Trip to Paris, France - April 2006
Eating and drinking in Paris

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Onion soup at La Rotisserie Du BeaujolaisTrying 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.

We had a good meal at Le dos de la BaleineBefore 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.

Starter with basil ice creamOn 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. The lamb carréBut 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. The "orgasme au chocolat"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.

Chevre salad at Le cafe du commerceWe 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. The tirimasuI 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’.

The buffalo mozzarella starterAfter 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. Risotto at Il GiramondoSo 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.

Coq au vin at La Rotisserie Du BeaujolaisBased 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. Rabbit on the menuWe 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. The excellent chocolate cake at Rotisserie Du BeaujolaisBut 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.

Breakfast
Breakfast at TimHotel Tour EiffelWe had the option of eating breakfast at the hotel for about 8 € per person. We did do this a number of times and the breakfast was not bad - buffet style, so it was “eat as much as you want”. We did go for a breakfast at a typical French café by the metro station of La Motte Picquet Grenelle.Nikki having breakfast in Paris The breakfast was OK but it didn’t include much more than we could get back at the hotel: a baguette, a croissant, some orange juice and some coffee. And the price was about the same…8 €. If you are in Paris on a budget and want to find a cheaper option I would recommend going to a grocery store to get a pre-made sandwich. At places like Monoprix located near the metro station La Motte Picquet Grenelle they had different sandwiches in the grocery store on the second floor and it was also possible buy juice and also pastry from the bakery on the ground floor.

Finding popular places by coincidence
The cafe Deux MoulinsWe did come across a couple of places by coincidence when walking around Paris that I would like to mention. The first one was in the Montmatre area after we had been to Sacré Coeur de Montmartre. . We just wanted a quick lunch so we stopped by a place called Deux Moulins. There was a movie poster in there for the movie ”Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain” which I saw a few years back. Well, last Saturday when I looked at the DVD in a shop I saw a picture of Deux Moulins on the back of the DVD. From what I hear it has changed quite a lot since the movie…or maybe they just changed it for the movie. We had a club sandwich there and that was OK. Cafe de FloreThe French fries were fresh and pretty good at least :-) The place looks a bit run down and the men’s room was not very appealing...at all. Make sure you take have some wet cleansing serviettes handy - the sink was totally covered and out of order when I was there. The other place we found was Cafe de Flore. We had been on a Da Vinci code tour and ended up in Saint Germain and we just wanted to find a place for lunch. We saw Café de Flore and thought it looked good. It was only later that I saw that it was listed as a separate attraction in the guidebook. I guess the prices should have indicated that it was a popular place...10 € for a glass of beer is a bit expensive even for a Norwegian :-) But the onion soup was pretty good there.

Coffee
If you have read the trip report from Rome last year you will have noticed that we do enjoy a bit of coffee :-). In my opinion you should try out the following places for good coffee:

Java coffee at Cafe MalongoCafé 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
Escargots at L'AscotI went to L’Ascot with a couple of colleagues in March 2007. We found the recommendation to this place in an old Pariscope (a free booklet that tells what’s going on in Paris, what to see and do etc). The restaurant is located at 66 Rue Pierre Charron (between Champs-Elysées and George V (see the interactive Google map to see location of the restaurant) . We just walked there from our Hilton hotel by the Eiffel tower (see the review) and it didn’t take long…but can you really trust a Norwegian recommendation when it comes to walking and distances? :-)

Onion soup at L'AscotWhen we came in the interior didn’t really stand out in any way and it looked like other Parisian restaurants that we have been to. But the service were good and we were greeted and taken to a table and the waiter also noticed that in our group there was a French person…and hence he got a menu in French and we got a menu in English. After the trip to Paris last year my traditional aperitif has become Kir…or Kir Royale. We enjoyed the Kir Royale while looking at the menu. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell what I had….when I travel I do try to be a bit adventurous and try special local delicacies. Lamb carré at L'AscotI did have in mind that I wanted to try out the snails (escargots) but I chickened out by ordering the onion soup. What can I say…I just wanted to have a good safe meal :-) The onion soup was good…but then again I guess it is hard to go really wrong with onion soup in the first place. One of my colleagues did go for the escargots as a starter and it looked pretty good and I did regret my (boring) choice. For the main course I went for lamb carré and it was served with only mashed potatoes. It sounds pretty boring but the taste of the meat and sauce was very good…but the mashed potatoes could have been tastier. We had a very good red wine by the way…I think it was a Bordeaux by the name of Perron.

Creme Brulée at L'AscotFor the dessert I went for the classical Creme Brulée. I tried to make it at home just a week or two before I left for Paris and I was not sure if I had gotten it right. But judging from what I got at L’Ascot I think I more or less got it right. Creme Brulée is mainly made from eggs, crème, vanilla and sugar…and it makes a great dessert. And the melted sugar on top makes it complete…at least for a guy with a sweet tooth :-) As a conclusion I can say that I would not hesitate to go to L'Ascot again. My colleague took the bill so I'm not sure how much this meal cost us.

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