When we visit Paris we want the romantic cliché. We want to eat buttery croissants on the banks of the Seine and plates of cheese in cafés overlooking the Eiffel Tower. But in the past year, a flood of new eating and drinking trends has arrived, suggesting that young Parisians yearn for a less stuffy, more fluid approach to dining. Here are the trends you should know about – and insider tips on where to find them.
Paris’ neo tapas movement started a few years ago with Inaki Aizpitarte, whose Le Dauphin restaurant dispensed with the traditional ‘entrée, plat, dessert’ in favour of a bold menu of small plates. He gives French food an Asian twist – think pickled onions and pork meatballs with hazelnuts and lemon zest, or sliced wagyu beef with Chinese cabbage.
A number of new sharing-plate restaurants have opened their doors in the past year, most of which are packed every night. And it makes sense: small plates let you sample the best of what great chefs have to offer without having to pay through the nose for an entire à la carte meal. These restaurants vary widely – some are simple caves à manger, spots that are somewhere between a relaxed restaurant and a wine bar. Others offer haute cuisine in a less traditional way, but nearly all of them are found in parts of the city that are off the tourist trail.
Where to go
This laid-back restaurant in the 11th arrondissement is packed every night with hip, young Parisians in intimidatingly cool clothes (tip: wear black), a classic example of a restaurant that looks like a simple bistrot à vin but has some serious foodie clout behind it. It’s particularly famous for its tender meat options and serves what must be the juiciest lamb in Paris. With all tapas dishes ranging from €5 to €13 (HK$45 to HK$115), it’s one of the best deals in town.
L’Entrée des Artistes Pigalle
Pigalle was once associated with a seedier side of Paris. But if you’re Parisian, you’ll just think: yum, dinner. That’s because a number of restaurateurs have taken over defunct brothels and turned them into trendy dining spots. And this is one of the best out there, with an ambitious, innovative menu that includes dishes such as crab-stuffed pimento peppers and asparagus with yuzu cream.
There are few foods as French as patisseries like rose-flavoured macarons, coffee éclairs, raspberry tarts and blueberry millefeuille. Until recently, the world’s most famous pastry chefs exclusively worked in five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, making their complex confections for the rarified few. But now many of them have opened eponymous, stand-alone dessert shops. Where there was once just Ladurée’s macarons, now there are places specialising in éclairs, Chantilly cream-based puddings, madeleines, chous and millefeuilles.
And some of these patisseries are so complex you might not have heard of them. There’s chef Cyril Lignac’s baba au rhums (small cakes filled with whipped cream and liquor); Hugues Pouget’s financiers – not banker types but small sponge cakes made with crushed almonds; and Christophe Michalak’s caramel religieuse, two glazed puff balls filled with flavoured cream that make a long-haul flight to Paris worthwhile.
Where to go
Jonathan Blot has poured his patisserie-making talent into a photogenic shop. His Earl Grey and chocolate tart is a masterpiece, as is his Paris-Brest, a fluffy pastry filled with praline cream. And if you’re worried about decision paralysis, Acide offers a tasting plate with six of its most popular desserts in miniature.
Maison de la Chantilly
Chantilly is a vanilla flavoured whipped cream French pâtissiers love to add into their confections. And now the owners of Domaine de Chantilly (only in France would dairy producers also own a castle) have created their own patisserie shop dedicated to the famous cream. You can eat Chantilly-based éclairs, millefeuilles, chous and hot chocolates – although perhaps not all four at once…
While Hongkongers have been drinking, eating and flirting on city roofs for decades, Parisians have only just started realising the great potential above their heads. True, traditional Haussmann buildings don’t lend themselves to sky-high alfresco dining, but as new blocks are being constructed and current buildings are altered in the city centre, a host of new bars and restaurants have recently opened up their roofs. The result is spectacular city views of Paris’ beautiful skyline, with delicious food and good wine included.
This trend makes sense to anyone who has lived in the French capital in the stifling summer months. Whereas London and New York have parks to enjoy the sun, the strict rules about not touching the grass at Paris’ Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens slightly ruin the whole picnic thing. And while we accept that the park wardens are never going to relinquish their whistles, Parisians can now head upwards to get a breath of fresh air and sip their rosé.
Where to go
The rooftop bar at La Cité de la Mode et du Design is as intimidatingly cool as you’d expect the drinking hole of a Parisian fashion school to be. The vast rooftop terrace offers an incredible view over the city, and in midsummer you get the slightly incongruous contrast of the distinctive Parisian skyline combined with chill-out music, exotic cocktails and sandy floors.
Bar le Perchoir
This view-heavy bar has been called hyper branché (massively cool) by the Parisian press. Very popular on warm evenings, it has a 360-degree view of the capital, a good wine list and a clientele that seems to keep getting better looking. Watch the sun set over the city, a glass of burgundy in hand, and life will seem good.