The decoration? “On s’en fou!” as the French say when they don’t give a toss. There’s a bit of a misconception when picking restaurants in thinking that fancy design, good-looking staff or a trendy following make for a good meal. In my book, places that don’t fuss over decor indicate they’re thinking about the food first and foremost– and that means my tummy will be getting it’s money’s worth!
Spoilt for Choice at one of the Oldest Food Markets in Paris
Blink and you’ll miss it behind it’s iron gates, located in the unspoilt part of the Marais where high street shops have yet to move in, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges is allegedly the oldest food market in Paris, built around 1615. But it’s not just for buying your groceries. For lunch, this place is a foodie’s dream.
It reminds me a little of an East London food market– authentic, fresh as you can get, tons of choice– oh, except, it’s French of course!
Freshly cooked dishes can be bought from the various stalls and eaten at the communal tables in the outer courtyards of the market. You can choose from French classics, Moroccan delights, runny cheeses; the amazing aroma of cooking meat in one corner of the market nearly knocked me over!
And then there is Alain, the most imaginative sandwich maker in the world (pictured above right). He may be slightly mad and you’ll probably never see him without a glass of red wine in hand, but his galette/ crêpe sandwiches are the stuff of legends. Die-hard local fans of Alain swear by his ‘Cornet Vegetatien’, pictured below right (sorry, I had already half eaten it when I remembered to take a snap).
I’ve truly never tasted anything like it and with all the wonderful ingredients in there such as honey, chêvre, fresh avocado, persil and secret spices, Alain certainly saved me from my looming hangover that Sunday.
If you’re not a sandwich person (but really, who isn’t?), fear not! There are quite a few little restaurants that surround the market stalls which serve delicious and homely French cuisine. You can fill your tummy with a sunny Sunday brunch for € 20.00 at l’Estimanet for example.
For dessert, I dare you to try the mousse au chocolate served in a paper cone from one of the naughty, naughty food stands.
All in all, it makes for an utterly charming Sunday afternoon. When you’re done, pick up some fresh market flowers and take a stroll down the nearby Rue Houdon for some lovely little Parisian fashion boutiques.
Find it at: 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris (Closest metros: Filles du Calvaire/ Arts et Metiers). Open everyday.
Italian Mama’s Pizza – Best in Paris.
I’ll never make it as a food blogger because I can’t remember to take a picture of the food until after I’ve started eating and messing up all the presentation. So this is a pizza after I’ve pierced my egg, let the yolk leak out and spread it around along with my mascarpone cheese. But it still looks pretty good even though I’ve made a mess of it, doesn’t it?
Well I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s from Gusto Italia– tiny, simple and rustic, this little restaurant is a local secret of the 7th arrondissement. I’ve sent friends and actually received feedback that it was “the best pizza they’d ever had in Paris, maybe ever!”
The friendly waitress couldn’t be more sweet– she let’s me choose whatever I want on my pizza with a warm smile everytime, admittedly rare in Paris. It’s always filled with locals coming back for Italian comfort food at its best.
Find it at: 11 Rue Amelie, 75007 (closest metro Ecole Militaire)
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover and try the Best Vietnamese Ravioli in Paris
There are so many Vietnamese restaurants in Paris, it can be hard to know which ones are good. Luckily, MessyNessy has just about tested them all (well, almost). Le boyfriend is a huge fan of Vietnamese food and let me tell you that together, we’ve tried a lot of vietnamese ravioli, so many that you start to realise, a lot of them can taste the same. But at one place, it’s a totally different ravioli experience!
The best and most special Vietnamese ravioli I’ve tried by a mile has been at one of the simplest and basic of Vietnamese restaurants in Paris– and I mean really basic. The lighting is a pretty dim, the decor hasn’t been updated in over 40 years but it’s run by a little old Franco-Vietnamese couple who really do fall over themselves to make you feel welcome.
Their ravioli was the most authentic and homemade I’d ever tried and tasted just magical. I could have ordered five, they were that tasty. And because it’s not winning any awards for its decoration, it’s damn cheap too.
Find it at: 1 Rue Basse des Carmes, 75005 Paris, France, Tel: +33 1 46 33 31 96 (closest Metro: Maubert Mutualite)
Fantastic Frogs Legs in a Gorgeous Dump
One specialty I’ve never touched upon when blogging about food and restaurants in Paris is … frogs legs! Who’s up for it? If you’ve never tried them but are willing, the taste could be described as something between garlicky chicken and french fries– and expect a lot of finger licking.
The first thing you notice about Roger la Grenouille when you walk in is that it’s a sort of gorgeous dump. It’s worn in, worn out, frayed at the edges and a little cramped. Old letters and souvenirs on the wall; frogs of various kinds, including a frog skeleton in a box.
There’s no pretense here, this place is about one thing and one thing only — eating frog legs — and everything else is second. This is not a criticism.
If not a little cramped and old-fashioned in its decor, Roger la Grenouille is a little hard to find, tucked away in the maze of back streets in St Germain des Pres.
Naturally, their frogs legs are superb and you can order them pretty much however you want– the classic is with garlic, butter and parsley. They have an inexpensive 3-course menu for 24-30€ along with a very reasonable wine list.
I’ll leave you with these four for the moment, I’m going to be very selective with this list and only recommend the best. But I’ll update this list every time I come across a new gem.