Paris restaurant, food and wine experiences
This article about Paris restaurants, wine bars and food shops represents the personal favourites of the editors Foodtourist, Sue Dyson and Roger McShane. These are the places they haunt on their regular visits to Paris. (Updated July 2018)
Paris remains to us one of the most exciting and compelling food cities in the world. It is a city in which you can splurge hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single meal or where you can get a meal cooked by an expert chef for as little as 30 euros as you can at a restaurant such as Clamato, Le Servan, Au Passage, Le Cadoret, Les Papilles or Aux Deux Amis and for a little more at night you can eat in great places such as Saturne or Septime.
So, where do we head for when we first arrive in Paris? Usually we stay in the 11th arrondissement so our favourite hang-out used to be James Henry's fabulous eatery called Bones. Unfortunately this restaurant has now closed so we favour nearby Clamato which is a convenient no-reservations restaurant. Drop in here and put your name down and then head over to Septime Cave for a drink while you wait for your table.
If you are near rue Oberkampf then there are a few great options available, namely Aux Deux Amis which is just opposite the Verre Vole bottleshop and further up is La Buvette in rue Saint-Maur, the tiny space where the hospitable Camille Fourmont dispenses interesting natural wines and tasty snacks. In the same street is Le Servan where the Levha sisters, Tatiana and Katia, serve interesting, modern comfort food with interesting twists.
If you want a Michelin-style experience but don't want to take out a mortgage on your house to eat there, you might want to try the excellent food and wine program at Septime in the 11th. The food is excitingly different to the mainstream Parisian fare and the wine program one of the best in the city. We like to go to lunch here because the light in the restaurant is delightful and sets a calming mood on the patrons.
If you are on a tight budget then there are some relatively new places that we have enjoyed. Head to C.A.M. Import Export for interesting Asian food cooked by talented chef Esu Lee or Le Rigmarole where the co-chefs are cooking meats and vegetables over binchotan charcoal. Also we head to Ellsworth for small plates at very reasonable price, Hero for great Korean fried chicken and Grillé for the best kebabs in town. A more recent opening has been Le Cadoret in the 19th where you can find good bistro fare at very reasonable prices.
We are often found in rue Paul Bert where Bertrand Auboyneau runs a mini-empire comprising Bistrot Paul Bert, Le 6 Paul Bert and La Cave du Paul Bert all of which serve interesting and comforting food in a convivial atmosphere. The selection of natural wines available is also quite impressive.
Paris is the city of unrivalled food opportunities where you can dine at some of the most expensive restaurants in the world, wander to some of the best food shops to be found anywhere or simply sip a cup of coffee while watching cafe society in action.
But if you want good coffee you need to be very specific about your choices. Most of the "famous" places for people watching such as Deux Magots serve dreadful coffee. You need to make the trip to our current favourite, Boot Cafe, where both the pour-over and the espresso coffees are up there with the best in Paris.
If you want to splurge on a 3 star meal then options to consider are L'Astrance (where the food is very controlled and careful), maybe Pierre Gagnaire (where the food can be very uncontrolled), perhaps the quietly elegant Taillevent or the slightly more radical Arpege where we recently had one of the best meals of our lives.
More and more these days we are attracted to the less formal bistros and the tiny cave-à-manger that somehow seem more connected with the soul of French food. This style of food probably reaches its purest expression in the funky Le Comptoir run by megastar chef Yves Camdebourde.
The food here is deeply rooted in tradition and executed with flawless precision by the chef. A dish of tripe we ate there recently was one of the most soulful dishes we have enjoyed in a long time. Turn up exactly at 12 noon to secure a table if you have not booked an evening meal. And, of course, there are two smaller spaces next door called l'Avant Comptoir and l'Avant Comptoir de la Mer where you can squeeze into for snacks and a great array of natural wine.
Other places you might like to experience include the laid-back Astier in the 13th, the frenetic La Regalade in the 14th and the Alain Ducasse bistro Aux Lyonnais in the 2nd where the pike quenelles in nantua sauce are wonderful.
Good wine bars include Le Verre Vole in the 10th just next to the Canal Saint Martin where the kitchen turns out some very good food to accompany the extensive range of natural wines that are available.
In recent years we have noted the emergence of classy wine bars and special places known as cave-à-manger where you can buy a bottle of wine to take home or you can take it to the table and have a simple meal. Examples are l'Entree des Artistes, l'Avant Comptoir, Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie, Les Papilles, Verre Vole and Coinstot Vino.
Paris also has some of the best food shops in the world. And some of the best are not the traditional ones that everyone knows about such as Ladurée and Fauchon. Rather they are jewels such as Jacques Genin or Da Rosa where products of exceptional quality are available. The best place to buy fresh pasta and other artisinal products is Pastificio Passerini. Other places are capturing the limelight such as the Verre Vole Epicerie where we bought some fabulous sandwiches which comforted us during a layover at Orly airport. Another place for sandwiches that has come to our attention is the aptly named Chez Aline in the 11th which serves sandwiches of considerable quality.
Our favourite Paris restaurants
We have chosen the restaurants that provide a wide range of interesting and exciting dining experiences from three star dining to out-of-the-way places that are little more than a bar with a couple of tables.
Septime is the hottest place in Paris at present. You will find it at 80 rue de Charonne in the 11th. We have now eaten there on a number of occasions and all meals have been of the highest quality (and getting better with each visit).
The space is interesting - almost rustic in a NOMA sort of way. The food is fantastic with flavours bursting from every dish. The wine list is a careful compilation of the most interesting natural wines from France and Italy (and beyond) with even rare and obscure wines such as the Belluard Le Feu being available. And finally, the waiting staff are efficient, friendly and knowledgeable.
Bertrand Grébaut is gaining a great reputation for his cooking. Certainly enough to entice us back on a recent trip. We thought the food had gained coherence and the evening was very enjoyable. We like the fact that they are very serious about the food and wine served here but they do it all in a relaxed and friendly way.
Read our review here: Septime restaurant, Paris
We have come to love this restaurant due to the excellent food and the amazing array of natural wines on the list. The food is cooked with imagination and flair and the produce is always of the highest quality. The wine selection is excellent also.
Read our review here: Saturne restaurant, Paris
Clamato is a new venue owned by Bertrand Grébaut and Théo Pourriat of Septime. This delightful bar concentrates on the very freshest seafood and interseting, low-cost natural wines. Our recent meal here was stunning.
Read our review here: Clamato seafood restaurant, Paris
We recently had one of the best meals of our lives at this Parisian establishment. The food was sensational, and all the more enjoyable for being centered around vegetables as the heroes rather than protein. Alain Passard seems to get more enthusiastic about cooking as he gets older. The dishes that he had recently designed that we were served were exceptional. One tip - if you go there order the degustation rather than ordering from the a la carte menu. That way you will experience the freshest of produce brought in daily from his two farms.
Read our review here: Arpege restaurant, Paris
The little cousin of the amazingly popular Chateaubriand next door. Every time we have dropped in here we have been delighted with the quality of the food and with the natural wine selection. The food is small plates but the servings are cleverly put together and represent amazing value for money.
Read our review here: Le Dauphin
This restaurant and wine bar in our current favourite part of Paris, the 11th, is receiving a lot of attention. It is also unbelievably good value. The produce is of the highest quality from excellent suppliers such as Joel Thiabault and Thierry Breton from Chez Michel who supplies the bread. And the wines are suitably natural with offerings from luminaries such as Emile Heredia.
Read our review here: Au Passage
Another very special place that we love is Les Papilles. Here you dine in a wine shop with many interesting wines lining the walls. The menu is fixed. Four courses with no choice. But what food! We enjoy the conversations we get into here as people stroll along the shelves trying to choose the best wines to go with their meal. You can choose any wine from the shelves and they will open it for you for a small surcharge. A dish of long cooked pork belly and vegetables we had there recently was superb as was a dessert of pannacotta served in a chunky glass.
Read our review here: Les Papilles
Ellsworth is a pleasant small restaurant in Paris serving small plate dishes designed for sharing. The food is cooked with precision and flair and the wines are mainly natural. The restaurant is an offshoot from nearby veteran Verjus.
Read our review here: Ellsworth restaurant in Paris
Hero in Paris is an exciting restaurant serving Korean influenced food and a fascinating range of cocktails and sparkling natural wines that fit like a glove with the spicy food.
Read our review here: Hero restaurant in Paris
Here you can enjoy great Basque-influenced cooking while enjoying one of the best-selected wine lists in Paris.We love this restaurant! The food is cooked with passion and skill and the wine list is amazing.
Read our review here: L'Ami Jean
Aux Deux Amis
Aux Deux Amis is a jewel in the Paris drinking and dining scene. It is informal, lively and serves some of the best biodynamic and natural wines from throughout France. And the food and wine are very reasonably priced. Friday night is a big party!
Read our review here: Aux Deux Amis
Le Chateaubriand is a wonderful, old-fashioned bistro serving 'new' food in the 11th. The food cooked by Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte is excellent and sometimes exciting and the natural wine list is new and clever. Go here for the buzz as much as the food. Sometimes a dish can fail. On one occasion the dessert failed and on another the dessert was superb but the overall experience was still interesting.
Read our review here: Le Chateaubriand
A regular spot for us. This is a great bistro with fair prices for the quality of the food. Here you can try many of France's great bistro dishes, many which include offal. The wine list has some of France's natural wine treasures. Have a drink at l'Avant Comptoir (see Bars section) while waiting for a table.
Read our review here: Le Comptoir
Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie
This cafe in the 5th serves good, honest, traditional French food in a lively atmosphere along with a long list of organic and biodynamic wines from throughout France. We love the atmosphere here and often turn up here for a long lunch. We love the fact that this cafe was run by Nicolas Carmarans who is now one of the leading producers of natural wine in central France.
Read our review here: Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie
Le Repaire de Cartouche
Repaire de Cartouche is a gem of a restaurant in the 11th. The engaging owner directs proceedings to ensure that guests have a great time. The food is wonderful while being relatively reasonably priced. You must go here to try the terrines - the chef is an expert in the preparation of these French gems! The wine list has a great deal of depth with some very interesting older vintages. They have recently converted the downstairs section into a wine bar.
Read our review here: Le Repaire de Cartouche
Le Baratin was one of the first bistros in Paris to move to an all-natural wine list. The food is simply presented and very good and the wine selection is amazing. Just leave the selection to the sommelier and you won't be disappointed. On our most recent visit we thoroughly enjoyed a wine from rising star of Haut-Cotes de Nuits, Yann Durieux.
Read our review here: Le Baratin
A great place for natural wine and some very good food in the beautiful Passage des Panoramas. Recently, Simone Tondo, one of the original chefs at this Paris institution has returned to the kitchen here, so we very much look forward to a return visit.
Read our review here: Racines
Another good value venue in the same 'passage' as Racines is Coinstot Vino. It specialises in tasty food from good producers and the best of natural wines. They also have some interesting musical events here.
Read our review here: Coinstot Vino
Astier is a very good place to experience a typical Parisian bistro. The food is very good and the wine list features wine from throughout France including Corsica.
Read our review here: Astier
The Alain Ducasse empire has taken over many restaurants in Paris. This is one of them. However, it has the feel of a 19th century bistro. The service is slick and the food an excellent representation of Lyonnais cuisine.
Read our review here: Aux Lyonnais
Le Bistrot Paul Bert
This venue has the feel of a traditional bistro while having a very modern wine list packed with the stars of the natural wine movement.
Read our review here: Le Bistrot Paul Bert
Good coffee is rare in Paris. The coffee served in most of the famous coffee houses is weak and insipid and not worthy of this great food city. Coffee appears to be an essential part of the day for most Parisians but they don't seem to care about the quality.
In fact, the coffee is Paris, in fact most of France, is universally bad and controlled by large corporations such as Cafés Richard who create mediocre coffee blends and market them to the millions.
Luckily the situation is changing slowly with a few serious coffee shops opening. We can only highly recommend one!
Boot Cafe is a tiny venue with only three tables and nine stools, but it serves some of the best pour-over coffee and espresso cups in the city. The mood here is genial, assisted by the likes of Lou Reed on the sound system.
This is a very good choice for morning coffee.
Read our review here: Boot Cafe
Ten Belles is clearly one of the best coffee houses and breakfast/brunch venues in Paris. The young staff are passionate about the coffee that they serve. The food is simple yet delicious. A great venue and a good vibe.
We also like their venue called Ten Belles Bread on rue Breguet.
Read our review here: Ten Belles
La Cafeotheque de Paris
La Cafeotheque de Paris is a vibrant coffee lounge quite close to the River Seine which breaks the stereotype of bad coffee in Paris coffee houses. The coffee here is seriously good and can compete with great coffee places such as Blue Bottle in San Francisco and Single Origin in Sydney.
It is such a relief to find a small, intimate place such as this in a quiet location near the Seine (52 rue de l'Hotel de Ville) which serves such exquisite coffee that is neither bitter nor bland but rather robustly flavoured and fresh from recent roasting.
Read our review here: La Cafeotheque de Paris
We managed to get to Bal Cafe on our most recent trip to Paris - but on the last day we were there so we didn't get an opportunity to re-visit. They did have a good wine list - we had a wine from one of the Loire Valley's most exciting winemakers Lebled. The coffee was very good!
Telescope is a venue we love to visit - and not only for the very good coffee here. We also love the simple food. And when we say simple we are not being dismissive. We are saying that this food appears simple but has lots of flavour and energy. We recently called in here and had a very good breakfast consisting of a dish with yoghurt with very fresh hazelnuts and a swirl of honey and a lovely toasted sandwich filled with tomago. Telescope is close to the Palais-Royal which is on the rue Villedo.
L'Arbre a cafe
L'Arbre a Cafe is both a brand of coffee and a venue in the trendy rue de Nil. But it is one for you to keep an eye out for because it is now served by some of the best restaurants in Paris. It is the brand of coffee obsessive Hippolyte Courty who we first met in Hong Kong where is is involved in a delightful wine store called La Cabane a Vin in Hollywood Road.
Formerly an historian, Hippolyte began researching coffee after failing to find good coffee in Paris and he started travelling the world searching for new and interesting varieties and then brining them back to Paris to roast.
One of his plantations is that of biodynamic producer Henrique Sloper de Araújo in Brazil (it is no coincidence as Hippolyte is also an ardent fan of biodynamic wines) where he sources the cult, complexly-flavoured "Jacu Bird" coffee beans.
We have found his coffee at Philou (a very nice bistro) and Le Verre Vole in the 10th, Saturne in the 2nd, Le Dauphin, Le Bistrot Paul Bert, Aux Deux Amis and Le Chateaubriand in the 11th, the laid-back Café de la Nouvelle Mairie in the 5th, Da Rosa in the 6th.
Outside Paris we had a very nice espresso made with this coffee at Un Ile in Angers, again at l'Herbe Rouge in Valaire and at La Cave Voltaire after a pleasant lunch in Chinon.
Paris food shops
Paris is unequalled in the quality of its food shops. Other cities might have more, other cities may have bigger, other cities may have newer, but rarely do they match the consistent excellence of places such as Du Pain et Des Idees and Jacques Genin.
Many of the wine bars in Paris provide an excellent selection of wines from small producers throughout the country. Some, such as La Cremerie and Le Verre Vole specialise in natural wines - those wines made without the use of chemicals in the vineyard or additives in the wine making process.
One note here. Many guides mention Willi's Wine Bar and Juveniles as places to drink, however our visits to these venues over the last two years have been desultory. There has been no spark from the staff, no excitement, no enthusiasm for taking you on a journey of discovery.
There are many good wine shops in the Paris. We tend to go to those specialising in natural wines or at least who stock some natural wines.
One of the great attractions of the Paris is the range of markets you can visit. We particularly like the President Wilson market which is one of the best fruit and vegetable markets you will find anywhere.
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