Think Paris is all champagne and caviar ? Think again! While the French love to brag about the sophistication and complexity of their renowned cuisine, Paris – as always – is full of surprises.
There may well be a scattering of sensational Michelin Star restaurants across the City, but not all Parisians are millionaires, and for their day-to-day dinners and lunches, there are plenty of delicious dishes on offer at affordable prices.
Whether it be a one euro baguette or a 7 course taster meal, there’s one thing Parisians never compromise on when it comes to their food: quality. An emphasis is always put on seasonal, well-sourced and fresh produce, making even the simplest of food on offer a real treat for the tastebuds.
With all this in mind, I’m here to show you five of the delights you absolutely have to sample whilst in the City to give you a taste of the real Paris. So step away from the crepe stands, and follow me!
We all know the French do great bread; we all know the French do great cheese, and upon visiting Paris, you’ll realise that they take ham and cured meats pretty seriously, too. The Croque Monsieur is a classic dish centred around those three simple ingredients: Fresh, fluffy, slightly sweet brioche bread encases thick, generous layers of tender ham, which is topped with a large sprinkling of glorious, melted cheese(usually Gruyere – a French classic). Already sounds great? Well, this is no ordinary sandwich. Variations include coating the bread in egg before cooking in the oven, adding milk to the cheese mix, before grilling and the Croque Monsieurs even has his own girlfriend – the Croque Madame – who goes a step further to includes a rich and yolky fried egg placed on top.
Try: Madame Messieurs, 80 Rue de Maubeuge 75009, +33 1 40 16 49 95
Paris has artisan food shops and stalls in every arrondissement around the City, each one packed with the most incredible looking and smelling produce imaginable. While you may think you need a kitchen and a home to enjoy such delicacies, the French Apéro will give you the perfect excuse to get buying. Apéro started off as a finger food affair, accompanied by drinks that was carried out before a main meal to encourage socialising. But these days in Paris – especially among young people – the main meal is often skipped while the drinks carry on! Cheese, cured meats, baguette, butter, olives, nuts and paté are some of the most common items offered, and as with all French food, the higher the quality the better. It’s a great chance to taste some of the preliminary flavours of France in their pure form, and I assure you, butter has never tasted so good!
I know I said step away from the Crepe stand, but Galettes offer a different experience entirely. Breton Galettes are pancakes made with Buckwheat flour, topped with savoury ingredients before being folded into a square shape. The flour creates a delicious nutty-flavour and a variety of toppings are available, from a basic cheese and ham, to mushrooms and truffle oil in some of the more up-market establishments. Often accompanied by a bottle of earthy-tasting cider, they will transport you to their place of origin – the beautiful Brittany seaside in France. Ahh, la vie est belle.
Try: Breizh Café kiosk along the river Seine.
Steak Tartare And Frites:
Credits: ©Ken Eckert
Despite the health concerns, Steak Tartare remains a popular favourite among Parisians, and you’ll find it on most menus around the City. If you’re brave enough to try it, it’s a patty of seasoned raw beef, mixed with finely chopped onions and capers. If that wasn’t adventurous enough for you, it’s often topped with a raw egg yolk, you know, just to add salmonella to the bacteria concerns. It’s almost always served with a side of skinny fries, which the Parisians are surprisingly a big fan of! Despite it’s bizarreness, when done right it can be a truly beautiful thing, and even if you find it completely inedible, at least you’ll have the trusty fries to curb your apetite!
Just to throw a spanner in the works in the midst of all this traditional French fabulousness, Paris is also supposedly one of the best places to go for Falafel IN THE WORLD. Yes, you heard that right: IN THE WORLD. In fact, there is a whole street dedicated to Turkish Food outlets, including about 10 Falafel restaurants. The best is meant to be L’As Du Falafel, with the queue always trailing its way down the street day-in day-out. Don’t let that put you off, though – with a pay before you eat system in place, the line soon shrink down and you’ll have your sublime sandwich in hand in no time. A soft, pillowy pitta packed generously with chopped raw lettuce and cabbage, a hefty handful of falafel balls and a dollop of creamy, saucy goodness, this is street food at its best.
Try: L’as Du Falafel: 34 Rue Des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, +33 1 48 87 63 60