Paris is usually on the top of any self-respecting foodie’s must visit destinations. I thought I would write about the process of choosing what and where we ate in Paris on our last trip instead of focusing on one off experiences. The food scene changes quickly and there are many comprehensive resources to help you choose where to eat. I’ll outline those at the end of the post but in the mean time here are my tips on how you can plan your ultimate foodie trip to Paris.
The practicalities of your foodie trip to Paris
The amount of time you have and your budget are going to drive many of your choices of where to eat in Paris. You will pay upwards of €300 per head without wine at some of the top restaurants so make your choices wisely. Pacing yourself is a good idea too. I typically skip a huge hotel breakfast in favour of a pastry or baguette mid morning so I can
stuff more in eat a little bit sensibly.
From there you can set about constructing an eating itinerary that takes in the best the city of light has to offer. From Michelin starred restaurants to street food and bistro fare. Here is a list of must try food experiences in Paris.
Michelin starred restaurants in Paris
Home to over 100 starred restaurants there certainly is no shortage of choice if you love haute cuisine in Paris. The Michelin guide can be contentious and considered a little old fashioned (per Anthony Bourdain’s comments) however they do have a long history and a trusted methodology.
Where we ate: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile
As we arrived on the Eurostar just before lunch time and you can never be sure what the trains and traffic will do I wanted to try somewhere fun and fancy for our first meal. Joël Robuchon is a giant of french cooking with a global empire of restaurants. This restaurant has an open kitchen where you can see the chefs very calmly preparing your meal.
My favourite dish was the scallops or Saint Jacques – plump and sweet and cooked to perfection with a lovely buttery sauce. The presentation of the dishes and quality of the produce were as you would expect for a restaurant of this calibre and we very much enjoyed the experience.
Tip – lunching at the top restaurants is great value. Also make sure to book well in advance
Further reading – Why Some of the World’s Most Famous Chefs Don’t Want a Michelin Star via Vanity Fair
Traditional Parisian bistro or brasserie
You’re in Paris so you definitely want to try traditional French cuisine with no airs and graces. For this experience head to a brasserie or bistrot. My husband loves “french” onion soup with a thick layer of Gruyère (cheese) so we cancelled a reservation at a more upmarket restaurant and took a recommendation for a place that specialised in french classics.
Where we ate: Chez Flottes
Just across the road from the Tuileries Gardens, Chez Flottes is a little more touristy than our usual choice of restaurant. An art deco brasserie, chefs from this establishment have no doubt been making soup l’oignon for many decades. I was happy with my soup l’oignon but hubby would have preferred more cheese. I also tried the lobster baguette. Delicious!
Up and coming chefs in Paris
There is more cooking talent in a square mile of Paris than most places in the world so why not try something new and not necessarily Michelin rated? Chances are the chef has had impeccable training and is driven by the intense local competition. We chose a restaurant because the chef had trained with our favourite chef – Tetsuya Wakuda – and we had read some excellent reviews.
Where we ate: Oka
In a city full to bursting with food experiences this was our favourite. Tiny Oka seats only 16 people and serves a secret prix fixe menu of 9 courses. Best described as Brazilian/French fusion cuisine, chef Raphael Rego takes you on a culinary journey of his homeland from the coast to the hills. Standout for me was the coriander/cilantro ice-cream with chocolate crumb.
Tip – choose a chef or cuisine and research their proteges and who is currently hot in Paris – see resources below
Neighbourhood favourites in Paris
Sit back and relax with a lovely bottle of Bordeaux and pretend you live in Paris. Seek out a recommendation for a favourite local restaurant, mix it with the locals. I doubt you will be disappointed. This time we asked a friend who had done a lot of business travel to Paris over the years for a recommendation and she did not let us down.
Where we ate: Hôtel du Nord
Steeped in history and the inspiration for the film of the same name, Hôtel du Nord is a favourite of the 10th arrondissement along the pretty Canal Saint-Martin. I would describe the menu as classics with a twist. I had a very tasty salmon tartare with wasabi but you can also try classics such as cassoulet or cuisses de grenouilles/frogs legs. The atmosphere is great with groups of friends laughing and joking next to couples on a romantic night out. What I love about this type of restaurant is the diversity of clients enjoying each others company and great food.
Markets in Paris
Fresh produce markets are a way of life in France and they are a wonderful source of tastes and experiences. You will find an abundance of in season fruits and vegetables as well as cakes, seafood, meat and of course cheese and charcuterie. My favourite is the poulet rôti stall where locals buy roasted chickens and potatoes basted in the chicken fat. So delicious.
Where we ate: Marché Raspail – 6th arrondissement
Stretching along Boulevard Raspail, the market operates threes times a week and on Sundays is focused on organic produce. It is not a large market but you will experience market shopping like a Parisian. We munched on delicious custard filled canelés while wishing we could somehow take some of the freshest looking seafood back on the train to London.
Tip – There are many markets all over Paris and they operate on their own schedule throughout the week so it’s best to seek out those in the neighbourhood where you are staying or spending the day.
Patisserie and chocolate in Paris
Many foodies head straight to Ladurée for their famous macarons. They are undeniably good but seeing as you can now get them in London, Sydney and even little Lucca it is less of a Parisian experience to eat there. Instead, try some of the smaller or lesser known boutique patisseries and chocolatiers. We were staying around the corner from the jaw-dropping Patrick Roger and Pierre Hermé. Impossible to resist!
What we ate – Paris-Brest
This delicate choux pastry is a delicacy of Paris. The light and fluffy pastry is filled with hazelnut praline cream and topped with powdered sugar and slivered almonds. Difficult to eat just one, you can find a round-up of the best Paris-Brest here.
Paris cooking classes, food tours and more
Here is a list of food related activities I have been compiling for my next visit – may it be very soon!
✪ Le Cordon Bleu – the ultimate cooking school. Alumni include Julia Child and Mary Berry, two of my cooking heroines. The school offers short courses as well as their year long programs
✪ Combining a Paris market visit with a cooking class with a chef sounds like the perfect way to discover traditional food in Paris
✪ How about spending a few hours discovering the pastry and chocolate secrets of the Marais? Oui please! Book Marais tour online
✪ Miss Lunch offers classes and tours around Paris and they all look fascinating
✪ How about a romantic ‘pique-nique’? This company will set up a surprise picnic in the shade of the Eiffel Tower and other classic locations
Coffee in Paris
I hope I am not the one to break this news to you but French coffee is not particularly good. Sorry. This being the case make sure you have mapped out the nearest Australian/Kiwi style cafe closest to your accommodation. Otherwise, if you are an arabica obsessive like me, you may be in a spot of bother. This resource is useful!
Your foodie trip to Paris planning resources
✪ Paris by mouth – from the best baguette in Paris to fancy cocktails with a view, this site has some fantastic suggestions
✪ The Fork – can’t speak French, no problem. Book many restaurants online via this app
✪ A list of fresh produce markets in Paris by arrondissement/neighbourhood
✪ An American pastry chef living the good life in Paris – David Lebovitz has amazing suggestions on everything food related
✪ David’s pastry app will guide you to the best places in Paris for chocolate, ice-cream, pastry and other sweet treats
✪ A great collection of Paris food and wine tours you can book online
✪ French menus a little confusing? Read these tips on navigating a French menu
✪ Get your cooking souvenirs at E. Dehillerin – an amazing array of cookware stacked floor to ceiling
✪ Don’t forget your coffee!
I hope this list is useful and a starting point for building your ultimate foodie adventure in Paris. Please do let me know if you have other suggestions – my arm can always be twisted for a return trip to Paris!
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