Monday, April 27, 2009
Insider's Guide To Paris - Eating: Part I
Greetings sports fans - and welcome back the second instalment of my Insider's Guide To Paris.
Whether you are planning to visit the City of Light or just want to take a little cyber-eander through the gastronomical landscape of Pareeee, this little guide has been compiled to ensure you side-step the nasty touristy restaurants and eat where the locals eat.
This is but a sampler of the full guide, which can be found in the back of the latest edition of my book, A Town Like Paris (available in all good bookstores ...). And while it attempts to give a flavour of the wonderful eating establishments in Paris, it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Great eating experiences hover on just about every Parisian corner- it's one of the great joys of living here.
Extracted from Bryce's Insider Guide To Paris
Eating in Paris is the main event. Sure, you can come here to climb the Eiffel Tower or gawk at the Mona Lisa, but food – and the 24-hour-a-day appreciation of it – is what a visit to France should really be all about.
There’s a benchmark in food circles called the Michelin star register. If a restaurant is “Michelin-starred” it is apparently the highest of haute cuisine. In my experience, these sorts of restaurants are well and good if you have already eaten before you get there. But if you have anything resembling a normal appetite, you’d do well to avoid them.
I have my own benchmark for the quality of a Parisian restaurant. It’s called the “Showgirl Star System”. If the Showgirl’s Herculean appetite is sated after a meal at a particular restaurant, the establishment gets two pom-poms. Extra pom-poms are thereafter awarded for ambience, grooviness, value for money and service.
And the pom-poms go to …
Hotel du Nord – 102 Quai de Jemmapes, 10th arrondissement – This one rates especially high on the grooviness and ambience registers. Located in what is currently the heaving heart of Paris hipness, on the quai of the Canal St Martin, Hotel du Nord is the eating, flirting and cavorting destination du choix of the cool kids set. It’s also a bona-fide historical monument as the setting of Marcel Carné’s classic, eponymous 1940s French film. A word of warning: the place has recently become so hip that it has two seatings (a very un-French, un-Parisian thing to do). There's an 8.30pm seating and a 10.30pm. If you go on a Friday or Saturday night and opt for the early seating, they will rush you out the door. If you go for the 10.30pm seating, you may not eat until 11.30pm-midnight. The service is either really good, or really apalling. But then, apparently, that's the price one pays to see and be seen.
Astier - 44 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud - Regularly written up in travel mags and on food blogs as a dependable Parisian restaurant staple, you cannot go past Astier for good value, top quality French bistro food. The wine list is impressive, the set menus are alway inventive and the cheese basket has to be seen to be believed.
L’Autre Café – 62 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 11e – If it’s a no-fuss, dead simple, street corner brasserie experience you are craving, look no further than this neighbourhood staple. The Showgirl never has anything but the entrecote with béarnaise sauce. Be sure to ask for the gratin dauphinois as accompaniment. Stodge central.
La Marine – 55 Quai Valmy , 10e – Especially good in summer, when you can take full advantage of the outdoor seating, La Marine is another dependable bistro. The food may not win awards, but the conviviality of the place is infectious.
Maria Louisa – 2 rue Marie et Louise, 10e – Italian members of the Posse reckon this funky little taverna does the best pizza in all of Paris. All I know is that its collection of Italian red wines, its stripped-back interior and casual dining atmosphere make for a perfectly pleasant Parisian night out.
La Boulangerie - 15 rue Panoyaux, 20e – Straight out of the Hidden Gem File, this restaurant is one of my favourites. Don’t be put off by the neighbourhood (‘down-at-heel’ would be a generous description), this converted boulangerie serves up some of the best French fare in the city. Modern French cuisine has never tasted heartier or better. The wine list is extensive, the service is attentive and the welcome genuinely warm. It’s a five pom-pom eating experience.
Chateaubriand – 129 Ave Parmentier, 11e – Right up there in the pom-pom stakes, even if it teeters dangerously close to the brink of haute-cuisine pretentiousness, is this fine establishment. Art deco interiors, a wine list which meanders through wonderful, little known boutique French vineyards and a dégustation menu that changes daily, depending on the whim of the chef and the seasonal specialties of the nearby fresh food market. Chateaubriand is a deeply fashionable eating experience – and a gastronomical adventure to boot.
Chez Janou – 3 rue Roger Verlomme, 3e – Whenever guests are in town and they ask for a restaurant recommendation, I send them to Chez Janou. It’s a winner every time. Five pom-poms for ambience, three pom-poms for food. The moules marinées are a perfect way to start your meal, and the chocolate mousse has to be seen to be believed. But be warned: the Chez Janou secret is definitely out. The last couple of times I have been there you cannot move for English and American accents. But the mousse remains devilishly delicious ...
Robert et Louise – 64 rue Vieille du Temple, 3e – Meat, meat and more meat are on the menu at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Marais. Come for the entertainment as much as for the mouth-watering slabs of red flesh. The octogenarian proprietor, Louise, is a study in perpetual motion. If she’s not tending sizzling steaks on the open fire at one end of the room, she’s slapping yet another pichet of Bordeaux down in front of you at the other.
Chez Nenesse – 17 rue Saintonge, 3e – There’s nothing at all pretentious about this humble, yet excellent eatery. Family owned, family tended and committed to doing French classics very well, Chez Nenesse is an oasis of old world charm, food and value for money in a quartier that is becoming increasingly fashionable. Try the duck – you won’t be disappointed.
L'Ami Jean - 27 rue Malar, 7e - It takes a lot to lure me across the Seine, over to the Left Bank. L'Ami Jean is about as good a reason to visit the 7th arrondissement as you are likely to find. The food is inventive, innovative takes on French classics. The kitchen is a hotbed of culinary creativity. The last time I was there, the riz au lait was so good I could have happily climbed into a bath-tub full of it and slowly eaten myself to death. And you can't ask for a better endorsement than that...
STAY TUNED ... next week's instalment: Bryce's Insider's Guide, Eating Part II