Paris – it’s the city of romance, fashion and style. It’s also a dream destination for foodies, as F&HE rediscovered. Share our must-keep guide to the best gourmet spots
One of the best things about exploring an enormous city like Paris is that there is so much to do, see and taste that anyone who has visited it probably has their own list of favourite spots, especially when it comes to the city’s culinary culture. Arriving in the French capital can also be quite daunting if you have no idea where to start, especially as some of the best food spots in Paris are relatively unknown, serendipitously discovered or heard about only through word of mouth.
The great thing about Paris for food lovers, however, is that you can experience the best of everything the city has to offer, from authentic Parisian street food to the world’s finest gourmet food shops – simply stroll through the city’s streets and soak up the sights, aromas and tastes of quintessential Parisian life. Stop for hot chocolate and croissants, buy a baguette and munch it on your way home, browse through the food markets, try the famous crêpes sold on just about every corner (ask for the Nutella filling), and treat yourself to luxurious macaroons in every flavour imaginable. After all, this is the macaroon metropolis and no trip would be complete without indulging. Then finish with a glass of Bordeaux in a chic wine bar.
As Pierre Rival and Christian Sarramon write in Gourmet Shops of Paris: an epicurean tour, “Paris is a gourmet’s paradise… a gastronomic party open to all comers.”
BREAKFAST ON THE GO
Whichever neighbourhood or arrondissement of Paris you find yourself in – there are 20 arrondissements in the city, making finding your way around quite easy – seek out the nearest bakery designated “Boulangerie traditionelle” (a small sign outside the bakery will tell you). This classification indicates quality bakeries that make their goods by hand using tried-andtested recipes and wholesome nonprocessed ingredients.
For breakfast on the go, make like the locals and order the standard croissant, coffee (café au lait or black) and a baguette with pale, unsalted butter and jams. The Paul bakery chain’s hot chocolate and bread are worthy of a detour – there are outlets dotted all over the city, usually in train stations, airports and shopping centres. The locals buy their lunch here too, and there is usually a queue outside. The flagship outlet is at 33 Rue Tronchet, 8th arrondissement (8e), where the window display changes four times a day, according to the nearest mealtime.
Visit www.paul.fr When it comes to bakeries in Paris, Poilâne is considered by many to be the Rolls-Royce of original sourdough loaves. This might explain why they now fly their loaves daily to various parts of the globe, including Cape Town. 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e or visit www.poilane.com. You’ll also find Poilâne breads at Monoprix, a chain of Parisian supermarkets throughout the city. A good tip is to also check whether breakfast is included at your hotel, as most offer a continental or cooked option.
LUNCH DU JOUR
Representing an alternative to the heavier, more traditional brasserie-type menu du jour, is Boulangépicier, the cutting-edge product of a partnership between two great French chefs, Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser. Boulangépicier focuses on light and fresh food-to-go – albeit exquisite – in the form of soups, sandwiches, salads and breads, with a fine food deli on the side selling things such as vinegars or handmade pasta. There is only one in Paris, but it’s worth the trip. Find it at 73 Boulevard de Courcelles, 8e.
It’s an essential Parisian experience to eat lunch in a traditional brasserie. Enjoy the passing parade as you sip on a café au lait, tuck into a steaming bowl of French onion soup or nibble on baguette and cheese. The most famous brasserie in Paris is Brasserie Lipp on the Boulevard St-Germain, 6e, on the left bank of the Seine. A very popular spot (you’re likely to find queues outside), it is worth a visit, if not for the menu (and comparably steep prices), then for its atmosphere, which typifies the area, once the city’s hub of intellectual life. Ernest Hemingway was a frequent customer.
Walk down the renowned shopping street of Rue du Faubourg St- Honoré, 8e, and pop into La Maison du Chocolat where you can buy sumptuous chocolate (I loved the fennel-infused ganache) and pastries. Considered by many Parisians as the haute couture of chocolate, the stylish store also stocks its own range of brightly coloured, gorgeously flavoured macaroons, a patisserie craze that is currently gripping the capital, and the world. 225 Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, 8e, or visit www.lamaisonduchocolat.com Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte, 6e) is also filled with designer chocolates, pastries and cakes. Some would say no visit to Paris is complete without a stop here.
The epicentre of the extraordinary macaroon invention and production is Ladurée, the feather in the cap of French patisserie and confectionery. At Ladurée (there are four stores in Paris), expect a variety of dainty macaroons in every conceivable colour and flavour, prettily packaged in signature eau de nil green boxes. The hot chocolate is also out of this world. Find them at: • 75 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8e • 16 Rue Royal, 8e • Au Grand Magasin du Printemps, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9e • 21 Rue Bonaparte, 6e or visit www.laduree.fr
Places like Fauchon (26 Place de la Madeleine, 8e, www.fauchon.com) and Hediard (21 Place de la Madeleine, 8e) – two ultra-gourmet food shops in the Madeleine area – have now opened in-house restaurants so you can combine your shopping and eating experience. Take some time to browse through these fine food stores – they really do make your mouth water. You’ll find great gift shopping here too and the packaging is beautiful. Maxim’s, the famous Parisian restaurant, is now flanked by its namesake gourmet store of equal calibre.
Find the Maxim Boutique – Produits Gourmets et Arts de La Table, which also stocks exquisitelypackaged foodstuffs, tableware and napery, at 5 Rue Royal, 8e (next to the restaurant at 3 Rue Royal), or visit www.maxims-de-paris.com. While you’re there, especially if you’re shopping for elegant tableware, pop into La Maison de Villeroy & Boch at 21 Rue Royal, 8e. For the ultimate in food shopping and browsing, the huge food hall at Lafayette Gourmet and the food counter at Lafayette Maison are truly spectacular – culinary temples in all manners and forms. Find Lafayette Gourmet at 40 Boulevard Haussmann and Lafayette Maison further along at number 35, both 9e. At the Maison Pou deli everything imaginable is on offer. Try the goat’s cheese and tomato tartlets. 16 Avenue des Ternes, 17e.
STREET OF DESIRE
Rue St-Louis en L’île, 4e is a fabulous foodie destination where you can stock up on everything you need for the perfect meal. The best sorbet in Paris, in my experience, is at Berthillon, 31 Rue St-Louis en L’île. It’s hard to decide on a favourite flavour here, but the rose grapefruit and rhubarb is a winner, or try a mix of two flavours. If you’re feeling a bit more indulgent go for the macaroons filled with ice cream. Visit www.berthillon-glacier.fr At 81 Rue St-Louis en L’île, you’ll find an excellent specialist olive oil shop called Oliviers & Co, which stocks a superb selection of extra-virgin olive oils and olive oil from France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, North Africa and the Middle East.
You’ll find more branches of Oliviers & Co on all the best gourmet streets in the city. Also in the same street is L’Epicérie, which stocks delectable jams, 51 Rue St-Louis en L’île. One or two doors down from this shop is another specialised gem, a small foie gras shop at no 60 called La Petite Scierie, which sells every form of foie gras and conserved asparagus. Another foie gras destination (this one also stocks truffles) is Castaing, where you’ll find foie gras uncooked, semi cooked, conserved and in ready-made dishes. There’s also a selection of terrines, pâtés, goose and duck confit, truffles, mushrooms and gourmet snails. 65 Rue Pierre Demours, 17e, www.castaing-foiegras.com And then there is the cheese shop at no 76 Rue St-Louis en L’île, called La Ferme St Aubin, with a beautiful selection of French cheeses.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
Open-air markets are an impressive ingredient in the Parisian mix, and they are also wonderfully festive. The Richard Lenoir market in the Bastille quarter, 11e, is one of the most popular weekend markets in the city. Reputed to be Paris’s biggest openair market, it’s an eclectic collection of everything from vegetables and sausages to oddments for the home. The Saint Charles market, 15e, along the banks of the Seine, is a charming weekday market well worth visiting. The Maubert Market, 5e, is one of Paris’s oldest and caters to the academics of the Sorbonne as well as tourists. It’s just off the Boulevard St-Germain and is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Find the Raspail Organic Market at the Boulevard Raspail, 6e, between Rue de Rennes and Rue du Cherche- Midi – it’s a trendy destination for tourists and residents where stalls overflow with the healthiest of treats.
Look no further than Mariage Frères, the first Parisian tearoom to sell tea in boxes, and the city’s most sophisticated tasting boutique. The range and quality of teas is astounding, hailing from China, India, Nepal, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Russia, Turkey, Argentina, Ecuador, Kenya, Cameroon and more. They even stock teas specific to the Japanese tea ceremony.
You’ll be assisted by white-coated tea technicians, who will compile a blend to your specifications, containing ingredients ranging from banana, chocolate and quince to spices and rhubarb. Teas are priced by the 100g, and prices range from €5 – €73 (about R45 – R657). You’ll also find teapots, books on tea and tea-scented candles. There are three Mariage Frères stores in Paris: • 260 Faubourg St-Honoré, 8e (in the Étoile district, opposite Maison du Chocolat) • 13 Rue des Grands-Augustins, 6e (on the Rive Gauche) • 30 & 35 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, 4e (in Le Marais district), or visit www. mariagefreres.com
There are so many dinner spots in Paris to choose from, but these are definite winners: For 21st-century haute cuisine guaranteed to lighten your wallet considerably, head to Senderens, where the exquisite modern French menu is carefully paired with a glass of wine. Expect the likes of red mullet cooked with fresh seaweed, fennel confit and ice cubes of olive oil and a mille feuille of Tahitian vanilla for dessert. Senderens is in the Madeleine district at 9 Place de la Madeleine, 8e or visit www.thepurplepassport.com/picks/paris/Restaurant/senderens/Alain Ducasse’s Spoon Food & Wine at 12 Rue de Marignan, 8e is an absolute winner.
Aux Lyonnais offers superb bistro food that is served in pots and pans. 32 Rue St Marc, 2e. Chez Papa – this is a wonderful restaurant and jazz bar in St-Germain des Prés, 6e, that has been going for years. Oozing atmosphere with great French food on the menu, this is a must stop for dinner or after-dinner drinks. 3 Rue Saint Benoit, St- Germain-des Pres. Buddha-Bar – a multi-tiered, funky restaurant and bar that’s great for cocktails (the cocktail menu is about a foot long), late-night parties and the latest namesake CD. Expect tourists and a steep bill – it’s regarded as the city’s hot spot. 8 Rue de Boissy d’Anglais, 8e, or www.buddhabar.com
GOOD TO KNOW
Angelina is reputed to serve superb hot chocolate. It’s great for lunch and has an elegant tea salon that dates back to 1903, so a cake and coffeestop is a must. 226 Rue de Rivoli, 1e, visit www.angelina-paris.fr/en/ For champagne sip a glass at the fashionable 30s-style, Cafe de Flore, 172 Boulevard St-Germain, 6e. If you feel like a bite, try their delicious Croque Monsieur, sit back and watch the fashionable set go by. My favourite contemporary art museum is Art and Food – Palais de Tokyo. Open until midnight, it has photography, painting and multimedia art exhibitions that make for good dinner conversation at its funky restaurant, Tokyo Eat. It also has spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower. Contrary to its name, there’s nothing Japanese about the menu – it’s a combination of dishes with French and Asian injections. Pop into the gift shop, BlackBlock, for unusual souvenirs. 13 Avenue de President Wilson, 16e.
Deluxe caviar and champagne bars are popping up all over the city. They serve various mixes of caviar (combinations of beluga, sevruga and ossetra) paired with champagnes of specific age and style. Caviar House & Prunier sells caviar downstairs and has a stylish caviar bar upstairs. Find it at 15 Place de la Madeleine, 8e and 16 Avenue Victor Hugo, 16e, visit www.caviarhouse-prunier.com. The latter is strictly a blow-thebudget destination restaurant (as opposed to the less formal bar in Place de la Madeleine), located in a beautiful Art Deco building, where a fusion of 1930s glamour and modern lines are expressed in turquoise shades. For fabulously glamorous predinner drinks in two of Paris’s most beautiful and famous hotels, head to The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendôme and the Hotel Costes Bar at 23 Rue Saint Honoré, both 1e. Outrageously expensive but worth it for the experience. Do not try to take photographs as you will politely be asked to stop.