Some people love it, some people hate it, I adore it and these are the reasons why.
Paris for me is always a treat, I always want to find an excuse to go, I love it when I am there and I look forward to the next time I get to go back. Admittedly, considering how close it is I do not go enough and even writing this makes me want to hop onto the next Eurostar and indulge myself.
The reason I adore Paris so much is simple, the food, the wine, the cocktails, the art, the people (I know this will surprise some people), the architecture, the food again, and again and again, oh and the shopping. While I have no desire to live here, I do also love visiting here and will never tire of what the city has to offer.
That being said there are four places in Paris that I will always go to. To no surprise they are food and cocktail orientated. These places are so good my cravings have gotten the better of my senses and I have seriously considered (on multiple occasions) going to Paris just for the day just to go back and have a bite of what they have to offer.
Chez L'Ami Jean
I stumbled across this delightful spot quite by accident. After a full day of being tour guide to my aunt and uncle who were over from the USA we were starving. With bellies rumbling and the original place we planned on going a good distance away, we walked past the rather unassuming entrance down a side street not far from the Eiffel Tower and decided to go in as we just needed some form of substance to keep us going. Our original plan was to grab a quick bite just to hold us over until we made it to our final destination.
That plan was soon abandoned for two reasons. Firstly (and mainly) because they only offered a tasting menu and secondly, when we saw the food other people were eating, there was no way we were leaving.
This small restaurant was packed and was full of locals (always a good sign in my view). In the corner was an opening to the kitchen where the banging and clattering of the activity going on in there could be heard throughout the restaurant and added to the overall ambience. It was cosy and cluttered, with quirky decor and wood clad, and it was fabulous.
Forget the menu (you will get what you are given), forget trying to make special requests (again, you will get what your are given), forget trying to have any form of conversation with the wait staff unless your French is good. Dont expect silver or even smiling service and don't expect a quiet or quick meal. What you will get however is phenomenal food and a lot of it (I think we had a total of 7 small plates), an electric atmosphere as people indulge their tastebuds and try things they would never expect and a shouting chef filling the air.
The menu is all small plates and is always changing based on local produce and availability, but a few of the dishes that stood out for me on this occasion was the pork pictured above that sliced like butter and filled my mouth with succulent juices full of flavour, the razor clams that came in a parsley, wine and garlic sauce and their rice pudding, which I simply cannot describe other than being divine and like no rice pudding I have ever had - even writing about it makes my mouth water.
It is mad, crazy, busy and simply some of the best food I have had the delight of eating.
Address: 27 Rue Malar, 75007 Paris, France
Nearest Tube: Pont de L'Alma
The ECC (Experimental Cocktail Club)
I can't remember who first told me about the ECC but from the moment I heard about it I wanted to go. Initially described to me as a secret bar behind an unmarked wooden door down some Parisian back ally where they make experimental cocktails, it certainly lived up to the description but the drinks were done an injustice.
Finding it was a little tricky, as it was back when you dare not use mobile data abroad unless you were a billionaire and even then it was still a questionable decision and Google Maps just well, wasn't really a thing. Now days though you won't have to hunt quite so hard. Once we had found it, we were ready for a strong drink. We had found the wooden door, and gone through the heavy hanging red velvet curtains. We were greeted by the most chic waitress and told that while they had our reservation, another table had overran and were asked if we were okay to sit at the bar. Posing no objection we were sat, poured small cold glasses of water, which we were thankful for and handed the menu to pick our poison.
Liking my drinks on the very sweet side, especially in my youth when my uni drink of choice was Malibu and Redbull (I know, don't worry, you don't need to say anything). I asked the barman for some advice. He took the menu from me, practically threw it away over his shoulder, said in a think accent "You don't need that, you need me" and asked me how I like my drink? Along with the base, he asked if I wanted it fresh, fruity, sweet, strong, citrus, stirred down, short, shaken long or dirty and so on.
Admittedly, some of these words surprised me and being somewhat a cocktail novice he also (helpfully) explained what it all meant. My choice, which remains today, was short, sweet and stirred down. What I was served was a one of a kind, made up on the spot taste sensation. It was here I realised how, like cooking, cocktail making is somewhat of an art form. Being able to understand your customers palate, combine flavours and techniques in order to deliver to the demand and serve it all in stunning style that delights from the minute it is set in front of you through to the last sip.
We decided not to leave the bar and move to our table and instead sat up on our stools with the barman. Every drink he made for each of us was different. Each one surprised and delighted, with flaming passion fruit, overproof rums, absinth and citrus fire sparks and the twirling and turning of metal shakers and crystal beakers. I felt like we had our own personal theatre show for two and was mesmerised by the whole affair and fell in love with the art of mixology. After my experience at The ECC sitting at the bar and seeing what the barman can make, not memorise, became my test of a true mixologist and is ultimately how good I judge a bar to be.
Nearest Tube: Réaumur-Sébastopol
Frenchie Wine Bar
Frenchie's has two establishments, one is a finer affair and what can only be described as a 'proper' restaurant, the other is directly opposite the tiny cobbled street and is a wine bar that does small plate versions of the dishes served at the restaurant, and is simply put much more fun.
This establishment was yet another unplanned stop, I had taken my Aunt and Uncle to The ECC and we had (as per usual) sat at the bar. The barmen basically told us in no uncertain terms to not bother with L'Escargot and when asked where he would go, he instinctively said Frenchie. We initially went to the restaurant but was told they were fully booked and we were advised to try their wine bar across the road, with no better plan we did and to our surprise found that they also did food. I only found out later while outside having a cigarette and by chance talking to their head chef, that their menu was a duplicate of their main establishment across the road.
To say the food is sensational would be an understatement. If I had been at the restaurant I would of truly struggled to of picked one starter, main and dessert off their menu, with each and everyone sounding as delicious as the next, but here I wasn't limited and could pick to my hearts content. We all shared all the dishes, having a few bites of each, none of which lasted long on the plate and we devoured each delightfully delicious dish. The duck liver pate was one that really stood out for me, as did their French take on a deconstructed Eton mess, pictured above.
The bar is split into two with a divider wall. The main bar and seating is on one side, with more seating on the other. It is casual and fun, with no one standing on ceremony. You can order at your high wooden table, but if you want a drink quickly, go to the bar. It is understated, with food that puts some more recognised chef's restaurants to shame and once the hours for eating have passed the place turns into a buzzing fun (although somehow still sophisticated) boozer.
The wine was simply sublime with what seemed like a never ending choice (we literally got handed a book) and even more options that weren't listed on the menu sat in the cellar. My Uncle was delighted by the choice and discussed all the options on offer and out the back in detail. My Uncle, in my head, has provided me with the bench mark of when you go from keen to connoisseur, and if you have an off site wine cellar, where you keep "the good stuff", like he does, you officially qualify. Unsurprisingly, being fundamentally a wine bar in France, their wine (and his choices) did not disappoint.
What I love about Frenchie Wine bar is that you are not limited and you can try and sample small plates to your hearts content. Ordering as you go and eating your fill. With all the wine you could wish for to accompany you, it's no wonder this place became a fast favourite of mine.
Address: 6 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris, France
Nearest Tube: Strasbourg - Saint-Denis or Réaumur-Sébastopol