Saturday, 9 May 2009

Paris: The city of fine food

As a capital city Paris has got to be amongst the best in the World. It’s small enough to walk from one side to another in a day; relatively safe; great museums; great culture and art; some of the best food and drink in the World; and shopping to die for.

I know it’s a cliché – but the French really know there food. Over the past 35 years I’ve been lucky to visit some amazing eateries in Paris. None of them expensive – I was a school kid when I first went, a student later and since then almost always on a budget – also I really believe in value for money, or more bang for my buck as my American girlfriend says.

Here are just a snapshot of my favourite places in Paris:

226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 75001 (+33 1 42 60 82 00)

Opposite The Louvre, not far from WH Smith and Place Vendomes. This is an amazing place for afternoon tea, with wonderful cakes and pastries. But the must have here is the hot chocolate – not your Cadbury’s powered stuff, but really melted chocolate with a jug of whipped cream plus a decanter of water because it is so rich! It is pure indulgence, but if you can not indulge yourself in Paris, where can you?

7, rue Faubourg-Montmartre, Paris (+33 1 47 70 86 29)

Found this place in 1981 and have visited everytime I’ve been to Paris since. Expect to have a bit of a wait to get in later in the evening, but if you go early you can get in almost immediately.

A wonderful turn of the century (20th) restaurant with communal dining tables. It’s real pot luck who you end up sitting next to, but it’s real fun and an icebreaker. The place is huge with high ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The menu is changed daily – and is printed on A3 sheets which can easily be smuggled out as a souvenir!

When you have finished your meal the waiter will due ‘L’addition’ on the table cloth in front of you!

Crémerie-Restaurant Polidor.
41 rue Monsieur-le-Prince 75006 (+33 1 43 26 95 34)

A restaurant similar to Chartier, but a lot smaller and based in the Luxembourg area on the Left Bank. Again communal dining, with one long table down the centre. The food is very traditional French country cuisine and the queue to get in can be very long – but well worth it.

The ‘facilities’ are sometime to experience also: Traditional hole in the ground type with a half stable door – suggest you go before or after your visit!

L'As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers, Marais

This is a must do stop when exploring the beautiful old Marais area of the city. The best Falafel in Western Europe to my mind and a great place to people watch on a Sunday afternoon. It is frequented by everyone; from the likes of me to Lenny Kravitz. If you sit inside the walls are festooned with memorabilia of it’s famous clientele.

Word of warning though: As this is in the heart of the Jewish area it is closed on Friday evenings/Saturdays. If visiting the area at this time the next place is a gem as we found out when stumbling upon it a couple of years ago:

Chez Marianne
2 rue des Hospitalières St-Gervais (+33) 1 42 72 18 86

An blindingly good Middle Eastern eatery just off the Marais. Eccentric, loud, lively but the food was to die for and cheap. This has rapidly become my favourite place to eat in Paris, which to be honest takes some doing. But it really hits the spot.