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Paris, a City Tasting Tour


Paris, a City Tasting Tour

A look at the best food, markets, cafes and restaurants in Paris. Also some tips on food shopping in the French capital
06 December, 2011

Trying to draw an exhaustive map of “gourmet” Paris could be considered folly: after all, the French capital is the largest open-air gastronomic gold mine on the planet.

A more realistic approach, instead, is to trace small thematic routes to enjoy during a day. And no gluttonous tour of Paris would be complete without a visit to the city’s most amazing food markets.

Let’s begin in the Marais district: a small ironwork fence is adorned with a sign indicating the entrance to the Marché aux Enfants Rouges (Market of the Red Children), whose memorable name comes from the colour of the uniforms worn by the children living at the nearby orphanage. We’re in Rue de Bretagne, and part of its understated charm comes from the fact that this small market is almost hidden and a casual passer-by wouldn’t necessarily even notice it was there. But, like the subtle elegance of Maraisitself, this is one of the chicest markets in all of Paris: offering fruit, vegetables, cheeses and the chance to eat something at the little iron tables with checked tablecloths near each stand, surrounded by flowers and freshly-baked bread.

The whole of Rue de Bretagne is actually super concentrated with some of Paris’s finest foods. Leaving the market, you run right into the excellent cheese shop, Jouannault. There are the famous rotisserie Stevenotchickens at number 31, the bakery and pastry shop Fougasse at number 25 (where there’s always a line) and a fishmonger’s with fresh oysters from Breton at number 19, called the Marée Du MaraisRue de Bretagne is a veritable parade of food shops, bistrots, boulangeries and pâtisseries. It’s impossible to leave the neighbourhood hungry.

Heading southwards, we arrive at the Rue de Rosiers, in the heart of theMarais, where many of the stores are still owned and frequented by the city’s once thriving Jewish population. The falafel stores and pastramishops here are excellent and a great source for a low-cost lunch. Particularly noteworthy is the kosher butcher, Panzer. Nearby, a bright yellow entrance signals the entrance of the Sacha Finkelsztain bakery, with Yiddish specialites like cumin bread, bagels and pretzels. At the end of the street, be sure to stop into the Le Loir dans la Théière tea room – all wood and atmosphere, which is a great place for a light snack. 

Now, heading towards the Seine, we arrive on the Île Saint-Louis, often overlooked in favour of the more touristy Île de la Cité (the location of Notre Dame). This quiet, inviting, corner of Paris is divided into two halves by one large street, rue Saint-Louis en Île, that holds some true gourmet treasures. Like, for instance, the long-standing and well-stockedFromagerie Bernard Lefranc, whose display window is as alluring as that of any jewellery store. Any cheese lover will be spellbound at the sight of artisanal goat cheeses from the French countryside. A bit further ahead, you’ll see a queue in front of one of the city’s best butcheries, Jean Paul Gardil: here you’ll find the famed Bresse chickens and various cold cuts that you can try in the various sandwiches on offer. And anyone who lovesfoie gras should stop at La Petite Scierie, whose products are 100% natural and handmade in Bretagne and flavoured with the prestigious regional salt. If you’re looking for something nice to bring home, stop at number 55, atLa Cure Gourmande, a wooden boutique chock-full of traditional biscuits, packaged in old-fashioned tin boxes. 

Now we cross the Seine once again, and finally arrive on the Rive Gauche in the Latin Quarter. Leaving the legendary restaurant Tour d’Argent at our lefts, we head towards rue Mouffetard, the setting for one of Paris’s livliest food markets. On the countertops of the elegant rotisseries, calledtrateur, you can find high-quaity seafood, cheeses, wines and patés, all laid out in an almost baroque manner. This market has been around for ages, and all kinds of people flock here to immerse themselves in its colours, scents and the unique experience a visit here guarantees. There are many bistrots and small restaurants in the area worth trying.

Now it’s time to go towards the elegant, polished, boulevard Saint-Germain. Walk past the famed Brasserie Lipp and Café Deux Magots and arrive at rue Bonaparte where there are two required stops for anyone with a sweet tooth. At number 72 you’ll find the boutique of Pierre Hermé, the city’s most famous dessert chef. Further down, at number 21, the temple of macaronsLaudurée, whose elegant green boxes are a delight unto themselves. Take a box of various flavours and enjoy them in the nearbyJardin du Luxembourg.

Our last destination is Boulevard Raspail, where the Raspail Marché is held every Sunday. Here, everything is organic and natural – small scale but very cool, it’s popular with the city’s intellectuals and artists. Wandering around the natural cheeses and sustainably grown fruit, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the city’s crème de la crème. With the prices to prove it.