As with any and every trip I take, my most recent sojourn in Paris with a friend was carefully planned around a must-eat list of epicurean essentials.
From Michelin-recommended crêpes in the Marais to a fashion-forward dinner in an ex-fashion studio – here’s how we trail-blazed across this city of/ for gourmands, making sure to snaffle all the French pastries along the way…
Our brief address in Paris was the très trendy Hotel Bachaumont, situated just moments away from Rue Montorgueil – a thriving street market in the heart of the city (not to mention one of the oldest!).
This is where we leisurely spent our mornings, doing as the Parisians do – popping into the inviting boulangeries and befriending the locals whilst idly sitting outside the colourful cafés, watching the world bustle on by.
What I love the most about this area is it’s sheer diversity. The all-encompassing neighbourhood offers everything from vibrant displays of flowers and fruits, to world-famous pâtisseries (more on which, later) and shops specialising in cheese, fish, spreads, you name it.
There are vintage bistros and restaurants, speakeasy cocktail bars, and more zeitgeisty newcomers too, such as the cheery Muesli bar we stumbled upon on our second morning. The coconut yogurt here was wonderfully fresh, with toppings ranging from chocolate granola to fresh berries and noisettes!
As for the shopping in these surrounds, well those hidden gems are a story for another day.
Elevenses: an hour for coffee and choux pastries
Of course by the time elevenses rolled around, we were peckish all over again. Finding ourselves in the vicinity of the Opéra, we headed straight toward Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet.
A burgeoning food hall situated across the road from the eponymous landmark department store, it’s filled with the stuff of this foodie’s dreams – from matcha-marvellous creations at Sadaharu Aoki and chocolates from Alain Ducasse, to a fetchingly-vibrant selection of éclairs from L’Éclair de Génie by Christophe Adam. Cocooning a burst of varied flavours (from citron yuzu to mascarpone), each of these golden choux pastries is sheathed by a glistening layer of tempting toppings… making for a scrummy mid-morning bite washed down by a coffee from Paulette.
Other stand-out attractions include a tasting atelier run by Maison de la Truffe (the original restaurant in Place de la Madeleine has been a truffle temple of sorts since 1932). Perching at the smartly-polished counter here, one can indulge in both the classics and exclusive creations (alongside truffle products) – from Périgord black truffle omelettes to truffle-topped pizzas and even truffle-tinged madeleines!
Incidentally you can also find an outpost of the tasting atelier in La Grande Epicerie de Paris – an equally worthy contender for your attention if you’re planning a visit to the the ionic Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche (owned by the formidably-fashionable LVMH Group!).
The genteel surrounds of Saint Germain des Prés have their fair share of charming cafés and historic coffeehouses too – such as Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, which were once the philosophical and literary axes of the city. Both have become a bit of a tourist trap in recent times… yet the the prospect of sitting at the same spot once inhabited by the likes of Jean Paul-Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway and even Pablo Picasso, is a bucket-list experience of sorts which must be ticked off on one of those innumerable visits to Paris!
In need of a caffeine fix whilst sauntering along the quintessentially-elegant boutiques of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, we also chanced upon Honor – a more contemporary, hipster hangout in a hidden courtyard, near the architectural wonders of Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées. Described as a deconstructed ode to Paris’s corner cafés, the outdoor setting was the perfect spot for cooling our heels with an Aussie-style flat white, before we carried on with our day!
What about lunch?
We loved the look of Farnesina for a long and lazy lunch – a rustic Italian restaurant located off Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, with an outdoor terrace and interiors inspired by the eponymous Villa Farnesina in Rome. But much to our disappointment, it had closed for the afternoon by the time we managed to pull ourselves away from the surrounding boutiques (Roger Vivier proved to have had a particularly compelling hold on us).
Ravenous by this point and desperate for instant gratification, we fell prey to one of the more touristy restaurants in the area. What followed was a passable, if unmemorable interlude.
In hindsight, I wish we’d booked ahead for lunch at Septime – a Michelin-starred restaurant highly lauded for Chef Bertrand Grébaut’s championing of seasonal ingredients, through beautifully plated modern French dishes. According to Eater, it’s widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in Paris!
We would have done well by gallivanting across town to the 11th Arrondissement either ways, given the unnumbered pleasures described of this northeastern neighbourhood – including Mokonuts – a French bakery with Lebanese and Japanese inspirations…
In this case however, we were mollified with a second lunch at a relaxed neo-bistro back in our neighbourhood (on Rue Montorgeuil). Grilled to a soft, melt-in-your-mouth perfection – the Croque Monsieur was one of the finest I’ve had in Paris yet!
The next day, we schlepped over to Breizh Café in the Marais – an unassuming simple Breton crêperie, recently recommended in the Michelin Guide for their different take on crêpes. ‘La crêpe autrement.’
All the choices here are overwhelmingly tempting, with combinations running the gamut from smoked herring, crème fraîche and herring egg caviar, to sautéed shiitake mushrooms, raw milk Gruyère cheese and a fried egg (sunny side up)… all neatly enveloped within a darkly-crisp buckwheat galette!
Heeding the advice of locals, we’d arrived just a little before opening time – cleverly getting ahead of the queues that had patiently formed outside, by the time we finished. Taking advantage of the gloriously sunny weather, we ambled along the cobbled streets of the famous Jewish quarter afterwards – pausing ever-so-often to discover one-of-a-kind shops and avant-garde art galleries, before eventually finding our way to Place des Vosges.
Although there are plenty of draws housed under the historic arches of this oldest planned square in Paris, we had a singular destination in mind, Carette.
Fashioned in the signature style of one of my favourite designers, Hubert de Givenchy, the modish tea house also reflects the Louis XIII style of its charming surrounds. A vaunted stalwart of French pâtisseries, the original salon is situated near the Eiffel tower (on Place du Trocadero).
With their robust colours and ganache-like fillings, the macarons here are by far my favourite in Paris (and yes, even over and above Pierre Hermé); while the vividly-appealing display of classic pastries are enough to set me swooning…
Let’s be honest, the promise of a new wardrobe aside, it’s really the promise of all those French pastries which have my heart racing from the moment I hop off the Eurostar. No surprise then, that we also booked ourselves in for tea at Le Meurice, delighting in the exquisite handiwork of France’s foremost pastry Chef, Cédric Grolet.
And while no length of time is ever enough to cover the city’s plethora of pâtisseries, on this occasion we caught a lucky break by discovering Fou de Pâtisserie on (where else?) Rue Montorgueil. Curated by the editors of the eponymous Fou de Pâtisserie magazine, the tiny but picturesque spot showcases the finest pastries, cakes, financiers and madeleines that Paris has to offer – ranging from those colourful éclairs crafted by L’Eclair de Génie, to an impossibly-beautiful ricotta cheesecake by Jonathan Blot of La Pâtisserie Acide.
Time for a tipple
Adding a further lift to our day, were the heady hours spent at our favourite hotel hangouts – from the Grand Jardin of the Ritz (recreating the magic of Versailles in Place Vendôme), to the wildly hedonistic Hôtel Costes (full story, here).
As expected, late night cocktails at the Experimental Cocktail Club proved an inspiriting affair too. Credited with creating a cocktail culture in a city which had previously thrived on more traditional wine bistros, the moodily-dark speakeasy-esque bar recently celebrated its ten year anniversary!
And last, but not least…
Having been tipped off by locals, we were keen to try Paris’ latest and trendiest pizzeria, Popolare. Zut alors. We should have guessed from the name, that getting a table at this popular new spot would be no mean feat…
So instead, we dined at Daroco – a haute new trattoria housed in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s former atelier space and flagship store.
Featuring the designs of SuperKitch – a contemporary French artist and tattooist – the aesthetics of the restaurant do justice to its stylish roots. A glass installation makes for a striking divider between the two levels, while the mirrored high ceilings reflect the animated setting below…
Tables are topped with turquoise marble and there are wicker chairs and soft banquettes to lounge on, whilst you tuck into heartwarming pastas and Neapolitan-style pizzas, fresh from the impressive oven in the open kitchen. The exemplarily-fluffy and charred crusts give way to a thick base holding up a scrummy selection of toppings – we indulgently opted for an all-cheese combination involving a creamy fior di latte foiled by a sharper pecorino…
However, if I had the tall order of picking the most memorable highlight of our two-day trip, it would have to be an incredibly special dinner at Balagan – the new Israeli restaurant in the heart of old Paris from the Chefs who brought us the Palomar and Barbary in London. I could chatter on about how each dish was a thrilling thing of comfort, but enough said as I’m sure you’ve already read the full review?
But naturally, we left with much ground still left to cover. My list of must-visits (based on must-eats) continues to grow day-by-day, with recommendations from fellow foodies flowing in from community-driven apps such as Pepo & Hypit.
If you have any tips to share, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below too – or tweet at me @foodiediaries… It’s just the motivational push needed to have me booking my next visit to the city of lights!