Eating and Drinking in Paris
With 10,000 Restaurants you really can’t go wrong in Paris. What I’d like to do here is to give you an idea of the various areas to go to to experience the best of Paris eating and drinking. The Best Restaurants in Paris can be found in any guide such as the Michelin and include Taillevent, Grand Vefour, Guy Savoy,Arpege among the three stars. Two stars that are good include Lasserre and Senderens both in the 8th district.
Restaurant and Café Etiquette
If you order a drink at the bar you are expected to stand up and consume it there, not take it to a table. In fact somewhere in the café there is a price list and it gives two different prices for comptoir or salle in other words counter or at a table.
Apart from fast food joints , there are now more MacDonalds in Paris than bridges that cross the Seine, one can get a light lunch in many cafés like a salade nicoise or a croque monsieur, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich , a croque madame is the same but has an egg on top , or a sandwich usually a foot long baguette with different fillings from camembert cheese to rillettes (don’t ask but like a rough paté), a ham and cheese is called a sandwich mixte.
If you order a beer the waiter will smile cynically and blow the dust off an expensive bottled beer or pour you a litre of the stuff. What you should do is order a demi pression, demi so you get a half glass and pression so you get the beer on tap. Tea in Paris is like a dead rat dipped in hot water. Coffee – express for a strong black coffee, to get more water ask for a café allongée. A white coffee is café au lait or café crème . Left Bank Cafés and Restaurants Let’s start with the Left Bank and zoom in on the area between Saint Germain des Prés and Odéon. The Literary Cafés are well visiting , they are found opposite the Church of Saint Germain des Prés on the Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés. Firstly Les Deux Magots ,a curiously named café literally the two maggots but so named after a dress shop ,in other words silk worms. Tradition has it that impoverished writers huddle over a cup of hot chocolate, the sort of hot chocolate your spoon can stand up in so worth the 5 or 6 Euros they cost. This café and the Café de Flore next door and the Brasserie Lipp with the orange awning on the opposite side of the boulevard were the hangouts of the Existentialist movement ,Jean Paul Sartre had a flat above the Café Bonaparte round the corner, and was joined by his lover Simone de Beauvoir and the other great writer Albert Camus. Each café gives an annual literary prize. Down the rue Bonaparte at number 21 is Ladurée one of three Paris outlets for chocolate and macaroons . Round the corner in Rue Saint Benoit is the Saint Benoit Restaurant . No bookings needed as it is first come first served basis. Try and bag a table on the street if it is good weather. Down the rue de Seine is a lovely old café called La Palette on the corner with rue Callot. A great place for people watching. Les Editeurs on the Carrefour de l’Odeon has a good upstairs room hidden from the bustle of the Odeon and good for tete à tete romantic trysts. Opposite on the other side of the boulevard Saint Germain and down the rue de l’Ancienne Comédie at number 13 is Le Procope which claims to date from 1686 and has some nice little rooms for lunch or dinner. The back of this restaurant leads into a small passage called Commerce Saint André where the guillotine was invented and where Marat produced a revolutionary newspaper. Other diners who supposedly frequented Le Procope included Ben Franklin, Robespierre and Napoleon. One of the old student bistrots is still going at 41 rue Monsieur le Prince called Polidor complete with red and white check table cloths. You can eat off the menu for around 30 euros in a place that been here since 1845 but beware the toilet in the courtyard is rather primitive.It is shut in July and August. There’s a good café on the corner of the Luxembourg gardens called Le Rostand near the Odeon Theatre at 6 place Edmond Rostand, it’s a good place for tea and even has a Toilet for children marked “E” for Enfant .
Restaurants in the 7th district
Just by the neo gothic church of Saint Clotilde is Le Basilic , rue Casimir Perier,a play on words with basilica and basil near Metro Solférino which is convenient for both the Rodin Museum and the Musée D’Orsay. If you like Italian then try Al Dente for pasta and pizza at 38 rue de Varenne which is a smart street with the Rodin Museum at one end ,the Prime Minister’s official residence Hotel de Matignon in the middle and the trendy rue du Bac for shopping at the other end ( Metros Varenne or rue du Bac).
Moving to the Montparnasse area there are some well known restaurants lining the boulevard Montparnasse which became the centre of the artistic world in the 1920s and 1930s when Picasso, Modigliani, Hemingway ,Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Miller lived in Paris. La Coupole, Le Select, Le Dome and Closerie de Lilas are all worth checking out. Insider Tip : The Rosebud Bar and Restaurant at 11 bis rue Delambre open from 7pm to 2am seven days a week.
Avenue de L’Opera
Just off the avenue of the Opera is a hidden gem of a square called Place du Marché Saint Honoré , not easy to find without a map .It has a glass covered building in the centre but around the edges are numerous restaurants. For a good glass of wine try Ruby’s Wine bar in the rue du Marché Saint Honoré. On the other side of the Avenue of the Opera is Willi’s Wine Bar at 13 rue des Petits Champs. Closed first two weeks of august and on sundays.
The Marais district
Two favourites in the Marais and what a contrast ! Georges is the trendy restaurant on the top of the Pompidou Centre. Closed Tuesdays and bookings advised. Tip if nice weather ask for an outside table otherwise you’d boil. People dress in all sorts here. Behind the Place des Vosges is a hidden little gem of a restaurant called Chez Janou at 2 rue Roger Verlomme in the 3rd district. A typical bistrot style with tiles and french adverts on the walls. Open 7 days a week.
Gare du Nord
This is a terrible area except if you are coming to or from the Eurostar train. There is only one good restaurant – Terminus Nord facing the train station at 23 rue de Dunkerque, open 7 days a week from 11H00 to 1am. www.terminusnord.com part of the FLO chain.
A Wine Bistrot in the 11th district
Melac is a bit out of the way and difficult to find but has a faithful clientele . 42 rue Léon Frot ,11th district , metro Charonne .Closed sunday and monday. www.melac.fr