There is possibly no more beautiful or evocative place than Paris. Why are we so enamoured with this city? The food plays a part and the wonderful sites but it’s more than that. I think it’s the people and the energy – it feels like everyone is living the good life in this charismatic city.
We were in Paris the night of the deadly attacks on 13 November 2015 and the days that followed. I don’t even have the words to describe the sense of shock and sadness that lingered in the air. Like many people, we struggled to come to terms with the awfulness. We shared feelings of fear, sorrow and solidarity with the French people.
The streets and cafés were much quieter than usual. In the strange calm, we discovered an even more beautiful side of Paris. The streets were empty but Paris was effervescent with an inexplicable energy.
An earlier visit to this magical city in 2011 – I can remember young people and families strolling the streets day and night, people spilling out from the bars onto the streets with laughter and cigarette smoke filling the air.
On that visit, we stayed in a small charming flat in Montmartre, near the tease of the grand Moulin Rouge. We loved hiking up the hill towards the Sacré-Cœur and exploring the winding streets of this village-like district. The atmosphere is truly unique with its quirky boutiques, wine bars, patisseries, bustling food markets and quaint cafés.
We stumbled upon Clos Montmartre – a petite vineyard tucked away, which we found out later is the only remaining and working vineyard in Paris. What is most impressive is the art history legacy of Montmartre – Picasso, Monet, Degas, Dali and Van Gogh all worked in this neighbourhood.
On our recent visit, we stayed in the eccentric Marais area, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. I love that you can turn a corner and suddenly see an old city wall or a Gothic doorway. The cobbled side streets are bursting with trendy boutiques, vintage shops, vibrant street art and cocktail bars. In Marais you can find the Jewish community, the Chinese community and the gay community – it really is a more dynamic side of Paris here.
It goes without saying that Paris is a foodie wonderland. Good food is the essence of daily life there. We love eating macarons, cheeses at the local fromagerie, croissants au beurre, buttery caramels, crêpes, escargots in garlic butter, moules-frites and dreamy pastries. Perhaps not too heart-healthy but absolutely delicious! We’re rebels like that when we’re on holiday.
There are so many places for great food in Paris. Here is a quick rundown of some of our favourite restaurants or places:
La Famille – 41 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018
We love the inventive flavours and the friendly relaxed atmosphere in the tiny dining room. The value for money is incredible given the exceptional quality of the food. The casual, funky vibe makes it a great place for lunch or dinner – the bar is very popular most nights too. Must try the lemon tart in three sweet and tart segments.
Le Comptoir du Relais – 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006
Spot-on versions of French bistro food at reasonable prices. I love the Salade Niçoise here. It’s a beautiful place to sit on a nice day and people-watch. It does get crowded – we were lucky enough to nab a spot straight away but when we returned another time, we joined the long queue of eager diners. The range of terrines, hams and saucissons are fantastic and B swears his half-roasted chicken was amazing.
Edwart Chocolatier – 17 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004
There are so many beautiful chocolatiers in Paris but this one is my favourite. A place for the adventurous chocolate lover – I love the saffron ganache and sesame pralines, each little mouthful takes you on a magical trip. An absolute gem.
Les Chouettes – 32 Rue de Picardie, 75003
The prices are extremely fair for such a fabulous setting. The three-storey restaurant and cocktail bar is spacious and elegant with a stylish art deco feel. Beautifully presented and delicious food here – the service can be a little pokey but the food wholly makes up for it.
Chez Janou – 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003
Come here for the great French and Provençal dishes at reasonable prices – the house wine is of good quality too. Service was a little hectic and we were jammed elbow-to-elbow with our fellow diners – all part of the casual but fun atmosphere. It’s hard not to be swept up in the collective lively mood of this place. I love the Ratatouille here.
Eric Kayser – 16 Rue des Petits Carreaux, 75002
There are plenty of great boulangeries in Paris and unfortunately a few not-so-great ones too. Eric Kayser has opened bakeries all across Paris (but don’t think it’s some kind of mediocre chain bakery for a second). Their speciality is breads of a high quality and they are indeed excellent. I found their croissants sublimely buttery and a notch above others we had. The buttery almond financiers are wonderful too.
Le Mazenay – 46 Rue de Montmorency, 75003
One of my favourite places to eat in Paris for its inventive dishes with a focus on flavour. Chef Denis Groison’s cuisine is based on fresh and seasonal ingredients. The plates are refined and well-prepared and the staff are earnest and friendly. We had a delicious dining experience here. Must try the platter of cured meats, house terrine and gherkins.
Paris is truly a magical feast for all the senses. I’d love to hear about some of your favourite culinary pleasures in Paris…