Who better to tap for knowledge than someone from the French capital? Travel and food writer Madévi Dailly reveals her favourite spots from her home city.
Here’s something the city guides won’t tell you: eating well in Paris isn’t quite as easy as it looks. Sure, there’s a bakery churning out fresh baguettes on every street corner, and brasserie terraces spill out over every spare bit of pavement – but for every perfect croissant there’s a tourist trap, lacklustre café or grumpy waiter all too willing to disappoint. Parisians, of course, keep a mental list of their favourite, best-value spots in town, swerving the bad eggs with casual ease. Here’s how to follow in their footsteps.
Forget a quick run to Starbucks – in Paris, venti-sized takeaway coffees are emphatically not chic. If you want to do le petit déjeuner right, it pays to take your time: there’s no better way to start the day than with oven-warm pastries and a café au lait in bed.
You’ll save money too – Parisian hotel breakfasts often cost a pretty penny. An artfully dishevelled run to the local boulangerie is part of the experience. Look for a bakery with a queue: they move swiftly, and they’re always worth the wait. Insta-darling Du Pain et des Idées is now a classic, and with good reason: their salt-flaked, crisp-on-the-outside-buttery-inside croissants (€1.90) are second to none. Don’t miss the little bread rolls in the display case by the cashier; stuffed with lardons and raclette, say, or fig and goat cheese, they’re just the thing for mid-morning hunger pangs.
Mamiche is another firm favourite for its generous loaves, Swedish-style cinnamon buns and gooey babkas (around €2 a slice). Order online the previous day for delivery to your doorstep, or stock up on your way home: both Mamiche’s branches are less than a 15-minute walk from the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord.
If there’s one cultural constant in Parisian life, it’s the importance of lunch. Going out for a proper break is still very much part of office life, and gobbling down a hasty Prêt sandwich at your desk is generally frowned upon.
This means eating out at lunchtime can be excellent value: the five-course tasting menu at ever-hip Michelin-starred Septime, for example, is just €65. Look for the “formule”, a two or three-course lunch from a limited menu. At €20, celebrated Bistrot Paul Bert’s menu déjeuner (beetroot and hazelnut salad and steak frites, for example) is an excellent bet. Fast, healthy Asian food has become a hugely popular lunchtime treat, too. Cheap and cheerful “bo bun” joints have cropped up all over Paris, dishing out herb-packed Vietnamese noodle salads topped with prawns or grilled pork.
In Belleville, casual Dong Huong is particularly good and serves northern specialties such as bun rieu, a crab noodle soup (€13.50 for a large portion). Half way between the Opera and the Louvre, rue Saint-Anne is lined with excellent ramen, udon and tempura restaurants. For a takeaway with a twist, try the Osakan street food at Happatei or the kimchi, dumplings and rice boxes at Ace, an old-school butcher’s turned hip Korean pit stop. In the heart of the Marais’s Jewish quarter, rue des Rosiers is another good shout for warm, plump pita breads stuffed with falafels and all the trimmings. Nearby Miznon is good for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Order its biggest hit – a whole spiced and roasted cauliflower – for just €8.
If you’re staying in, rustle up something quick and tasty from a supermarket run. Stock up on cold cuts, blinis and other apéritifs at Franprix, Monop’ and City. The latter stocks Reflets de France, a brand of affordable terroir products – think duck magret, Normandy cider and everything you need for an impressive cheese board. The best produce comes from local markets: arm yourself with a smile and a few French basics (“un demi kilo s’il vous plait” comes in handy) for a seasonal feast. Marché Bastille, one of the city’s largest, runs on Thursdays and Sundays. Nearby Marché d’Aligre is a bit more chaotic, but has a covered section and only closes on Mondays. If you’re feeling lazy, a spit-roasted rotisserie chicken makes an easy dinner. Pick one up with roasted potatoes from the local butcher; ask for a poulet fermier for the tastiest chook.
If you’re heading out, the bouillon (a sort of casual, lively bistro with working-class origins) has gained in popularity over the last few years. Book online for a seat on Bouillon Pigalle’s attractive mezzanine and a taste of its towering profiterole (€4.80; main courses from €8.50). Brasserie Dubillot is equally family-friendly: come for the bright, Insta-worthy decor, stay for the excellent sausage and mash (€13). Finish your evening with something sweet: the Italian gelateria Grom on rue de Seine stays open past midnight at the weekend. Grab a scoop of the season’s most tempting flavours, then head down to the river for the city’s most romantic views.