It’s a cruel world when a city full of chic, svelte women, entices you to eat. All the time. And we’re not talking low fat here.
Starting the day with a freshly baked buttery croissant and finishing with kerbside crepes eaten out of paper cones, even on a small budget Paris can satisfy the biggest appetites.
We’ve asked some Francophile friends* to join with us in nominating their Top Ten Tasty Tips that won’t break the bank.
1. Don’t sit down for your morning coffee and croissant, it’s cheaper to stand at the bar. Lunch is cheaper than dinner and fixed price options better value than ordering a la carte.
2. Shop daily for fresh food, twice daily for your baguette.
3. Learn how to drink one glass of wine over two hours.
4. For patisseries with panorama, head for the store with more. Au Printemps’ rooftop terrace Café Flo at 64 Boulevard Haussmann.
5. Take decadent morning teas in the frescoe’d tearoom at Laduree, 16 rue Royale or Mariage freres at the Caroussel.
6. Lick cones filled with wild strawberry and peach Berthillon ice cream or sorbet on Ile Saint Louis.
7. Pop into the world’s oldest café, Le Procope at 13, rue de l’Ancienne-Comedie. Founded in 1686, Napoleon’s famous hat is framed in the entrance and Voltaire’s desk where he wrote Candide is enshrined upstairs.
8. Line up at the perpetually crowded l’As du Falafel in the Marais which, according to Lenny Kravitz, serves up the world’s best falafels or queue for arguably the city’s best baguettes at Au Levain du Marais, 32 rue de Turenne.
9. It wouldn’t be Paris without a hot chocolate. Try Angelina on rue de Rivoli and Jean Paul Hevin, master chocolatier and patissier on rue Saint Honore for unforgettable melt-in-the-mouth moments.
10. Head for du Pain et des Idees, a rustic shop in an 1889 bakery at 34 rue Yves Toudic where Christophe Vasseur’s pistachio escargots are 2die4 or buy a pave game, bread shaped like a brick and filled with sensational combos like blue cheese and dried apricots and voila, un picnic!.
But it doesn’t stop there. Long lunchtime queues form at Julien, 75 rue St-Honore for his artisan breads, pastries and killer pain au chocolat while at Gerard Mulot, 76 rue de Seine in the 6eme (Metro Odeon), we found handcrafted pastries, fruit flans, marzipan, macarons and heavenly mousse chocolate noisettes.
Cafes and people watching go hand-in-hand and there’s no better place to watch chic promenading Parisians than from a kerbside table at Ernest Hemingway’s beloved Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Pres on the fashionable Left Bank. This is where Picasso, Camus and Thurber sipped their coffees, Brigitte Bardot took tea kerbside and Jean Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir occupied an Art Deco booth upstairs.
For a touch of bohemianism, head for Montparnasse where bistros La Coupole and Le Dome were havens for Hemingway, Man Ray, Modigliani, Picasso, Dali, Miro and Henry Miller, all escaping Montmartre’s rising rents.
Apparently, George Gershwin was inspired to write “An American in Paris” while eating in La Coupole in 1928.
Nearby street stalls serve galettes, thin Breton-style pancakes filled with ham, cheese or confiture while Pollane at 8 rue Cherche Midi is widely regarded as one of the best breadmakers in Paris. Oh, and let’s not forget the pastry selection at Au Panetier which is almost upstaged by its beautifully tiled shop.
While cafes are often called the stomach of Paris, it’s the city’s string of street markets that cinch the ever-expanding waistband. Rue Montorgueil in the 1st arrondissement is one of the finest, a street where the aroma of ripe cheese follows you as you explore quality butchers, fishmongers and patisseries. There’s fresh pasta at Casa della Pasta, Le Pain Quotidien has healthy ginger juice and pastries, Oliviers & Co stocks infused olive oils and cafes of all cultures spill onto the street.
And don’t worry about not getting a decent coffee in Paris. A contingent of Australian baristas are brewing up a storm at a brace of new wave cafes. They roast their own beans at La Cafeotheque, 52 rue de l’Hotel de Ville, Kooka Boora, just a stroll from Montmatre at 62 rue des Martyrs, offers five filter methods and the New York-inspired Merce and the Muse at 1 rue Dupuis are all doing the daily grind.
As the sun sets over the ‘City of Light’, there’s nothing like a classy cocktail as the day winds down. Have the bartender mix you a classic cocktail at Hotel le Meurice or at Le Select, 99 boulevard du Montparnasse where Lenin and Trotsky once strategised. The cocktails are pricey but the view is priceless at Restaurant Georges, level 6 at the Richard Rogers/Renzo Piano-designed Centre Pompidou. One of the tiniest bars in Paris, Au Petit Fer a Cheval at 30 Vieille-du-Temple 4th is a great people watching spot while la Robe et le Palais is a delightfully petite wine bar cum restaurant on rue des Lavandieres Ste Opportune.
You can order aperitif and tapas in the restaurant at the famous Centre de danse du Marais but for us, sipping a kir in Café Marly’s grand salon in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing as I M Pei’s luminous glass Pyramid gleams like a crystal temple in the heart of French rococo grandeur is pure Parisian style.
*With thanks to Betina Fauvel-Ogden, Laura Laffitte, Charles Williams and John Cavill.
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