cinema by architect Andrea Branzi and a gallery run by arts writer Julie Boukobza.
It’s certainly a grand plan, but one born of serendipity and gut instinct rather than any by-the-numbers strategy. After working with chef Antonin Bonnet on acclaimed restaurant Le Sergent Recruteur, the team was keen to launch a new project and decided upon an Italian restaurant to be designed by Patricia Urquiola. When Naudon found the perfect site, he agreed to buy several other properties from the same landlord and La Jeune Rue was born. He has admitted getting slightly carried away by the idea, buying 37 properties in less than a year.
Eat better, live better
Naudon’s encounters with farmers and artisanal producers through his work with Bonnet have inspired him to showcase sustainable and ethical food. The motto of Naudon and his collaborators is ‘produce better, eat better, live better’, and it is this philosophy that they want to bring to the people of Paris – both its residents and visitors to the city. ‘The dream that rules at La Jeune Rue is a humanist one,’ the team announced at the project’s launch. ‘It takes its roots in the most beloved value we have, the environment, and shapes the most precious thing we leave behind us, the future.’
The project – which has reportedly cost around €30m to date – has attracted some controversy. Critics have claimed that the planned shops and restaurants will not address the needs of locals, while others have mocked the scale of Naudon’s dream. However, the team behind the project is keen to point out that La Jeune Rue is no elitist folly, but a place where food enthusiasts can meet, trade and share with producers, and where every product is sold at a fair price.
Where industry meets craftsmanship
La Jeune Rue’s ethical approach has attracted the support of some of the world’s leading creative talents. ‘The ambition of giving urbanites access to ethical products and to the people that make France’s food, without intermediaries, convinced us straight away,’ say the Campana brothers, who are designing a bar and fish restaurant for the project. Navone was similarly impressed and immediately drawn to the idea. ‘I like to start conversations where industry meets craftsmanship, where man’s hand still has an impact,’ she says.
With a handful of restaurants already open, and plans to open several more throughout 2015 and 2016, Naudon’s idealistic project is steadily taking shape. The result will provide a stylish new home for what is arguably France’s greatest luxury – its food.