9 December 2017

Paris: A Food Guide

I'm a planner. Rarely do my ideas ever pan out exactly as I imagine, but I like the idea of organisation. A huge part of exploring somewhere new is having one or two fail-safe spots to visit if nothing in the area takes my fancy. Not only does it save time, it means I don’t leave feeling like I've wasted my money on food/drink that wasn’t exquisite.

So, I arrived in Paris armed with a fresh list of patisseries, boulangeries and coffee shops to visit. My source was this article, Dominique Ansel’s Favourite Bakeries in Paris, written over a year ago but with spot-on recommendations – Emily and I visited (and loved) three out of the eight on the list.

And along with the planned jaunts were some discoveries of our own, including Liberte Boulangerie, Gilles Marchal and Chez Casimir – possibly our favourites of the trip.

You can really get to know a place through the food it has on offer. Here is my list of favourite spots from my recent trip, through which I discovered even more of Paris...

In the quaint and cobbled Montmartre we ate the city's best pain au chocolat on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, which is a must-see, by the way, if only for the incredible views.

L’éclair de genie 

For elevenses, in the spectacular Galeries Lafayette, we devoured eclairs. These treats are elevated to a whole new level in Paris. Unlike the puffed up tubes, half filled with cream and dipped in cheap chocolate, we're used to in England, French eclairs are petite, symmetrical, mirror-glazed and filled with decadent, thick chocolate or caramel cream. There are a thousand other flavours, obviously, but the classics are exactly that – classic.

Jacques Genin

If sweets are your thing (and why wouldn’t they be), you’ve got to go to Jacques Genin. I’ve never really liked fruit pastilles, and I guessed the pâte de fruits on offer here would be similar, but something about Donminique Ansel’s review compelled me to spend 12 euros on a box of these jelly jewels, and I have no regrets.

With flavours such as kiwi, blood orange, pineapple and fennel tucked into a patchwork assortment just for me, it was a treat like no other. I felt like a child again, and after I had picked all my flavours the woman serving us gave us one to try each. The flavours are, indeed, pure, but red pepper isn’t one I’d be in a rush to sample again.

As well as the pâte de fruits there is an immaculate array of chocolates – all square, all smooth and shining perfection – and the caramels, which I left for my next visit.
I picked 12 chocolates to take back for my parents, which included classics such as coffee, raspberry and orange and more unusual flavours like basil, cinnamon and grapefruit.

Gilles Marchal 

We found Gilles Marchal on our way to Gontran Cherrier in Montmartre. Here I picked up another éclair – this time a chocolate one (omg) and some chocolate coffee beans for my mum.

Café Craft 

A favourite among local freelancers, with a designated area at the back of the cafe for workers to tap away at their projects. Delicious coffee, a quiet space, nice décor, and time to sneak one of those sweets I had picked up from Jacques Genin.

Liberte Boulangerie 

Bread, pastries, tarts and a clean-white aesthetic, Liberte was a surprise find on our way to Craft Café. Obviously we went back the next morning for a few take-home treats.

Chez Casimir 

We wanted to go to a restaurant I can’t even remember the name of now, and it turned out to be closed for a private event anyway, but as we hovered at the door the owner invited us to join him and his friends at the bar.

These men were so French it hurt – all Parisian and had lived in the city their whole lives. They were drunk, and filled up our glasses without charging a penny. Charmed, we agreed to follow one of the men to his restaurant around the corner. We didn’t die, but had ourselves a great 4-course meal at Chez Casimir for just 32 euros each. The sweet waitress translated the menu for us and we left feeling so stuffed, I can’t even tell you. It was worth it, though – to fully immerse ourselves in an unprecedented evening of French food and company.

Sea bream (I think!) on pureed butternut squash
The most incredible cheese course I've ever had

One last thing - eat at least one ham and cheese baguette when you're in Paris. Le Grenier à Pain was on my list but we didn’t have time to go – however, there is no such thing as a bad baguette in France, so eat as many as you can. Ham and cheese are optional, but they're pretty good fillings.

Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Paris? Let me know your recommendations so I can start planning my next trip!

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