Paris is famous for Michelin star restaurant dining, but Bistro’s are a perfect port of call for those who skipped breakfast or are worn out after a hard day shopping. I’m going to tell you about my four favourite Parisian bistros, where you’ll find the DNA of French bistros.
This is in such an appealing street. I love that, just a few steps from worldwide style mecca, Colette, you can find a butcher, a fruit seller and a few great little wine bars where local office workers are still the faithful clientele. Au Bistro is similarly unsophisticated, with a rather strange, high banquette you have to climb into and tables which squash you into your neighbours plate. Not a place to come with gossip or secrets. The food is heart and very reasonable, given its location. It’s a good place for French standards of snails, foie gras, ceufs meurette and steak frites. The service is brisk yet friendly enough, and it’s OK to knot your napkin around your neck if you’re worried things might get a little messy.
How to get there: 8, rue du Marche Saint-Honore – Paris 1 – Tel. +33 (0) 142610245
I’m not a huge fan of set menus. Not that I mind being surprised or letting the chef express himself; its just that whiff of convenience for the kitchen, or tired signature dishes mechanically rolled out. But at Kei, the formules will carry you along lightly and jubilantly, with ‘Japanified’ classic French cooking from Paris’s Petit Prince, Japanese chef, Kei Kobayashi. The dishes (four or five at lunchtime, more in the evening) are a series of refined little tableaux, never sacrificing taste for beauty and with gasp-worthy technical prowess (the milk chocolate mousse is at once hot and cold). It’s a pretty formal plush room, full of suits at lunchtime, but sometimes I love to do things properly. One of those reliable restaurants that feels like it’s here to stay, in a city where, so often, young talent pops up and pops off.
How to get there: 5, rue Coq Heron – Paris 1 – Tel. +33 (0) 142331474 www.restaurant-kei.fr
The very residential 16th isn’t known for its restaurants and this is a neighbourhood bistro slightly off the beaten track. Opened in the 1930’s by Mme Chaumette, set deeply off the street, with a few tables en terrasse, snuggled under a low awning, this is a cosy spot for a comforting winter meal. At lunchtime it’s full of journalists and actors from the nearby Maison de la Radio; in the evening, it’s more grey-haired couples in cashmere and brogues. This is a good place to revise your French classics of blanquette de veau, chou farci, crepes suzettes and millefeuille a la vanilla. Don’t miss the excellent onglet aux oignons when it makes the carte du jour.
How to get there: 7, rue Gros – Paris 16 – Tel. +33 (0) 142882927 www.restaurant-chaumette.com
Le Bistrot Paul Bert
Is this the perfect Parisian bistro? I think it could be. The space is pretty much all you could ask of a fantasy come true. Wooden panels, prettily tiled floors, mirrors and a chalkboard menu you could read all day until your rumbling stomach reminds you why you’re there. The main room, with its bar and glass façade, is lovely for a long, people-watching Friday (de preference) lunch. But in the evening you might prefer the cosier areas and banquettes in the far corner. Along with Benoit, the Paul Bert is my favourite place for serious black truffles when the season is in full swing and for generous ‘proper’ classic French desserts. Eggs with truffles, a vintage champagne, a Paris-Brest. Heaven for sinners.
How to get there: 18, rue Paul Bert, Paris 11 – Tel. +33 (0) 143722401
Jules is the editor at Foodsessed and loves to write about French chic eats and style.