Cliched and all as it is to say, Paris really is one of my favourite cities. On my first trip, as a sullen sixteen year old, Paris didn’t manage to impress me (very little did) and photos from the holiday feature me sulking in an array of beautiful spots. Three years studying French history at University, culminating in a thesis on Parisian history, helped win me over and now on my seventh visit, I can safely say my love for Paris continues undiminished. This time, still recovering from an injured foot, my customary roaming was punctuated with even more sit downs in lovely little bars and cafes so I picked up a few new tips.
Bistrot Paul Bert
I’ve written about Bistrot Paul Bert before here. It was exactly as lovely as before.It’s that elusive combination of great classic French cooking, friendly staff and reasonable prices. The portions continue to be huge, the wine reasonably priced and the cheeseboard a thing I thought could only exist in dreams. Bonus points for how patient the staff were at listening to my fairly horrendous French, despite their demonstrably superior English skills.
Au Passage is a scruffy hipster bar in the 11th serving outstanding food. It’s filled with slightly more tables then it can comfortably fit, some shared, some not, with a chalkboard menu that tests the outer limits of legibility. Despite it’s laid-back creative vibe, you can book a table online very easily which I’d recommend doing given the queue when we arrived on a Monday evening. You will then get a fair few emails afterwards asking you to review your meal for them, so this post is dedicated to whoever set up Au Passage’s booking system. Descriptions of the small plates on offer are brief: ‘Rabbit, yoghurt, carrot’ ‘pigs ears, crab’. The menu features a fair amount of offal and unusual animal bits, which makes sense when you discover the chef, Ed Delling Williams, previously worked at London’s St.John. I had a feeling it would be good, I didn’t realise how good.
We were seated at a shared table, which meant witnessing a live action reenactment of ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’, as the three young women at our table picked through three small plates between them. We took things in the opposite direction, ordering more food than we needed because everything was so fantastic. Between us we worked our way through crisp fried pigs ears with zingy (a terrible, but accurate word) crab meat, roasted pumpkin with salsa verde, smoked sausage, deep fried pigs head and chickpeas with ricotta and radichio along with lots of nice bread. Accompanied by several glasses of wine, and two glasses of champagne after I lost a bet, our entire meal came to a ridiculously good value 45 euro a head.
Ici-Meme was the result of a chance encounter, trying to find our way to the Baron Rouge at Marche d’Aligre. It’s a wine bar/shop/deli/restaurant on a quiet residential street near the market. We took a seat for an early evening glass of wine and plate of cheese. They can’t serve wine without food, but there are great cheese and charcuterie plates starting at a very reasonable €5. Reasoning that the measure of a really good wine bar is how good its cheapest wine is, I got a €3 glass of muscadet that was refreshing, herby and extremely pleasant, along with a little board of Saint Nectaire, Comte and chevre for €5. The owners work behind the bar and are friendly, knowledgable and scrupulous in tasting every bottle before glasses are poured to ensure quality.
Du Pain et Des Idees
A favourite with all the Parisian food writers, Du Pain et Des Idees is a multiple award winning organic bakery in a beautiful 19th century shop near the Canal St.Martin. It has a mix of freshly baked bread, savoury stuffed breads called paves, and various pastries, in particular an array of escargot (what we would call a Danish, and the Danes would call Snegle) We went in hungry on a Monday lunchtime, and basically bought the entire place. As a result, I can wholeartedly recommend the pain a l’ancienne, the smoked beef pave, and the praline escargot, all of which were wolfed down in the sunshine by the canal in a shamefully short period of time.