From Too Many Chefs -

March 20, 2005
Eating out in Paris - Part II

View from our living roomI received another request recently from a fellow blogger for restaurant recommendations for an upcoming visit to Paris. When I came to look at the list I posted last month, I realised that I had inexplicably left off some very good restaurants. On the premise that you can never recommend too many good restaurants, I thought I'd better write another post on some more of our favourites.

Whereas last time I wrote about restaurants I plundered my own memory and my personal address book, this time I consulted one of my favourite restaurant guides for Paris: The Guide Routard: Restos & Bistros de Paris. If you can read a bit of French, I highly recommend this series of guidebooks. They are written for the 20- and 30-somethings who are looking for good cheap eats and a straight-dope attitude to the restaurants. The writing style is relaxed and informal and the only down side to the guide books is that once a restaurant finds its way into their list it is no longer the best kept secret in Paris.

In the spirit of the Independent Food Festival and Awards, I have chosen somewhat quirky titles for these restaurants:

Best wine list in town

Les Bouchons de François Clerc
12 rue Hotel Colbert
75005 Paris

François Clerc has several restaurants in Paris, all called "Les Bouchons" but this one in the fifth is the most charming. It's right near the river in the Latin Quarter. The food is very good - elegant, traditional French - but the wine list is superb. He makes a point of selling the wine at very little above cost, which means you are basically paying what you would in a supermarket (i.e. about a third of what most restaurants charge). When my husband and I had New Year's Eve dinner at his restaurant in the 16th it was 100 euros for a six course meal with at least a glass of wine per course. It wasn't cheap, but it was delicious and it was a very good deal!

A great place to have a glass of wine while exploring the area between Bastille and Républic

Le Clown Bar
114 rue Amelot
75011 Paris
metro Filles du Calvaire

This place has really rustic peasant food at a reasonable price. Actually, it's just a great place to stop for a glass of wine and a snack. The decor is fantastic, all ceramic tiles of clowns and posters. It's right next door to the winter circus which is a fantastic structure, a remarkable 19th century building which looks like a big permanent Big Tent. If you visit Paris between November and March, definitely try to catch a show. It's almost worth it just to get a glimpse of the inside of the building, but the circus is always very good too. The Critic and I have been going every year for four years now!

Best place to get a steak and sample food from Auvergne

La Galoche D'Aurillac
41, rue de Lappe
75011 Paris
metro Bastille

The Auvergne region is known for its beef and its delicious cheeses and if you want to sample them this is the place. Do not take a vegetarian here as the owners will be offended (as will the vegetarian). Back in the pre-veggie days of Barrett I took him and our friend Tom here and ten years later they are still raving about the 900g steak. Due to the amount of wine we all consumed our memories are a bit hazy but we remember the size of the steak and how delicious it all was. It has loads of atmosphere too, with wooden shoes hanging from the ceiling and artisan musical instruments hanging from the walls. It's not cheap (38 euros for the menu, including wine) but it's really good and very authentic Auvegnat cuisine. Try some of the charcuterie with your wine (dried sausages and hams) and if they have aligot (mashed potatoes mixed with cream and aligot cheese - it's heavenly!) make sure to order it with your steak.

If you want to see a charming corner of Paris afterwards (or before) check out the passage de l'Homme at 26 rue de Charonne around the corner. It's where my friend Alain Hollard has his ateliers (he's a vernisseur, antiques restorer) and it's a beautiful courtyard paved with big stones and dripping with grape vines. The neighborhood traditionally housed woodworkers, gilders, varnishers and other artisans connected to the furniture trade though these days they have mostly been squeezed out by the young and trendy.

A most romantic Polish restaurant

Le Ravaillac
10, rue Roi de Sicile
75004 Paris
metro St. Paul

I have been going there for nearly ten years now. It's a Polish restaurant with really good pierogi and goulashes and wiener schnitzel and sausages (of course). When you enter it looks like a bar, but there are stairs to the dining room upstairs. I love this place - it's cheap and very good and a very romantic place with candles only providing the lighting upstairs.

A great place to have a glass of wine in Montmartre

Le Sancerre
35, rue des Abesses
75018 Paris
tel. 01 42 58 47 05
metro Abesses

This lively café has great snack food and great wines and in sunny weather you can sit outside on the sidewalk and watch the world go by. It's a great meeting place for friends and from there you can head up the hill to Sacré Coeur or just wander the streets looking at all the kooky stuff. There is a little shop devoted to angels as you walk along rue Yvonne le Tac/rue Tardieu towards the funicular which is very cute. A great alternative to the place du Tertre, which is pretty but touristy and recommended by all the guide books!

Restaurant with the most historical interest

Le Procope
13, rue de l'Ancienne Comédie
75006 Paris
tel. 01 40 46 79 00
metro Odéon

This is the oldest restaurant in Paris. According to my Routard, it was opened in 1686 by a certain Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, who brought with him from his native Italy a strange new drink known as coffee. In the 18th century philosophers gathered there by the bushel-load and according to legend it's where Diderot and Alembert came up with the idea of writing an encyclopaedia. In any case, many many famous people have sipped coffee and dined there in the last three hundred and some years and many of them have left their mark (literally) on the walls. And the food? It's good standard French fare. You probably won't leave feeling you've been rooked, but neither will you think it was the best meal of your trip. On the other hand, the decor and the atmosphere and the very fact that it still exists make it worth a trip!

Best place to impress an eleven-year-old girl

Altitude 95
Champ de Mars
75007 Paris
tel. 01 45 55 20 04
metro Champ de Mars

The Eiffel Tower - where else? Actually, the Critic and I were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food here when we took his daughter last summer. We found the recommendation in a guide book to Paris for kids and it was a complete success. You'll need to telephone in advance to reserve; ask for a table by the window when you do. We had one looking out over the Palais de Chaillot at sunset and the view was stunning. My stepdaughter was enchanted and declared it "The best meal I ever had" (no compliment to me or her mum!). The cost was about 35 euros per person for starters and main dishes and drinks, but you also have to count on the ticket to the first level of the Eiffel tower. You can bypass the usual lines for tickets, though, by going to the ticket office marked "Altitude 95".

So there you have it: another selection of Paris destinations and just in time for the beautiful weather and the tourist season!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at March 20, 2005 5:37 AM | TrackBack

It wasn't the wine so much as the Ricard. Oof. La Galoche is a great place. When I think of it, I even think of recanting my vegetarianism, if only for one meal...

Posted by barrett on March 20, 2005 at 9:42 AM

Ooooh, Ricard, my new favorite drink! Three drinks, and I'm on my arse in the bathroom, listening to Led Zeppelin very loudly on my iPod and writing lyrics on postcards. ROFL!

Posted by Janet on March 21, 2005 at 12:50 PM

Janet, I can personally testify that the worst possible thing you can do with Ricard is try to impress a bunch of French craftspeople who drink like fish every day that you are indeed able to keep up with them by refusing to water down the Ricard at all. This soon leads to sitting dangerously close to traffic on a concrete pylon outside La Galoche thinking "oooooh. Oooooooh. I hope I'm not going to get sick."

It's also a bad thing if this should happen aroudn the same time as your first encounter with a French "bombsight" toilet (aka a hole in the floor with footings), which makes you decide that perhaps you'll put off going to the bathroom until next month when your'e back in the U.S.

It was a great day, though, I have to say.

Posted by barrett on March 21, 2005 at 1:01 PM

You don't know the true horror of those Turkish toilets until you are eight months pregnant and can't go more than an hour without a toilet break...although I admit that is not likely to afflict half our readers!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 21, 2005 at 2:38 PM