Paris a city full of culinary delights! Now I live in London and believe that it is one of the greatest cities on the planet for food, but Paris is just so very different! Its streets are filled with colourful markets selling delicious fresh food, patisseries filled with delicacies and bistros creating mouth-watering simple food that you wish you could re-create at home.
Of course there are the usual sights to see, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the arc de Triumph, the stunning Notre Dame and walking along the Seine.
But part of Paris is the food. The smells, the tastes and the trying something new. For me, one of my favourite parts of Paris are the markets. I struggle to understand why we do not have such markets in the UK, its something we are lacking. Sure with the rise in popularity of Farmers Markets they are becoming more popular on our streets but we are nowhere near to the French. The markets big and small line the side streets and squares, they are filled with bright colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and meat, cabinets full of rich and pungent cheeses – your weeks shopping all here! You do not have to be a massive foodie to appreciate the simplicity and effectiveness of these markets.
If you want something a little bit more artistic than the hundreds of bakeries and patisseries that fill Paris will keep you busy. A couple of favourites of mine are Eclair du Genie, the home of some of the most artistic and delicious eclairs I have ever come across. The choux bun is light and crispy, the fillings vary but they are full to busting and the top is iced and decorated expertly. Yes, ok, the eclairs cost between €5-8 but they are worth it. They are filled to the brim with yumminess and are definitely a treat to appreciate. I had one filled with chocolate cream, and another filled with smooth dulce de leche. Both were delicious, and definitely worth the money. There is nowhere to sit inside so it’s definitely an eclair to take away and enjoy later, but the simplicity of the shop is effective, your eyes are instantly drawn to the cabinets housing the colourful eclairs!
For something a little more delicate why not stop off on your wanderings around Paris for a macaroon, those colourful little morsels! Of course there is the obvious choice of stopping off at Laduree, who have stores all over Paris ( maybe avoid the one on the Champs Elysees as there was always a massive queue to get into the shop when we walked past it), but if you want to go somewhere a little quieter but just as good try Maison Georges Larnicol, who sells divine macroons and chocolate. Another place that was recommended to me but I didn’t have time to visit ( this time) is Popelini which sells choux pasty buns filled with wonderful flavours.
Of course, you cannot just eat patisserie items for the whole weekend…. or can you??
No, savoury must be given just as much time as the sweet in Paris, and time we did indeed give it. On Friday night we decided to try a slightly odd venue, but one recommended by Conde Naste Traveller, we had dinner in the Renault showroom! Yes you heard me, we had dinner at L’aterlier Renault. The restaurant is located on the Champs Elysees, and was once the Renault showroom. It is now an exhibition space/show room for Renault on the ground floor, housing concept cars and formula 1 cars ( this is a car enthusiasts dream destination!). Up some immaculately white stairs you come to split level walkways which have tables on them, the first floor for dinner and then the top floor their bar.
The decoration is very simple, clean and white, it lets the cars do the talking. The Menu itself is simple but delicious, and the staff attentive and friendly. Starting with the customary Steak Frites, presented on modern plates ( everything has an intricate design detail to it), it was beautifully cooked fillet steak, crispy fries, and the béarnaise sauce was thick and creamy and full of butter! It’s exactly what you want your first night in Paris! The desert menu of course is full of delights. You can have one of their tasting deserts which comes as a piece of art, little pots filled with delights, like the chocolate one which is a chocolate lovers dream – a chocolate macaroon, chocolate moose, cream, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. I myself went for the waffle, thinking I haven’t had a waffle in a very long time, was presented with something much less dainty, two massive waffles, covered in white chocolate ice cream, Chantilly cream and warm chocolate sauce – yum! Now I am not going to lie, this wasn’t the cheapest meal in the world, but you are on the Champs Elysees, and you are partly paying for the atmosphere, service and the setting. The food was great, so in my eyes worth it ( plus we may have had wine and cocktails… oops!).
In between our hunt for patisseries on Saturday and of course sightseeing of the beautiful architecture of Paris ( for some reason my sister wasn’t enjoying the walking tour I was taking her on of 16th Century Paris… no idea why!) there were savoury stops. A stop on the Rue du Abbesses in Montmartre was our destination for lunch, La Sancerre. A former rock café that has now cleaned up its act and you find a 1930’s style café that serves traditional fare and is always busy. At the bar when we arrived were a group of local middle aged men, a couple were slightly odd yet entertaining characters! Clearly this is where they came on a saturday afternoon to sample the beer. We sat inside as the tables outside on the pavement were full but with the windows open you didn’t lose any of the Parisian abeyance. The menu is full of traditional food, and there is a daily specials board. The beef bourguignon was divine, the meat melted in your mouth and the jus was rich and flavourful. A staunch favourite that survived the change from rock venue is the famous La Sancerre triple mini burgers, filled with bacon, guacamole and cheese, served with fries they are a great version of the steak hache!
Of course post lunch what does one do in Montmartre other than take the petit train around the sites, meaning you can avoid those uphill climbs to the sacre coeur ! The Petit train starts from Place Blanche and takes you all around Montmartre, it’s a novel thing to do and isn’t very expensive (€6 each) and takes about 30-40mins. Worth doing!
Having been given loads of recommendations for places to eat for dinner on Saturday night it was a bit of a pick a name out of a hat for dinner as we couldn’t decide where to go. Lady Luck sent us to Chez Paul a small bistro in Bastille. This delightful bistro was very traditionally decorated, a few tables outside on the pavement, downstairs had a more casual appearance where the bar was and we were sat upstairs, a more formal setting, the décor on the walls paintings of various women. The Menu at Chez Paul is long, and hand written which can mean it takes a fair amount of time to decide what you want. There is no English option menu here, so if your French isn’t great check the menu out online first. The waitress did speak some English but was reluctant to speak it unless forced to, but she was willing to explain a couple of things on the menu for us. The food was traditional French, and everything that came out of the kitchen looked and smelt amazing. I started with the French Onion soup, and between me and my sister we managed to polish off this giant soup topped with baguette and what looked like a good half-inch of cheese…. oh the cheese!! Mains were delicious, my sister went with steak again which was cooked to perfection and dauphinoise potatoes which were so creamy and garlicky yum! I had the veal chop with fresh tagliatelle and a mushroom sauce, the meat melted and the pasta light.
After quite a heavy meal and a fair amount of rose we decided to skip desert, even though the crème Brule was calling my name and decided to grab a crepe later on. So on departing the warm bistro full of delicious smelling things we headed out into the autumnal night and went over to the Eiffel Tower. We weren’t sure if we would get there in time to go up, but we did! well to the 2nd floor, the top floor was closed by the time we got there at 10.30pm but there was still quite a few people going up to the 2nd floor, and it was worth it. At that time of night there are not a huge amount of people so you can spend as much time as you like wandering around up there, the city twinkling below you.
A night-time trip up the Eiffel tower was a great way to finish off the weekend. Once we got back down to the ground, with a cup of hot chocolate and a nutella crepe in hand we went and sat by the Seine. The trip started with sweet and it was only right to end it on sweet! Au revoir Paris, until next time!
If you are looking for more inspiration for Paris then a couple of blogs that I found invaluable are – http://hipparis.com/ and also the lovely Mardi at http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/ . Check them both out before your next trip to Paris!