France / Paris

Paris – Great places to eat and drink

Paris – Introduction

The attraction of Paris never wanes for the food lover! The best places to eat classic dishes are always exciting to revisit. There are always new places to try. There are now places that are taking coffee seriously providing the opportunity for searching out beans that have been treated with love and care. And there is a growing number of excellent wine bars that are breaking away from the strictures of the past and serving wines made from formerly obscure grapes and without overt intervention.

You will notice that there are no three star Michelin restaurants listed. We find that most Paris restaurants in this category try too hard with too many courses and with too much “theatre” to make the experience enjoyable. Having said that, we have been to Arpege a few times for the lunch menu and have enjoyed the vegetable-focussed dishes that use produce brought in each day from their farms in country France. However, it can be very expensive here if you decide to push the boat out!

We should note here a small point about etiquette when dining in Paris or anywhere in France. Many people in the hospitality industry in French major cities speak at least some English. However it is considered polite if you attempt to speak a little French on entering a restaurant. A simple bonjour or ça va? and you will soon find that the waiter will ask if you would prefer him or her to speak English.

Another thing we should mention about our choices – there is a heavy preponderance of sites in the 11th arrondissement. That is simply because this is where much of the action is, particularly restaurants and bars specialising in natural wines!

Paris Restaurants we love

There are many restaurants in Paris we return to time and again, so we have chosen a few that cover a range of dining experiences.

Septime is one of our favourites and is the complete package. Great food, cooked impeccably by Bertrand Grebaut and his dedicated kitchen team and accompanied by calm, efficient service and a stunning list of natural wines. They have a Michelin star but it hasn’t detracted from the experience. If you only go to one restaurant, this has to be it. You need to book ahead to secure a table here. If you haven’t booked turn up for lunch at 10 minutes past midday and ask for a seat at the bar – you might be lucky to secure a spot. 80 rue de Charonne, 75011.

The highlight of our most recent trip to France was dining at the long-awaited restaurant of James Henry and Shaun Kelly called La Doyenné. These talented chefs have been preparing the gardens and orchards while awaiting the completion of the restaurant building. They now have a flourishing vegetable garden and a great orchard that can provision the restaurant for many of their needs.

Our meal was flawless! It was based around vegetables grown within 100 metres of the dining room in their meticulously maintained garden. Everything about the experience was exceptional from the vegetables and all other produce to the plating to the wine selection and to the service. It was the complete package.

Another place we revisited recently and were pleasantly surprised by was Le Chateaubriand. This long-term player was an early influence on our natural wine obsession. We arrived without a reservation quite late one night, half expecting to be told the kitchen was closed, however we were greeted warmly and made to feel welcome. The meal we were served was excellent and was not rushed in the slightest despite the hour. 129, av. Parmentier, 75011.

Chateaubriand – the famous producers board

If you are looking for classic French dishes such as steak frites, andouillette and tarte Tatin, for example then you can’t go past Le Bistrot Paul Bert which is normally full of locals, however they warmly welcome everyone, especially, as we have mentioned above, if you try to speak a little French. 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011.

Also in the Septime stable is another of our go-to places Clamato. This venue is less formal than Septime and has the added benefit of no bookings and it is open on Sunday, which is unusual in Paris. All you have to do is turn up and they will take your name and phone number and call you when your table is ready. In the meantime you can have a drink at their Cave Septime which is very close (see below). 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011.

Le Repair de Cartouche is another restaurant we are drawn back to on many of our visits to Paris. The service occasionally gets a bit ragged when they are very busy, but it is worth persevering because the food is very classic and very special. The gregarious and talented chef, Rodolphe Paquin, is an expert terrine maker as well as the author of an excellent book on the topic. So make sure you order a slice – you won’t regret it! He also has a very strong lineup of non-interventionist wines. 8 boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, 75011.

If you want a very pleasant and satisfying breakfast then you can do no better than to head for the delightful Mokonuts where chefs Omar Koreitem and Moko Hirayama turn out beautiful dishes and pastries. The food is delicious and comforting, the coffee and wine are carefully chosen and the service is caring yet efficient. They are lovely people here and we love their cookies. 5 Rue Saint-Bernard, 75011.

We have followed the career of Sota Atsumi for many years. Atsumi was originally from Osaka in Japan. He moved to France and trained with Joel Robuchon. He then worked at Vivant as chef for Pierre Jancou, and then at the now-famous Clown Bar and then to Maison Sota where the food he is turning out is better than ever and based on the very best ingredients. His dishes such as pithivier de pintade are exemplary! Online booking here. 3 Rue Saint-Hubert, 75011.

Clown Bar is quite close to Repaire de Cartouche and also has very good food and an excellent array of natural wines. Make sure you admire the embossed ceiling while you are here.

Le Baratin is also one of the places that has been there since the start of the natural wine scene and the cellar is also very deep and the food, cooked by owner Raquel Carena, is always delicious.

Must-try Paris wine bars

There has been an explosion of excellent wine bars in Paris, especially in the 11th arrondissement over recent years and especially those that serve natural wines.

We will mention just a few of our favourites here.

One that we always head to first in Paris is the long-running Aux Deux Amis in the rue Oberkampf. This venue can get very crowded late in the evening, however it is a great place for their interesting selection of wines by the glass and simple, but tasty, food. If you want to experience the “vibe” of the 11th then this is definitely a must.

The food has always been a feature here and owner David Loyola seems to have a knack of finding the perfect chef for the style of food and the frenetic pace that it needs to be served at. It was here that we first experienced the food of talented chef Svante Forstop who went on to cook at Vivant Cave with Pierre Jancou, then later to Yard and even a pop-up in Tokyo that we managed to eat at, before returning to France to his current gig at Le Soleil in Burgundy.

Another talented chef that worked here was Mathieu Perez who later moved to the quaint village of Céret in Roussillon where we still fondly remember a dish of Barbary duck served with a black olive and chocolate puree. He then went on to cook at the out-of-control Bar Brutal in Barcelona where we were, once again, lucky enough to eat there during his tenure. 45 Rue Oberkampf, 75011.

In the same general area (there are just so many of our favourites in the 11th) is a relatively new and certainly very vibrant wine bar called Delicatessen Place, where the footpath is packed with savvy drinkers looking for the latest natural wines from all over France and the comforting food prepared by Hugh Corcoran. Make sure you take the time to pop in next door to Delicatessen Cave (136 Rue Amelot ) where the natural wine offering is exemplary. Also Bar Principal at 5 Rue du Général Renault (also in the 11th) is well-worth a visit.

A more serine, but very appealing Paris bar is Camille Fourmont’s La Buvette, also in the 11th. Here you will be able to drink a glass of excellent white from, say, Provence producer Domaine les Terres Promises (Jean-Christophe Comor) to accompany Camille’s iconic snack made from large white beans. 67 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011.

La Buvette

Another favourite which is open every day is Septime Cave – yet another Septime venue! This is a great place to meet up with friends to try some very well-chosen wines and tasty snacks. It is also a very good place to hang-out while waiting for your table at Clamato as we mention above. It opens at 4pm every day of the week. 3 Rue Basfroi, 75011.

If you take the pleasant walk along the Canal Saint-Martin you arrive at the much-feted La Verre Vole which is both a place to eat and a wine shop. In summer you might also be able to persuade them the lend you a couple of glasses and to take a bottle of wine out to the edge of the canal for a pleasant drink. 67 rue de Lancry, 75010.

Le Verre Volé

We have long been fans of Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir du Relais in the 6th on the Left Bank of Paris. He has also been making good use of neighbouring sites to create a couple of bars, namely l’Avant Comptoir de la Mer and l’Avant Comptoir de la Terre. They are tiny. They have menu options hanging from the ceiling. And they have good wine selections by the glass, bottle and magnum. 3 Carrefour de l_Odeon, 75006.

La Cave du Paul Bert is one of the bars that we frequent in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. This cave is run by the same people who own Bistrot Paul Bert and Le 6 Paul Bert just along the street. The food here is very sharp (think ceviche of dorade or chocolate ganache topped with salt) as you would expect from this group. The selection of wines is impressive with many little known and old favourites from the natural wine world available. 16 rue Paul Bert, 75011.

And if you are looking for wines from outside France why not try Passerina. We haven’t been to this bar yet, but we have been fans of the owners for years. When in Paris, we would often drop in to their food shop to buy excellent produce for our travels. They have a wide selection of natural Italian wines in this wine bar and cave a manger. 44 Rue Traversière, 75012.

Au Passage in the 11th is another place where the chef always is talented and has seen luminaries such as James Henry and Shaun Kelly pass through the kitchen. It is also easy to find something exciting to drink here.

One we haven’t been to yet, but is on our list for the next visit, is Rerenga Wines which is both a bar and wine shop. Le Fooding thinks it is pretty good! 3 Rue de la Fidélité, 75010.

Food and wine stores

La Cave des Papilles is one of the best places to source natural wines in Paris. We always head for this location on arrival in Paris. The choice is broad and it is a great place to find obscure producers far flung corners of France and beyond. 35, rue Daguerre, 75014.

Jacques Genin is the best place for chocolates in Paris. We have visited here many times to buy chocolates to bring back to Australia. He also does a Paris-Brest at the weekends which is reputed to be excellent. 133 rue de Turenne, 75003.

We make no apologies for including all of the Septime stable venues in our Paris recommendations, however they just seem to have the knack of doing everything right! So, Tapisserie is an essential visit to buy some pastries or similar while you are in the area. Try the famous Maple Tart – you won’t regret it! 65 rue de Charonne, 75011.

We haven’t had the opportunity to visit Folderol yet, however our spies tell us that the ice cream at Folderol is worth a visit. We have been to their sister restaurant called Rigmarole and were quite impressed with the food. 10 rue du Grand Prieuré, 75011.

And speaking of ice creams, on our latest trip we made sure we dropped into the amazing ice cream shop of one of France’s most talented high-end chefs – La Glace Alain Ducasse. We were not disappointed – the ice creams were unbelievably good! We chose the address in the 11th as that is where we normally are, however if you check their web site there are other outlets in many of the arrondissements of Paris and beyond. There are even outlets in the United Kingdom. 38 Rue de la Roquette, 75011.

Coffee essentials

If you only get to one coffee place in Paris, please make it Dreamin’ Man. Here you will find Yuichiro Sugiyama crouched over his machine making each coffee with a precision and a discipline that is awe-inspiring! He sources his beans from the best roasters in Europe. His wife also makes delicious treats such as scones, flans and horse biscuits (you will find out why when you see the logo) to eat with your caffeinated drink! 140 Rue Amelot, 75011.

Dreamin’ Man

L’Arbre à Café has two locations that we know of in Paris. The coffee here is very serious with owner Hippolyte Courty working closely with producers to ensure high quality beans are used at all times. He also supplies good coffee places throughout France with his beans. 10 Rue du Nil, 75002 and 61 Rue Oberkampf, 75011.

Ten Belles is clearly one of the best coffee houses and breakfast/brunch venues in Paris. The young staff are passionate about the coffee that they serve. The food is simple yet delicious. A great venue and a good vibe. 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010.

Boot Café is possibly the cutest-looking coffee place in Paris. Don’t be confused about the Cordonnerie sign outside – that is from a former era. The place is tiny but the coffee is serious (we understand they might even have an Australian barista at present). 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003.

Substance Café is run by one of the most single-minded baristas in Paris. Joachim Morceau sources some of the best beans on the planet and we hear that he doesn’t offer sugar with his coffee which shows an understandable regard for his product that he doesn’t want to see contaminated. 30 Rue Dussoubs, 75002.

Café Caractère is another recent discovery that we will be returning to. It has very clean lines and serves excellent coffee that has been roasted to bring out the essential flavour of the beans. 2 Rue des Taillandiers, 75011.

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