Let’s be honest when we travel abroad one of the things we look forward to the most is tasting a variety of new dishes – especially when visiting France.
Paris has been assigned various nicknames over time such as ‘the city of lights’ and ‘the city of love’, and, although it is true that it probably is one of the most romantic and cultural cities in the world I would also say that it is one, if not THE biggest food capital. The question, however, is where to start?
Here is a small insight into some of Paris’s gastronomical treats, and a few of my favourite places that I visited this summer.
Of course I cannot talk about Parisian food without mentioning the numerous boulangeries and patisseries scattered over every street, where the French buy their baguettes every day. The stereotype of the French’s obsession with their bread is 100% correct, something that I am also guilty of. My addiction used to be so bad that after finishing school my friend and I would pay a visit to the bakery at the end of our road and buy a whole baguette to eat on our five-minute walk home. Nothing tasted better after a long day of boredom, the dough often still being warm from the oven.
Not only can you buy a variety of breads but you can also choose from numerous viennoiseries, usually served at breakfast, such as pain au chocolat, croissant, brioche… the list goes on. Equally, a wide array of patisseries are sold for all sorts of special occasions and treats. Again, the list is endless but the most common and popular are eclairs (chocolate, coffee, pistachio and any other flavour you could think of), mille-feuille, fruit tarts (apple, raspberry and strawberry being the most common) and flan.
You may be thinking I have forgotten one of the main delicacies associated with Paris, a sweet treat similar to a meringue yet sooooo much better- Macaroons! Surprisingly, these are one of my favourites as I am not a fan of meringues. However, these are on a whole different level and have a lot more taste- probably helped by the various flavours you can choose from (again the selection is infinite). Ladurée is definitely the most famous producer of macaroons worldwide, although any kind of boulangerie will sell them. Its main shop, also doubling up as a tea room, is located on the iconic Champs-Elysées and its pastel green and gold exterior cannot be missed. If you are paying a visit to the most famous avenue in the world I would highly recommend at least going into the shop and maybe even having a sit down for afternoon tea and a macaroon. I personally love the salted caramel and Columbian chocolate macaroons that you can either buy in small or large (keep in mind that small will allow you to try more flavours!)
Moving on from Ladurée there is also another popular tea room (or salon de thé as called in French) situated on the Rue de Rivoli just at the end of the Champs, off the place de la Concorde and opposite the Tuileries gardens- Angelina’s. Their speciality is chocolate, hot chocolate to be precise. It is very rich and very indulgent so be warned that it may be hard to finish and is often best to share.
I have to mention the Marchés (aka markets) common in most towns where locals buy traditional French produce from the various fruit and veg stalls, butchers, fish mongers. Many prefer to shop there than at the big supermarkets as they know the food is fresh and delicious as they are buying it from friendly and reliable people who dedicate their lives to food. It is also a very sociable environment as you are bound to bump into several neighbours and friends. It is also worth mentioning that scattered around Paris are various permanent food markets where it is possible to eat on the spot (similar to Camden and Borough Markets in London). One of the most famous being Le Marché des Enfants Rouges situated in the Marais district.
Vegans in Paris
Paris, and France in general, is often seen as a country that does not cater well for all diets as meat, fish, wine, bread and cheese all feature prominently on the menu. However, although rather difficult to find at times, some cafés and restaurants will cater for vegetarians, vegans, gluten and lactose intolerants. The more up and coming, young and modern areas such as Pigalle, the Marais and by the Canal St Martin, are especially catching onto the trend. I recently stumbled upon a vegan and gluten free café, called Sol Semilla, just off the canal and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in superfoods; they provide a great explanatory catalogue full of powders and grains. Upon arrival I had only heard of spirulina and maca but, little did I know there is also a superfood called ‘cat’s claw’! I definitely learnt a lot as well as eating a delicious ‘raw plate’ that was so colourful it seriously was like I was ‘eating the rainbow’. I cannot even tell you precisely what was in my dish as there were so many different ingredients and flavours but, all I know was I had way more than my five portions of fruit and veg.
Two of my favourite things – that also happen to be vegan – falafel and hummus are thankfully not hard to come across in Paris. The Marais district features numerous pedestrian alleyways where you can easily spot various falafel stands, the most famous road being the Rue des Rosiers with the renown l’As du Falafel. It is worth highlighting that this district is often referred to as the Jewish quarters therefore it is also possible to try other Israeli delicacies from any of the bakeries, although tempted by shop windows, I stuck to my ever trusted falafel and hummus pitta.
Drinks in Paris
The French are also known for their love of drinking, especially ‘fine’ alcohol, and their ‘apéritif’ (pre dinner drinks) that often start at six.
As a wine lover myself, one of my favourite wine bars is Le Baron Rouge where bottles and barrels of wine fill the room, from which you can fill up your empty bottle at not even a third of the price for which you bought it. In true French style it is also possible to buy various food platters consisting of either cheese, pâtés and charcuteries (or a selection of all three) to accompany your glass of wine. I cannot advise this traditional French wine bar enough to any other wine fanatic.
On a slightly less traditional note and perhaps aimed more towards young adults and teenagers, Le Perchoir, a terraced bar with two different venues, is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for an impressive panoramic view of Paris and its rooftops. The first bar can be found on top of the BHV, a department store located in the more central and buzzing Marais district. Whilst the more casual one, offering a view over the Sacré Coeur, can be found in the up and coming 11th arrondissement. It opens slightly earlier making it perfect for a pre-dinner aperitif. Both offer very relaxed vibes where one can enjoy one of their delicious and very reasonably priced cocktails. However, take note that they do not serve any of the traditional cocktails such as mojitos or cosmopolitans, therefore urging you to taste one of their more elaborate concoctions such as an Early Grey infused gin and tonic. Definitely worth a visit if you’re a cocktail lover!