I have an affinity with Paris – it’s where I met my finacé and as a matter of habit, we return every year to the district in which met met and eat at the restaurant we had out first date. (Pass the bucket…)
I’ve been to Paris more than a few times and now like to think I have a bit more of an insiders stance and so I’m going to share what we got up to, where we stayed and ate and give you a little inspiration should you be looking for an excuse for a mini-break to the city any time soon.With the Eurostar taking a mere 2 hours door to door it’s a doddle getting to Paris. Travel from Kings Cross St Pancras, grab a coffee and a croissant at le Pain Quotidien and hop on a train from the platforms above the station.
— Nicola Millbank (@MillyCookbook) 24 November 2016
There’s a new bunch of Eurostar trains taking over and they’re ruddy brilliant. Gone are the days of the rusty brown and red faded seats with minimal leg room and instead, make way for immaculate glass ended carriages with super comfy, enormous seats with ample leg room, reclining seats and personal charging points at every table. And that’s just economy …
Standard rooms, based on two people sharing are approximately €165 a night. Book early and pay upfront and this rate includes breakfast too, but refundable and pay later options are also available.
Bags unpacked, and we head head to the St Germain district, a popular area with the young and trendy. We’re starving and so head into Margherita, an industrial style Italian restaurant with copper pendants, exposed brickwork and vintage furniture. We share a gorgonzola and wild mushroom pizza and a beer which is pretty good; stone baked and crispy but the service is something to be desired … Welcome to Paris.
After an explore around the area, an obligatory stop into Diptyque and a coffee at Les Deux Magots ( a popular haunt of ‘celebs’ but I’ll pass on eating there thanks) we head back to the hotel via Café Paris-London, a low-key yet effortless cafe with ample outdoor seating that all face out onto the street. We order a carafe of red wine and share an enormous artichoke with vinaigrette before heading back to the hotel to get changed.
We hop back on the metro, travel cards can be bought for 3 days at around €24 a person with unlimited travel between zones 1-3, making getting around Paris a doddle. A word of warning, be wary. An enormous amount of pickpockets scan the platforms of the Paris metro, keep your bag close and your pockets empty.
We take a short trip over to Saint-Sébastien and it quickly becomes apparent this is the ‘hipsters’ zone. We take a left down a deserted street to find Au Passage and think we’re lost but eventually stumble upon a quiet little restaurant with a very unassuming exterior and an *extremely modest interior. It’s dead, and we’re not sure what to do but I insist I’ve read the food is superb and we stay, sitting in the middle of the restaurant.
Within 15 minutes, there’s a queue of 20 people out the door, the bar is rammed and there’s (from what I can gather) all sorts of French actors and models sat in all four corners of the restaurant for every female in the room is suddenly on heat. Obviously a hot spot.
The menu is in French and with my somewhat limited knowledge I translate the menu enough to order scallops with clementines and brussel sprout popcorn, tuna tartare with yoghurt and wild spices, baked pumpkin with mexican mole and crispy pork scratchings and a large platter of saucisson and hot peppers. Despite it’s ‘youth centre chic’ interior the food is absolutely superb. Art on the plate, exquisite flavours and foods paired together that challenge your perception of what goes with what. I highly recommend – but note, go casual.
Friday morning and we head to Ladurée – it’s the RULE when you go to Paris.
We hop on the Metro to Montmartre, a delightful part of the city that goes unnoticed by a lot of tourists unless visiting to see the Sacré Cœur. Unless you fancy being asked by no less than five hundred street artists if you’d like your face drawn stay clear of the square; what once used to be a charming and quaint artist’s square has now become a tourist haven, extremely over priced and full of con-artists. We skim the area around the back streets and explore some of the most Instagram worthy streets of Paris.
Time to head back to the centre and we go via the Louvre. We’ve done inside more times than I’d care to admit, queueing for over half an hour to get a ‘selfie’ with the Mona Lisa herself and it’s not for me, but I do love to walk through the grounds and down through the Jardin des Tuileries, a garden filled with ponds, ducks, cafés and an abundance of Autumnal scenery.
Cutting through to the Saint Honoré we head to a highly respected restaurant in France, Yam T’cha which was recently featured on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, France. We go to the boutique, just around the corner to sample some of the bao buns, cooked to order by the husband and wife duo and their team.
Ordering the mix of 5 bao buns with fillings from minced pork, cheese and vegetables we unanimously agree on our favourite, the famous stilton and cherry bao. A soft, sweet glacier cherry enveloped in stilton and stuffed in a pillowy steamed bao bun. An intriguing fusion of French and Asian cuisine this is quite the light lunch we were after. Thank you Netflix. Thank you.
Back to the hotel via Place Vendôme, and up through Opéra we stumble across a gorgeous street called Édouard Square filled with cafes and restaurants, shops and the Theatre Édouard.
Back to the hotel to relax for an hour or two and change for dinner. We’re heading to Buddha Bar, an Asian fusion restaurant with a dramatic underground restaurant and cocktail bar surrounding the cave below, overlooking a giant buddha. We’ve been invited to try the Taittinger Champagne lounge pop up – offering glasses of chilled champagne, champagne cocktails and ancomfortable private seating area overlooking the restaurant. Running until the end of December it’s an indulgent addition to the evening.
Down the cinderella stairs to our table we order our favourite sushi rolls, the new california roll with mango sauce and the mango foie gras with truffle snow. Our waiter, Christos, a friendly and charming man who was born in Brighton, upon hearing news of our engagement sends over two more rolls to try, the surf and turf of tempura drawn and seared beef and the pink lady, a tempura prawn and avocado roll topped with snow crab and sauce. We also have our absolute favourite, the crunchy spicy tuna.
We move on to the buddha bar chicken salad, a peanut sauce based salad with shaved cabbage and lettuce and pieces of crispy wanton, spicy edamame, chicken and truffle gyozas and finally the peking duck with spring onion pancakes and pear compote. We roll back to the hotel.Waking up Saturday morning with a slightly fuzzy head we take a leasurely to the day, checking out at midday and leaving our suitcases with the concierge who very kindly agree to look after them for the rest of the day.
Waking up Saturday morning with a slightly fuzzy head we take a lazy to the day, checking out at midday and leaving our suitcases with the concierge who very kindly agree to look after them for the rest of the day. We move on to the buddha bar chicken salad, a peanut sauce based salad with shaved cabbage and lettuce and pieces of crispy wanton, spicy edamame, chicken and truffle gyozas and finally the peking duck with spring onion pancakes and pear compote. We roll back to the hotel.
Waking up Saturday morning with a slightly fuzzy head we take a leasurely to the day, checking out at midday and leaving our suitcases with the concierge who very kindly agree to look after them for the rest of the day.
After a croissant and a coffee we head over to the Palais-Royal, a gorgeous square behind the Louvre with lots of pretty shops, both high end and reasonable. We find a couple of delicate hand crafted bronze decorations for our Christmas tree from a scandinavean shop and get a bit silly with the camera in the square.
Back around through Galerie Vivienne we stop at Legrand files et fils for a cheeky glass of wine. A wine lovers paradise: rows upon rows of fine wines and a bar in the middle, laden with fairy lights and open cabinets of oozing cheese.
The pup is with my mother who’s been house sitting for us and we can’t wait to get back to her. As always, and as it’s always been, the best thing about going on holiday is coming home again.