One of the best parts of any foreign adventure has to be trying the delicious range of food which differs from country to country. France is undoubtedly famous and celebrated for its cuisine, notably the patisseries and bread (exhibited by the baguette competition I once witnessed outside Notre-Dame, quite the event!).
During my time there I tried a large range of eateries, from posh restaurants to little cafés. Having already addressed bakeries and froyo in previous posts, I’ve decided it’s time to get down to the serious stuff: restaurants. It took a while, but I’ve whittled all the ones I visited down to a fantastic 4:
Situated just behind the Panthéón on rue Descartes, on the way to rue Mouffetard from the metro stop ‘Maubert Mutualité’, it would be easy to miss this little gem. With outdoor seats, typical of Paris, and a great selection of drinks, it’s a nice little place to have a break from work/sightseeing. If you fancy something a bit heavier, the food is delicious, and the whole environment feels very French (not tourist-filled as is sometimes the case). The burgers here are a specialty, but are served
slightly cold in the middle if not asked to be cooked differently. Coming topped with the classic cheese and bacon or with something a bit more adventurous (like Gorgonzola!), they’re definitely not to be missed.
On the corner just opposite Le petit Café, this restaurant serves the most traditional, hearty French food that I found in Paris. With a rustic feel and a meaty menu, and a bit of a challenge to get a seat due to large demand (!), there is no doubt that this is one of the best kept secrets in Parisian cuisine. Although the choice may not look huge, the food they do serve is delicious, and, once again, it has that French je ne sais quoi.
Moving away from classic French food but keeping on track with a cuisine I found more specific to Paris, Lhassa is a small Tibetan restaurant just off where boulevard Saint-Germain meets rue Monge (situated right next to another Tibetan, easy to get them confused on the first visit!). I came here on one of my first nights in Paris; it’s extremely clean, and the service is attentive but not too much. The food is consistently delicious, with familiar foods such as beef dumplings contrasted with the more exotic, such as a dessert of pasta, cinnamon and curd (heavy but worth a try!). I went back here many a time as it’s well-priced and tasty, and it never disappointed.
More mainstream than the others, with chains all around Paris as well as a few in London and Manhattan, this restaurant is definitely an experience. No booking allowed, and no choice allowed… but no problem. The queue is never too big, and the set menu all comes as part of the package. Once seated, you’re asked how you’d like your meat cooked (I always go for ‘blue’, anything above ‘medium’ and it’s not quite the same!), and then you leave the rest to the staff. First course is a walnut salad, keeping you happy until… the meat arrives (!!): swimming in the famous mystery green sauce, you get a decent helping along with extremely moreish, crispy French fries. Once you’ve devoured this, they turn up again with second helpings – the gift that keeps on giving! After two servings you’re bound to be more than complete, yet the desserts (where you do have a choice!) are definitely worth a try if you can squeeze one in…
So there you have it, my fantastic 4. It was, of course, no easy task trying to narrow down the great range of restaurants in the heart of this capital city, and there are bound to be others which I am still yet to discover. However, with these fab 4, there’s a guaranteed great meal waiting for you!