In part one of our Eating Out in Paris posts, I looked at why it’s so hard to get a good meal in Paris. This time, Lara and I are going to review some of the places we ate at during our two-week stay so you know where you can get a good meal.
We’re only recommending places we ate at, and on this trip we did everything from Michelin three-star restaurants to our local cantine, a casual bar-cum-bistro next to our apartment building. And that’s exactly what is great about eating in Paris, that the city offers up the full gamut of dining experiences — casual cafés and bars, bistros, brasseries, creative and/or quality restaurants, and fine dining restaurants — so we’ve included something from each category. Apart from a few spots, our selection is fairly locally focussed in the 18th and 10th quartiers in keeping with our local theme.
Three-star Michelin creative fine dining
Why? Gagnaire is the epitome of the creative, intellectual Parisian chef. His food combinations are wildly original and his three Michelin stars well deserved.
Terence says: There’s something about Pierre’s food that always intrigues me. It doesn’t always work for me flavour combination-wise, so if you’re after a safe three-star meal head to Alain Ducasse. But when I’m at Ducasse, I’m wondering what plates Pierre’s putting together.
Lara says: Easily the most enjoyable Paris dining experience for me – one of the most satisfying, while still being one of the most adventurous. The mascarpone soufflé with morels and new onions was one of the most decadent dishes I’ve ever had. Wine was exquisite and service impeccable.
Delish dish: Le Grand Dessert is a favourite of everyone, but the savoury star plate is a moveable feast!
Address: Hôtel Balzac 6 rue Balzac, 75008, Tel: 01 58 36 12 50
One-star Michelin, contemporary
Why? Fogon is the closest thing Paris has to the bistronomic restaurants that exemplify Barcelona’s contemporary dining scene, which we consider to be the best in the world.
Terence says: It goes against our remit of eating locally to have Spanish in Paris, but we just kept hearing too many good things about Fogon from people we trust to ignore it. We’d eaten here years ago (at their previous address), but it’s more sophisticated now. A well-balanced and well-weighted menu, excellent staff who know their stuff, and nearly every dish was greeted with ‘wow’!
Lara says: Fogon was fantastic! Comes a close second to Gagnaire as far as creativity and quality goes, but the relaxed atmosphere and informal (albeit brilliant) service make it more fun.
Delish dish: Everything on the 11-course Tapas Menu (and it’s only 49 euros!) but if we had to choose one: fresh sardines in a sea urchin sauce rolled in crunchy lettuce like Vietnamese dish gỏi cuốn.
Address: 45 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006, Tel: 01 43 54 31 33
Ze Kitchen Galerie
One-star Michelin, contemporary
Why? Heavily South-East Asian-influenced cuisine served up in a heavily hyped restaurant.
Terence says: Some fine cooking here, marred by a couple of mismatched and forced flavours trying too hard to make ‘fusion’ work. Was impressed by how thoroughly the kitchen was cleaned, not impressed I had to witness chefs standing on benches doing it. Tables are waaaaaay too close together. Lara will say she loved it because she’s missing Asian food!
Lara says: I loved it because it was one of the best meals I’d had since we were in Barcelona, up there with Gagnaire and Fogon: light, refined, creative cuisine that surprises with every mouthful. How can you go wrong with that?
Delish dish: Wagyu a la plancha, cooked 32 hours, alone makes the restaurant worth returning to.
Address: 4 Rue des Grands Augustins, 75006, Tel: 01 44 32 00 32
Seafood-focussed brasserie — a local Montmartre place
Why? The seafood. In the colder months they have excellent oysters, which they shuck out front, and enormous seafood platters year-round.
Terence says: Not as good as we were lead to believe, but every time we walked past we still wanted to drop in for some oysters. I liked the relaxed, local vibe.
Lara says: Oysters were sublime (range and quality), although my fish was disappointing and red mullet is my favourite, and I prefer to mix my own tartare (too much mustard for my liking).
Delish dish: Anything served up by the fish guy out front who shucks the oysters!
Address: 52 Rue des Abbesses, 75018, Tel: 01 46 06 28 15
Bistro – a local Montmartre place
Why? Hyped by the expats as a good-value local bistro. Apparently Montmartre doesn’t have any.
Terence says: Given that the staff have attitude, the food was a surprise – it’s vin ordinaire on a plate. Short menu but at those prices there’s no excuse for using the same vegetables and sauce on two different main courses. That’s just lazy. Given the apparent pedigree of the chefs, you have to wonder what’s going on.
Lara says: Not sure if I was angrier about the average food or that they’d told us they only had one table left at 7.30pm yet we sat in an empty restaurant for an hour. Didn’t like that only foreigners (all booked in early) were seated out back but locals seated in the front room. The spaces had very different vibes as a result. The staff coats, backpacks and motorcycle helmets piled high on the tables in our room showed a disregard for paying customers.
Delish dish: None, sadly.
Address: 91 Rue des Martyrs, 75018 Tel: 01 42 62 16 03
Le Relais Gascon
Bistro – a local Montmartre place
Why? Well it was two doors up from our apartment, always busy with locals, and those salads are legendary!
Terence says: Saved our sanity and stomachs when we arrived in Paris at 11.30pm on a Sunday night! Locals call it their cantine, the place you go when you want a fuss-free meal in a hurry. Had a pretty decent steak here, but those salads!
Lara says: Love those colossal crazy salads – the combination of crisp fresh greens and greasy garlicky potatoes! – don’t know how the locals finish them, they’re so big, but they do. Must be the only meal they’re having that day.
Delish dish: It’s all about the salads. Elsewhere you might say “ohh, I had a salad for lunch, I’m soooo healthy” but here you’ve been knee-deep in duck fat, pork belly and potatoes.
Address: 6 Rue des Abbesses, 75018, Tel: 01 42 52 11 11
Un Zebra a Montmartre
Café – a local Montmartre place
Why? Unpretentious, fun, neighbourhood café with mainly local clientele.
Terence says: Wouldn’t come here for the food alone but it’s café fare that’s affordable, with a cool soundtrack, and cooler regulars.
Lara says: Their gooey, roasted Camembert was sublime, but I like the atmosphere more than anything: the laidback staff who like to dance behind the bar and the fascinating mix of boho locals who bag the pavement tables make for entertaining people-watching.
Delish dish: Locals love the roasted Camembert.
Address: 38 Rue Lepic, 75018, Tel: 01 42 23 97 80
Le Café Qui Parle
Café – a local Montmartre place
Why? Has a reputation for trying harder than most cafés in the area to produce quality food.
Terence says: Not as inventive as I was led to believe (but what’s new about that in Paris?). Staff knocked one of our glasses off the table, which smashed on the floor, forgot our wine, forgot our dessert, and started eating at the table opposite while we wondered where dessert was. Food was okay – the stuff that arrived…
Lara says: I liked the food here, although it definitely wasn’t as creative as we’d read. Liked the jazzy soundtrack and casual elegance of the place – although staff were too casual and need a boot up the backsides.
Delish dish: Beef carpaccio with a Caesar-like salad.
Address: 24 Rue Caulaincourt, 75018, Tel: 01 46 06 06 88
Le Comptoir du Relais
Why? A much-hyped bistro with a much-hyped owner-chef.
Terence says: Much has been made of the fixed, ever-changing, multi-course dinner menu, but we went for lunch on a whim. Loved the firm, fresh asparagus, though not the unnecessary sauce. Cochon de lait rôti, pork with a delightful crisp skin and side of purée à la moutarde (mash with mustard) was brilliant. Enjoyed it so much I made it as a side for my Côte de Bœuf. Staff were off-hand, but their hands were busy chopping corners off wine cask ‘bladders’ (guts of ‘wine in a box’) for their house wine. Urgh. Despite the pork, you can’t be average at lunch and creative at dinner, as Lara will attest.
Lara says: Sauce on the asparagus tasted like it came out of a bottle, while nicoise salad tasted like it came out of a tin. Dreadful. Neighbouring table hardly touched their food. Don’t believe this place can offer a completely different experience at dinner. If they do, then they need to fire the Chef and staff who run the place during the day.
Delish dish: Cochon de lait rôti.
Address: 6 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, Tel: 01 44 27 07 97
Why? Recommended to us by the chef-owner of the much-hyped Frenchie, which we couldn’t get into because it’s booked weeks in advance for lunch and months ahead for dinner. C’est la vie.
Terence says: Not quite sure where this one fits in the Paris dining landscape and where it’s going as the Alsatian owner-chef has moved to Brussels and current chef is English. Food and service were impeccable – three courses of refined Mediterranean bistro cooking.
Lara says: Loved this meal: asparagus, slow-cooked egg and fresh goats cheese was heavenly, Pyrenean trout tartare with sorrel and bloody orange was a tad Tetsuya, while the Swordfish with fregola, squid and clams was scrummy. Nice wines and friendly service topped it off.
Delish dish: A moist Guinea fowl breast, artichoke and pea caponata.
Address: 3 Rue Richer, 75009, Tel: 01 47 70 67 31
La Table D’Eugene
Bistro — a local Montmartre place
Why? Recommended by the guys at Cook’n With Class, this is where modern Parisian bistro food really gets a rebirth in Montmartre.
Terence says: Really didn’t put a foot wrong. A little bit of flash, but solid cooking. Great staff. Just the kind of modern bistro meal you want in Paris but rarely get.
Lara says: Another favourite of mine: loved the rich morel mushrooms and I’m not usually a fan of cod but it was clever as well as incredible-tasting! Service was excellent too.
Delish dish: The cod cooked three ways is a wonderful expression of three different styles of doing that dish: stuffed in a red pepper Iberian-style, steamed cod with spinach, and fried croquette-inspired cod.
Address: 18 Rue Eugène Sue, 75018, Tel 01 42 55 61 64
Bistro/wine bar — a local Montmartre place
Why? A fave of many a Montmartre local for it’s unpretentious food and casual ambiance.
Terence says: It was so busy we had to take a second sitting on a weeknight! A brilliant, bright asparagus soup and Côte de Bœuf that was cooked to perfection were the highlights. Good wines too.
Lara says: There’s a reason there’s Côte de Bœuf on every table. It is special. But I loved the atmosphere as much as the food. Neighbourhood eateries don’t get much more local than this, with warm staff, friendly patrons and fun music. The fact that they’re still serving food at 1am says a lot – especially in Paris!
Delish dish: Don’t think about ordering anything but the Côte de Bœuf.
Address: 3 rue Durantin, 75018, Tel 01 42 51 21 48