A week’s eating in Paris
Spending a whole week in Paris is any foodie’s idea of heaven but how do you choose from the vast amount of restaurants on offer without breaking the bank? If you’ve read about how we planned our recent Paris trip I thought you might like to know where we ended up eating . . .
As I said in my previous post we try to balance things out and combine old favourites with new discoveries and lighter meals with more substantial ones. We were lucky enough to be there for a week so could afford to take it relatively easy though reading this through I can see that most people would regard it as a massive pig-out.
We were staying in the Marais on the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements so there’s a weighting of restaurants from that neighbourhood. Your choices might well be different if you’re staying in a different part of Paris. Or if you have a sweeter tooth. You'll spot that patisseries are notably absent from our schedule.
The tricky days are Sunday and Monday when many restaurants are shut though it’s less of a problem than it used to be.
More restaurants than previously accept walk-ins but for most you do need to book a few days ahead
First dinner in Paris. Always a tricky one. Do you go for something quintessentially Parisian or something new and exciting? Last year we went to Le Gaigne a really lovely small neighbourhood restaurant which has since closed but has apparently found a new site. This year it was the cutting edge Le Mary Celeste, a wine bar with delicious Asian-inspired small plates just a 10 minute walk from the flat. Note you can only book up to 7.30pm and it gets rammed. It is open on Sunday though. Review here
Lunch at Bistrot Paul Bert - a great Parisian bistrot and one of our all-time favourites. Fantastic value: 19€ for a brilliant 3 course lunch. (See review) Couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Except for a few ‘gariguette’ strawberries.
Our heaviest day’s eating: A glass of wine and a couple of croquettes at L’Avant Comptoir, the tiny stand-up wine bar next to Yves Cambdeborde’s more famous Le Comptoir - and much easier to get into - then lunch with our friend cookery writer Trish Deseine at Semilla, a chic little restaurant on the left bank.
It has a great lunchtime ‘formule’ - three small starters and a main for 24€. Liked the frugality of it: the starters were clever riffs on two ingredients - carrots and sweet potato - a crisp beignet of carrot with coriander dressing, a salad of carrots and sweet potatoes and a rich sweet potato soup with turmeric oil. The mains light on fish and meat. I was so busy chatting I didn’t manage to focus on what the others were eating (veal and something squiddy I seem to remember but loved my main of blond lentils with artichokes and a gorgeous mushroom froth (above) - and I’m not a great one for foam. Nice wine list. Smart, good for vegetarians.
Dinner at Les Enfants Rouges back in the Marais. A Japanese chef - very on-trend in Paris. Cooking is slightly uneven. Some very good dishes including perfect andouille and squid stuffed with small pasta and mediterranean veg alongside some slightly over-ambitious ones (a soft-yolked egg with lime-leaf flavoured foam. Am coming to loathe slow cooked runny eggs). Paid the price for greed though and couldn’t finish the very rich creamy dish of sweetbreads and morilles for which I’d paid a supplement. If that sounds a bit half-hearted don’t be put off. It’s a charming place with sweet service and at 38€ for its fixed price menu is not expensive for an evening meal. David Lebovitz has a similar take on it here.
Morning spent in recovery after the previous day’s blowout. Though not to the extent of skipping lunch - in a rather cute cafe called Le Bal attached to a photographic gallery up in the 9th (I think). The chef used to work at the Rose Bakery - so it has a similar vibe. Soup (Beetroot. Excellent) and lovely wobbly quiche for 15€. Just what the doctor ordered.
We walked a couple of miles to a street food festival on the quai d’Austerlitz then found it was so rammed you couldn’t move (You should have seen the queue for fish and chips - the French are mad for street food these days.) So we hoofed it back to the 11th to Clamato a small ‘tapas’ bar we’d heard good things about that’s been set up by the owner of Septime (which we hadn’t been too taken with last year)
Clamato is great, not least because it’s open on a Saturday and Sunday (though only in the evenings from Wednesday to Friday). As the name suggests it specialises in fish. We skipped the oysters in favour of some fantastic rillettes of mackerel and sweet herring, black mullet sashimi and a very pretty dish of asparagus with trout eggs. In fact all the food was pretty. Interesting wines too. You can’t book btw.
In the evening we had the one dud meal we had in Paris at the much-hyped Chatomat. Goodness knows what’s happened there - the chef seems to have totally lost the plot or got far too excited by his new sous-vide. Among the disasters - tough-as-boots bulots with a bland sludgy green sauce (bulots are served with aioli for a reason), virtually blue - sous-vided?- onglet with a slow cooked egg yolk (bleugh) and rare pork and just-cured sardines, as nasty a combination as it sounds. We left before dessert. A car crash of a meal and one of the most expensive ones we had in Paris.
In recovery again. As it was Sunday we decided we’d eat in for a change and bought some rotisserie chicken, salad and strawberries in Les Enfants Rouge market. Oh, and some gorgeous cheese.
I’d also discovered a new Israeli restaurant had opened round the corner called Miznon so we thought we’d see if we could get to try one of their pittas. Although it was rammed we were lucky enough to land a table though had to clear it ourselves. Good pittas though (one lamb, one chicken salad) with a fantastic fresh green chilli dip and spectacular ‘roast’ (though it tasted deep-fried) cauliflower the remains of which we demolished with the chicken. In and out in 45 minutes. It looked quieter and less manic during the week (it's closed Friday evening and Saturday) Vive le fast food!
Another favourite Abri in the 10th, this time for their fabled sandwich (served only on Saturdays and Mondays) If that doesn’t sound too riveting think a stack of finely sliced pickled cabbage, Japanese omelette, crisp fried pork in breadcrumbs and melted cheese sandwiched between two slices of light as air pain de mie. Oooof! Not cheap, I admit, at 15€ but you do get an organic drink (juice or wine) and a madeleine thrown in. We had lunch there in March 2013 which was also great. Note it's quite hard to find. underneath a sign that says City Café.
Then our last night in Paris. A Monday which made it tricky. We decided to stick to the Marais and give a natural wine bar called Au Passage a whirl. No recent reviews because its chef had decamped to Bones* but the food - the ubiquitous small plates - was simple and delicious. (A great plate of anchovies, butter and sliced shallots, a terrific terrine and smoked egg with salt cod which I didn’t think I was going to like but worked really well. A slightly dull plate of asparagus by comparison but you can’t have everything. And the place was heaving. Would definitely be on our list for next time
We’d booked a late train back so had time for one last lunch - again in the Marais so we didn’t have to lug our suitcases along. A totally unreconstructed bistro called Chez Nénesse (top picture) which serves old fashioned hors d’oeuvres like oeufs mayonnaise, leeks vinaigrette and harengs a l’huile (herring and potato salad) and whopping great stews (on the day we went chicken marengo). Not remotely refined but cheap (about 55€ for the two of us with carafe wine). If you yearn for the Paris of the ’70’s before bistros got smart you’ll love it. If you don't give it a miss.
So, a ridiculous amount of eating but thankfully a fair amount of walking too which meant we didn’t put on any weight. And, as I say, we skipped the patisseries ...
Note: most of these places we booked in advance. If you haven’t booked go early (before 12.30 or late - after 1.30 - for lunch or before 7.30 or after 9.30 for supper though the trendier places will still be busy then
* one of a number of restaurants we missed this time.
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