Paris Uncovered: An Insider’s Guide On Where To Eat, Drink And Shop
Ditch the tourist traps and experience the city like a real Parisian.
So you’re going to Paris. Paris is always a good idea. You’ll probably want to eat cheese, drink wine, eat fresh pastries, macarons and practice the art of flaneurie through the tiny streets of the Marais. But where to begin? We’ve narrowed the list down for you, with an emphasis on authentic venues off the beaten track. But then there are the staples, Ladurée macarons for example, that you just cannot miss.
Cheeseboards and apertifs
For true Parisian dining, the cheeseboard is the place to start. Careful, it might become your staple dinner. The story goes that Henry Miller dined at La Palette in the 1930s, a cute bistro in the sixth, back when Paris’ left bank was the place to be. (At least for American writers – and it is still believed Paris helps with the writing process). La Palette is quintessentially left bank: pretty, cozy, and home to the local swards of liberal arts students.
If you’re after the new cool, head to the tenth arrondissement, specifically to Chez Prune at Canal St Martin. The classic French bistro oozes Mediterranean charm. It serves a spectacular cheeseboard featuring chèvre-miel (warm goats cheese drenched in honey) and mint tea priced at €2 per glass. The effortlessly cool kinds linger outside with cigarettes, usually clad in American Apparel. And while that brand’s been out of Europe for a couple of years now, its worth checking out the other outlet stores (Maje, Claudie Pierlot) on the nearby Rue de Marseille.
How to choose macarons
When I think of the word macaron, the Strokes’ Whatever Happened starts playing in my head. I blame Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, a film that should surely get commission for upping the average punter’s desire to taste the French almond-meal delight.
You’ve heard of Ladurée – they’ve opened branches across the globe. It’s still the best place to find a salted caramel macaron. Pierre Hermé produce the most good-looking one though, and in the strangest of flavours. If you’re feeling adventurous, give the wasabi a try. Or grab a chocolate macaron coated in gold dust – I challenge you to see how long you go looking at it before eating it.
Dining in a French canteen
Tucked away off Rue du Faubourg Montmartre is Bouillon Chartier, a 19th century French canteen. It’s the only surviving restaurant of its kind in Paris. At l’époch, tiny Paris apartments didn’t have kitchens (though these days, they remain impeccably small) and canteens like this were dotted through working class neighbourhoods. Don’t let the queue outside fool you, people are ushered in quickly. You’ll be seated next to strangers on a table with a paper table-cloth, which your order will be scribbled on. Allow me to suggest an appropriate menu: endive and blue cheese salad, garlic snails, duck and potatoes, a side of steamed greens and a dessert of port-soaked prunes.
This little piggy went to market
Every arrondissement in Paris has a market, you just need to find out which day it’s on. Arguably one of the loveliest markets to visit, however is Marché Bastille, which follows Boulevard Richard Lenoir to the lovely Canal Saint Matin. (This route serves as the perfect bike trail on a non-market day). Marché Raspail across the Seine in the sixth and seventh arrondissement offers organic – or ‘bio’ in French – fare.
Marche des Enfants Rouge is another story entirely. Over in the third arrondissement, this 17th century covered market is the perfect place to stop for lunch after looking through the boutiques (think A.P.C. and Isabel Marant) of the ‘haute marais’. The space is colourful, smells incredible, and has food from almost every corner of the earth. Try the amazing north African tagine or a delicious Italian red pesto pasta. You can dine in, or buy groceries to take away.
If you want fresh produce, but its not market day, Paris has you covered. Stroll Rue des Martyrs from Pigalle to Notre Dame de Lorette metro station and check out the vintage shops along the way. Or walk the well-known Rue Mouffetard, famous for its cobblestone streets, grocers and being home to Ernest Hemingway. Grabu a savoury crepe at Au P’tit Grec while you’re there.
Where to buy your bread
Parisians all have their own go-to bakery, and their own reasons as to why that one is best. Erik Kayser, however, is an indisputable favourite. The quiches, pain au chocolates and chocolate chip cookies are to die for. Plus, you’ll find the chain scattered across Paris. If you’re set on getting a really good croissant, head to Carton in the sixth. Situated on Rue de Buci, a street that, with French cafes, cello players and grocers galore, is quintessentially Parisian. As you move further from the centre of Paris, you’ll find the price of bread gets cheaper. There’s a bakery near Marché St Quentin in the 10th arrondissement where you can get a croissant for 0.80 centimes.
Something other than French
Is all this talk of crepes and croissants making you feel sick? It might be time to check out Bob’s Juice Bar or Bob’s Kitchen, featuring – you guessed it – fresh fruit and vegetables. The New Yorker set up his juice bar in the tenth in 2006. Now he’s got vegetable plates, quinoa and salads available in the pedestrian area of the second arrondissement.
If you’re after something other than bread, ham and cheese, get across some of Paris’ best international fare. Passage Brady in the tenth arrondissement has a huge selection of dahl, garlic naan and Indian curries under a 19th century glass arcade. The first arrondissement is home to the best Japanese restaurants (Higuma do an amazing Ramen), and the 13th, the best Chinese. If you’re in the Marais, check out Suedois Insitute for some delicious cinnamon scrolls, and L’as du Fellafel or Chez Marianne in the fourth for some kofta and hummus. For everything else, head to La Grande Epicerie, where you’re bound to find your cravings satisfied.
Drinks off the beaten track
Parisians like drinking. You know this from the postcards. But there are several haunts off the beaten track that are well-worth a visit. Aux Folies in Belleville was named after the old watering hole that was situated there, at what were once the gates of Paris. In the 18th century, the area was known for debauchery and its city carnivals, in the 20th century, it was home to Edith Piaf. Even today, Belleville is not the cleanest place in Paris. But the drinks at Aux Folies are cheap and chairs line some colourful graffiti-clad streets.
Comptoir Generale riffs on a colonial theme to serve African-inspired cocktails and large portions of cous cous and coconut milk lentil soup. The place buzzes in the summer, particularly on a Sunday evening with their film screenings. Le Mauri 7 and Chez Jeanette sit opposite one another on Rue de Strasbourg Saint Denis. On summer evenings, their terraces are full – usually with advertising types from the nearby offices of the ninth arrondissement. Over in the second arrondissement, Le Lockwood – opened by the same family of Sydney’s Pocket Bar and Stitch Bar serve damn-good coffee by day and cocktails by night.
Good coffee in Paris
When in Paris, do as the Parisians do. Until it comes to coffee. You might find it tastes no good – herein this article has you covered. Otherwise, take it from me. Telescopes, conveniently located in the first arrondissement, not too far from the Louvre or Jardin des Tuileries is a good place to start. You’ll enjoy the coffee: espresso, filter or latte as well as the Aesop soap in the bathroom.
At Ten Belles on Rue de la Grange Aux Belles, near Canal St Martin, the navy windows open in the summer for those who want to sip their coffee in style. If you’re craving something savoury (I’m admittedly millennial), they do a spectacular avocado and bacon sandwich. Fragments, in the third, is a a beautiful space.
If you want some breakfast, head to Claus in the first, a Pintererst-worthy eatery with dippy eggs and pastries. Coutume, one of the first Parisian cafes with third-wave coffee, offers a great breakfast menu. But Holybelly is the place to brunch for an Australian: good coffee, eggs and – if you want – pancakes, in the buzzy tenth arrondissement.
Published 07 September, 2017