Trying to decide where to eat in Paris can be tricky. It is a big city that can offer all sorts of cuisine and the choices come in all price ranges. When we went to Rome last year we had a pretty clear image about what Italian food is…but I’m not really sure what typical French food is. I tried to post a question about this on different forums but I’m not sure I became any wiser. It seems like the food depends on which area of France you go to. The last time we went to Paris we were not that adventurous so we ended up eating quite a lot of junk food. I guess it also has something to do with how much you are willing to pay for a meal. I would like to recommend everyone to write about their experience when it comes to eating in Paris, good or bad, so that other travellers can get a better idea. You can e.g. give your feedback at www.tripadvisor.com or post in my own forum. You don’t have to write much: where the place is, was the food great or extremely bad, was the service OK and how much did it cost.
Before I went to Paris I also posted on forums to get suggestions on where to eat and I got quite a list that I brought with me to Paris. But theory does not always go hand in hand with real life. If you have travelled several couples you will know that it is not always easy to come to an agreement on where to eat, when to eat etc. The only goal we had was to try and eat something French while we were there (even if all of us love Thai, Indian, Italian etc). But luckily my wife Nikki and I are pretty good friends as company on the trip (Olav and Allis) so we didn’t end up in fights when trying to find a place to eat.
On the first night we were walking around in the Opera district and we couldn’t find a place to eat and we had nothing on the list that was near buy. We took the metro to get to Pompidou center and we just walked around. Just when the drizzle and lack of options was becoming too much, we came upon this place called Le dos de la Baleine at 40, rue des Blancs Manteaux. It was more or less empty when we came in so we were getting sceptical. But we sat down and the waiter asked if we wanted aperitifs we went for kir as that was more or less the only thing we recognized of the things he rambled off. Kir is a blend of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur or crème de cassis. La Baleine served a champagne and crème de cassis mix - it was great….or maybe it was just great because we were finally back in Paris and in good company :-) As a starter I had a risotto with a couple of shrimps on top and that was pretty good. Nikki had some vegetables with mozzarella and basil ice cream on top. Yes, it sounds a bit strange but she certainly enjoyed it. As the main meal I had lamb carré with a sort of pommes noisette. Nikki was a bit on the adventurous side this night so she went for the veal served on top of a cake of potato and with a few fried snails on the side. For dessert we had the “orgasme au chocolat”…I guess it can’t have been that great because Nikki can’t remember it :-) But all in all it was a good meal, the food was presented in a great way and the service was good even if the waiters didn’t speak that much English. In the end I think we paid 200 € for the four of us including a 30 € bottle of red wine. Pretty reasonable by Norwegian standards of a 3 course meal with wine.
We stayed at Timhotel Tour Eiffel in the 15th district so one night we decided to eat in the neighbourhood. Based on a recommendation from one of the guys in the reception we went to a place called Le Café du Commerce located on 51 Rue du Commerce. From the outside it didn’t look like much but when we came in an impressive place revealed itself. There was a small indoor courtyard and the restaurant tables occupied three floors and there was an abundance of green plants in the atrium. It was quite a busy restaurant with waiters running all over the place. I guess they were quite busy because when we ordered our waiter served us the wrong meal and when he noticed he came back and removed it to put it on the table next to us. I also had to wait quite a bit as the waiter managed to serve me the wrong starter twice. But when I got the chevre salad in the end it was pretty good :-) For the main meal I went for something boring as a steak as the menu was not that exciting. For dessert I had the tiramisu which was not great…I guess it is better to have this when in Italy. We went for a pretty cheap table wine for our meal…as we don’t know that much about wine I think we bought one called “Vin de pays du Gard, dom. Monpertuis”…since my name is Gard. Well, that was a bit of a mistake because the wine was not very good. The meal cost us about 140 € for the 4 of us. As a summary Le Café du Commerce is a place with nice atmosphere but the food was not that memorable. The waiters also seemed to struggle to handle all the customers. Nikki reckons he was a ‘newby’.
After a morning stroll in Rue Cler we walked past this little shop called Il Giramondo (located on 175, Rue de Grenelle). They had all sorts of delicacies for sale, ranging from cookies, risotto rice, olives etc. Before we left the store I noticed a small sign saying “Restaurant” and it turned out that they were also running a small restaurant in the basement. So we made a reservation for the same night. The restaurant is tiny and I guess there was room for about 20 people. The atmosphere was nice with thick white vaulted walls. The service was a bit relaxed…when the waiter opened the bottle it was not served so that we could taste, for instance. But the main meal was excellent. We had the buffalo mozzarella and gnocchi for starters and the main meal was veal medallions and risotto (yes, I do enjoy my risotto). We also had some cookies for dessert but they were pretty dry and I could have done without them. The meal was 85 € (including a 25 € bottle of wine).
One night when we were getting hungry and without a plan (again :-) ) we ended up at a place called Hippopotamus grill located near the opera. It is a chain so there are Hippo restaurants all over Paris. The place seemed pretty popular and we had to wait in the bar for a few minutes before we got a table. We were just there for a quick meal and I guess that is what we got. Nikki went for the spareribs and I went for the traditional sausage andouillette. I hope that I don’t offend too many people but the sausage was horrible.I don’t know if this is the way it is meant to taste but it had a very distinct smell and taste of swine and I’m not used to that. I would not really recommend Hippopotamus. The service was not very good and the food was not any good. But if you just want something fast and cheaper - go to McDo instead.
Based on a review in the guidebook we decided to try out La Rotisserie Du Beaujolais one night. This is located at 19, quai de la Tournelle and I think we just walked there from the metro station Cluny La Sorbonne. When we came we asked if they had a table and the guy asked if we had a reservation. We said no and he was shaking his head as if in disbelief. It turned out that he was just joking because there were tables available in the small restaurant. We decided to go for cray fish and onion soup as starters. The onion soup was very good but be warned…all the cheese on top can ruin the appetite for the main meal :-). For the main meal I had the traditional coq au vin and Nikki had rabbit and we had a bottle of Beaujolais on the side. But the best part of the meal was still to come…the chocolate cake for dessert turned out to be a chocolate fondant variety…which means that the inner core of the cake is still a bit on the liquid side. That served with a good and warm custard made the night for us :-) The meal was exceptional and it was probably the best meal we had in Paris. It cost us 100 € for the two of us. The only negative thing that I can point out was the service. It was not intentionally bad. They just had a problem with the logistics. The Swedish family next to us got dessert served but they were one portion short. So the young girl of the family had to wait for like 15 minutes before she got her ice cream and they had to ask for it a couple of times. We also had to more or less beg for the check and it took forever to pay.
One thing is for sure: it is useful to know a bit of French when going out to eat in Paris. The menu might be only in French and then it is nice to have some idea what chicken, veal, pork etc is called.
Finding popular places by coincidence
Café Malongo at Galleri Lafayette. I think that they have other stores as well but we only tried out the one at GL. We tried stuff like Java cafe, cappuccino, espresso etc. The java café was intense by the way. I think it was ½ a portion of dark chocolate sauce and ½ portion of espresso and topped with lots of whipped cream. Their espresso chart is impressive...there is a separate menu because they have so many espressos to offer :-) Another place that you can try is Columbus café. This is a chain of stores spread around Paris and they serve a very decent cup of coffee. We had a few cups of very good cappuccino there.
Well, if you get really desperate and feel homesick I guess Starbucks is also an option ;-).
As in Rome there must be thousands of places to eat in Paris and the trick is to find the places that are worth visiting :-) Taste is a very subjective thing and I guess food that we enjoyed maybe not be to everybody’s taste. But I hope that this has given some sort of indication to what Paris has to offer.
Review of L'Ascot in March 2007
Feel free to go to the next page to see more pictures from our stay in Paris.