There’s two things you need to bear in mind as you read this post. One: calories don’t count when you’re abroad. Two: French people never get fat. Thank goodness then, because Paris is home to some of the world’s finest food: croissants, crêpes, baguettes, duck confit, croque-monsieur, foie gras, macarons… okay, we’re drooling. Some of the best grub can be found in Le Marais, one of the city’s oldest yet coolest areas and the stomping ground of les hipsters. Navigating its labyrinth of hidden courtyards, suave boutiques, cutting-edge galleries and ivy-clad boulangeries is hungry work. So, we’ve rounded up the area’s top ten places to fill your Breton-striped belly. Whether you’re after a quick bite at Le Marché des Enfants Rouge, the city’s best galettes at Breizh Café or something a little more figure-friendly at a healthy eatery, we’ve found something to suit each and every one of your cravings.
This summer, citizenM are opening new hotels in Gare de Lyon and La Defense. As we spread across Paris, we thought we’d show you what puts the sparkle in the City of Lights. Le Marais is a little further from La Defense (45 mins on the metro) but close to Gare du Lyon (a 10 min cab ride) but it’s well worth a trip if you have a spare morning or afternoon. This historic district transports you back to archetypal Paris, the Romantic, winding metropolis of architectural gems, galleries and chic cafes you thought only existed on the silver screen. It’s unsurprising that France’s most famous novelist Victor Hugo hailed from here. So don your beret and breton top, grab a garlic necklace and discover Paris as you’ve always dreamed it. Bon appetit!
1.Le Marché des Enfants Rouge
Dating from 1615, this atmospheric covered market is Paris’ oldest of its kind and an gastronome’s nirvana. It sits on the site of a medieval orphanage whose red-uniformed children (yes, we couldn’t help but think about Annie either) gave the market its name. You’d be forgiven for walking past its discreet entrances Rue de Bretagne and Rue Charlot – keep your peepers open for the green metal gate. But make no mistake, Le Marché des Enfants Rouge is a crowd-puller, so perhaps not the best idea if you’re after a quiet morning. Yet those willing to put up with a little shoulder-rubbing will be rewarded with the finest produce from artisanal and organic food stalls. Grab lunch from one of its many globally inspired stalls – Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, Moroccan – or, come Sunday, head for brunch at L’Estaminet, tucked away in the heart of the market.
A one-time neighbourhood boulangerie, today Café Charlot is a buzzing bistro and home to one of the fashion set’s favourite bars. Look out for its charming bakery shop-style frontage just opposite Le Marché des Enfants Rouge. Inside, its 1950s zinc bar, retro white tiles, throwback lamps and rows of wine bottles will make you think you’ve stumbled upon the quintessential Paris you read about in romance novels. Brunch and typical brasserie fare – tartare de boeuf, bagel au saumon fumé – are done well here but we’d recommend the evening happy hour; people watching on the terrace, cocktail in hand… la vie est belle.
3.Chez L’Ami Louis
It’s somewhat faded, oh-so lovably unpolished and yet has been an icon of Paris’ dining scene since the 1950s. Behind its unprepossessing red-and-white gingham curtains, Chez L’Ami Louis draws a clientele that has once included Francis Ford Coppola, Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac. Expect thick slabs of foie gras terrine, melt-in-your-mouth pommes souffle, garlic escargot and whole poulet made succulent by the soft yet intense heat only an oak-fired wood oven can offer. There’s only 12 tables so make sure to book ahead.
contactChez L’Ami Louis
32 Rue du Vertbois
how to get there
Jaja: the French slang term for wine, the kind of everyday stuff that’s fine but not blow-your-mind fabulous. Yet this couldn’t be more far from the… erm… case at this airy restaurant along Rue Sainte-Croix. Tucked away from the crowds, this chilled-out bistro offers a list of natural wines grouped by variety. They’re accompanied by classic dishes such as Aubrac steak, Lozère lamb and thyme-sauteed Normandy potatoes, each served to long communal tables. When the sun shines, you’ll find Le Marais’ fashionistas congregating for lunch in its charming outdoor courtyard. Salute.
Taking design notes from the old Paris Métro, this restaurant is decorated with slatted wooden benches, old travel posters and public notices from bygone eras. In the kitchen, young chef Paul-Arthur Berlan, who shot to fame on TV show Top Chef, gives traditional French comfort food a contemporary, seasonal spin. A royale de lard – flan flavoured with bacon – comes topped with a coddled egg and mushroom puree, beef stew comes with adorned with Japanese dumplings, gambas are marinated with granny smith apple and red pepper.
Eating crepes is a rite of passage for visitors to Paris. Make your experience a good one and visit this creperie, which has been ranked among the best in the city. It’s lacy, crisp-edged, Breton-style galettes follow a traditional recipe using buckwheat flour and Bordier butter. Sweet tooths, try crepe tatin flambéed in Calvados; savoury lovers opt for the Cancalaise with potato, smoked herring and herring roe. For the true Breizh experience, order sides of oysters and cider. There most certainly will be queues, but it’s worth the wait. Like this? Don’t miss the grocery next door which sells the butter and buckwheat flour should you want to recreate a Breizh Cafe when you get home.
7.La Cantine chez Merci
When Merci opened in an old fabric factory in 2009, it was among the pioneers of fairtrade concept stores. Across three floors, it offers an eye-catching edit of everything from furniture to fashion and perfumes to pet supplies. All profits go to charity. Work up an appetite browsing before heading to its lower-ground floor where Merci’s La Cantine opens out onto a lush courtyard. Here you’ll find fresh, healthy, veg-centric and oh-so Ottolenghi dishes such as green asparagus risotto, rustic desserts and homemade juices of cucumber, celery and apple. Like this? Don’t miss Merci’s adjoining Used Book Cafe for a rendez-vouz over small plates and good coffee nestled among 10,000 titles.
8.Tout Autour du Pain
At this upper Marais boulangerie, baker Benjamin Turquier has that oh-so rare culinary skills which master both bread and pastry. Baguettes here have been ranked among the top ten in Paris three times (and counting) while the golden butter croissants have been named the city’s best. Don’t miss his utterly addictive German-style schwarzbrot either; it’s utterly addictive. Tout Autour du Pain is closed Saturday & Sunday, but it has a second, newer shop around the corner at 59 rue de Saintonge that’s open weekends.
contactTout Autour du Pain
134 Rue de Turenne
how to get there
This rustic restaurant, a mainstay in Le Marais’ dining scene for over 50 years, offers a waistband-busting taste of central France. Ingredients here hail from the province of – you guessed it – Auvergne, including saucisse sèche, Puy lentils, pig trotters and foie gras terrine. Yet stealing the spotlight is the Ambassade d’Auvergne’s aligot, a concoction of mashed potato and cheese so elastic that can waiters stretch the gluey goodness the full length of their bodies. Unsurprisingly, Time Out ranked this among the 50 best dishes in Paris.
10.Wild & the Moon
Last but not least – and for those times when a garlicky bucket of escargot doesn’t appeal – we recommend trying some of Le Marais’ more veg-centric and oh-so trendy eateries. The all-vegan Wild & the Moon will turn even carnivores to the green side with its ethically sourced, seasonal selection of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, mains and desserts devised by nutritionists. Wash down an acai bowl with a detoxifying ‘Black Lemonade’ which includes activated charcoal and apple cider vinegar. We feel saintly just writing it. Like this? Try Ob-La-Di at 54 Rue de Saintonge, for Le Marais’ most social media-friendly brunch. Avocado strewn with chilli flakes atop purple potato bread – gluten-free, of course – with organic coffee in a pared-back, cactus-filled setting – Instagram gold.