Time for more little pleasures in Paris.
It is very difficult to escape from the crowds of tourists in the centre of the city, even quieter months of autumn are busy nowadays. I remember, years ago, when I first discovered Marais it was a forgotten district with few cool men walking their little dogs, Jews in traditional clothes and random tourists lost somewhere between Notre Dame and Bastille.
Place des Vosges, my favourite square in Paris, used to be almost empty and now it’s hard to find a place to sit on the grass even!
At least Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine still seems to be passed over by tourists. This small square between Rue de Jarente and Rue d’Ormesson with few cute bistros is popular among locals who come here for their lunches. I ofetn choose Au Bistrot de la Place (at sa Terrasse)– with only a couple of tables inside and few more outside, simple food and fantastic view over the lazy city.
Another similar spot is hidden at the back of Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais church. The photo which we use as a header of Food and the City blog was taken there in a café called L’ Ebouillante. It reminds me a bit of Kolory in Krakow – the same bohemian atmosphere, old posters on the walls (I even found few posters about Polish exhibitions there) and similar laid back people… No wonder it is Marta’s favourite café in Paris.
I recommend it especially for a Sunday lunch (assuming that of course you are going to have a big dinner in the evening) outside or inside on a colder day.
For a walk try the main street of Île Saint-Louise – the smaller of the two natural Seine islands. The further you stroll away from the bridge connecting it with Île de la Cité (the bigger island) the quieter it gets.
Île Saint-Louise played in important role in the history of Poland, maybe this is why I like going there so much. Polish immigrants met in Hotel Lambert to support each other and preserve and promote Polish culture during XIX century.
Maria Skłodowska-Curie lived at 36, quai de Béthune and she could see the university, where she worked, from her windows.
On the other side of the river, we love a Guy Savoy’s restaurant called Atelier Maitre Albert (it made to Monika’s top 5 restaurants list). This is a modern approach to traditional French roast – with elegant décor, open kitchen to enjoy the view (and smell) of your chicken being grilled and perfect location far from the tourist crowds.
The restaurant is open for lunch on Mondays and this is what won us over the first time we came here as most of good places in Paris are close down that time.
Jacques Cagna’s La Rotisserie d’en face (2 Rue Christine) is the only place I know which could compete with Guy Savoy’s roast. This is a traditional and smart bistro with perfect service and food you will talk about for ages!
If you are looking for something more casual try places in La cour du Commerce Saint-André, a hidden part of rue Saint-Andre des Arts with nice bistros, a pub, and the oldest restaurant of Paris.
I have to admit that even now, after visiting the place many times, I still get lost and miss the entrance located somewhere between a Spanish tapas bar and an Irish pub. Not very encouraging at first, I know, but you will definitely love it.
Le 24 (59/61, Rue Saint-Andre des Arts) is a restaurant, a bar and an epicerie. They claim to serve Sunday brunch between 11:30 and 16:00 but I have never seen them open during that time yet ;) A perfect place for an afternoon drink with friends, a small lunch or sharing a cheese board with someone special.
For a dessert try Le Jacobine (59/61, Rue Saint-Andre des Arts, just opposite to Le 24). I am sure you will not hesitate much after seeing the cakes on their window displays. I often come here for lunch after shopping in a near-by Polish bookshop in Boulevard Saint-Germains.
Le Procope (13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie), whose back exits are located in Le cour du Commerce Saint-André, is supposed to be the oldest café in Paris and one of the oldest in the world. Today it is more a restaurant though, trying to define its role somewhere between a French institution and a tourist attraction.
It has hosted many notable guests including Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire, George Sand to name only a view (you can find their portraits or autographs on the walls) and was used as a meeting point of the most influential figures during the French Revolution.
What could be more French than a piece of steak served with frites and a glass of red wine for lunch?
Le Relais de l’Entracote (20, rue Saint-Benoit)is the original of steak bistros located across the world now (I have recommended it to you in London post as well).
The concept is very simple – steak and fries and you will be asked only three questions (so it’s good to master the answers in French before):
- How would you like your steak? (‘medium to well done’ is not an option in Paris and you may be ignored if you say well done too)
- What do you want for drink?
- And do you want any dessert?
Probably the only place in Paris where you can see people standing in a line as they don’t take bookings there.
I don’t mind answering ‘no’ to the 3rd question above. Pierre Hermé, my absolutely favourite patisserie chef, has his little shop (72 rue Bonaparte) 5 minutes walking from rue Saint-Benoit.
Everything there looks almost too good to eat. I usually buy my deux–mille–feuille (so much more than just a mille-fuille) and few macarons. It is difficult to resist the temptation of buying a piece of each pastry though.
I have to admit I eat my cakes just immediately I leave the shop – on a random bench outside Saint-Sulpice church :)
For nice walks in Saint-Germains I recommend little streets between Boulevard Saint-Germains and Rue des Saints-Peres. This is a really nice part of Paris, full of little shops, art galleries, bistros, cafés and posh Parisians walking their dogs and Luois Vitton bags…
I often visit a home interior store Flamant at 8 Place Furstenberg (a very nice square itself!).
And if you are keen on finding some good bargains check luxury second hand shops in rue Guisarde and its surroundings.
There is this funny time in Paris when it is too late for lunch and too early for dinner. As a tourist you don’t really know what to do… Check my photo story of quiet afternoons in Paris- It’s Oh So Quiet…
21/07/2012 – Sad news, Le 24 is closed for good… There is a new place opening there and I promise to check it for you soon!