Anahi, a Steakhouse, Is the Toast of Paris Again


Haider Ackermann, the creative director of Berluti, would drop by three or four times a week. “You’d get out of work exhausted and the next thing you know you are dancing the stars away,” he said. “The meat was not that great, but you drank it away with mojitos.”

Photo

Carmina Lebrero, center, once owned Anahi with her sister, Pilar. She is now its hostess.

Credit
Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

“It really became a reunion of familiar people,” Mr. Ackermann added. “If you needed to cry a river because you lost a lover, you could. If you needed to be wild and dance flamenco until dawn, you could do that, too.”

But the party, not to mention the mediocre steak slathered in chimichurri sauce, came to an end in 2014, after a 29-year run.

Sibling rivalry reared its head and Pilar, the older, quieter one who spent more time in the kitchen, wanted to return to Spain. Luckily for her, Cédric Naudon, a businessman, made the sisters an offer. He planned to include the restaurant in La Jeune Rue, or Young Street, his ambitious concept to turn Rue Volta and nearby streets into a trendy epicurean village.

The new Anahi, however, was not the same. And Paris, or at least a particular subset of it, was in mourning.

“It was really personal, in a way, when it closed,” said Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain. “There are not many places in Paris where you can go and feel yourself — not Olivier from Balmain, but just Olivier.”

But perhaps no one was sadder than Carmina, a self-proclaimed “woman of the night,” who taught her patrons flamenco, refused to disclose her age but said she chose lovers over marriage because she “didn’t have the time.”

“I’d get dressed and put my lipstick on and then I’d watch TV with tears running down my face,” Carmina Lebrero said, of her years without Anahi. “I am like the moon. When the sun is out, I go inside. I am a party girl. Anahi was like my house, and its friends became my family.”

La Jeune Rue, it turned out, was a flop and Anahi’s lease went to auction. Riccardo Giraudi, an Italian-born, Monaco-raised meat exporter who once lived nearby and was a regular, made a play. Much to his surprise, he beat out two other offers and took ownership in early 2017.

“It’s an iconic restaurant,” Mr. Giraudi, 41, said. “I always said if I ever bought a restaurant in Paris — I own several others in Monaco, Hong Kong — I’d love to buy Anahi because of its history, and the meat and my connection to it.”

He brought in better beef, but with the exception of a small room that his husband, the architect Emil Humbert, turned into a yacht-inspired cocktail bar, the latest Anahi looks the same. Everything from the cracked white subway tiles to the opulent Art Deco ceiling dates back to its days as a butcher shop.

Moreover, Carmina has returned: the ultimate hostess with her MAC-red lips, short black bob, statement accessories and endearing, guttural laugh. She arrives by Métro (only on weeknights “because that’s when the chic people go out,” she said), and stays until the last customer leaves.

“She’s emblematic; an iconic figure in Paris,” Mr. Rousteing said. “She’s so good to be around because she brings happiness and joy.”

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