Michael and I managed to squeeze in 4 ‘proper dining experiences’ in our long Easter weekend to Paris, each of which I have reviewed and elaborated on in this post for anyone who wishes to share our Parisian food journey. There are however a couple more casual eats & sweet treats included in my Foodie Musts post, if this isn’t enough for you!
1. Bar Italia Brasserie (22 Rue Moncey, 75009 Paris):
Controversially, Michael and I went to an Italian restaurant to toast our first night in Paris. To be frank, you can find excellent international cuisine in London and this particular restaurant really tickled our fancy as we trawled through pages and pages of tripadvisor reviews. It is a tiny (I mean tiny), adorable, highly authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Paris.
Much like at Chez Elles, the staff take real pride in providing only the best quality of service & food. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne and a generous portion of freshly baked bread set atop your table.
The menu is super short with a choice of only 4 starters and 4 pasta mains, which change every 14 days depending on seasonal ingredients. All of the food & wine options are scrawled in Italian on blackboards hanging from the wall, so you really have to listen when the kind and patient waitress translates the options to you. (Thankfully it is a short menu or I would pity the woman!). The staff bend over backwards to please you; they allowed us to sample 3 different unopened bottles of wine before we finally made our decision (we know nothing about Italian wines… or that was the line we were using anyway!).
As we mulled over our options we got stuck into the bread basket (obviously). O-M-G. The bread was seriously out of this world.
I genuinely thought that nothing could taste better than the marriage of this bread with the cold, firm, rich butter that they served us upon request (it being Italian and all, olive oil & balsamic is the standard provided), but I was wrong. We ordered the ‘antipasto reale’ (€24.00) to share to start, which consisted of a huge hunk of Burrata, surrounded by grilled aubergine, courgette & red pepper, a small piece of bruschetta, and layers upon layers of Parma ham.
This starter was ridiculous. A big dollop of that Burrata smothered over the glorious, doughy bread was the creamiest, most sensual and, seriously, one of the most delicious things that I have EVER put in my mouth. I was beyond food heaven, and I don’t even like cheese for God’s sake. Perhaps that is precisely why I enjoyed it so much though, as Michael, a strong cheddar kinda guy, found it to be bland. He agreed that the texture was immense, but to be honest I think his opinion is redundant when you read the tripadvisor reviews and see how many other people agree with me that the Burrata is everything & more. The Parma ham was also so soft and fresh and just melted in the mouth, with a good depth of flavour. The grilled vegetables were cooked to perfection, retaining a crunch despite how thinly sliced they were, and were not at all oily. “Incroyable”, as the French would say.
For mains we ordered the same pasta dish of spinach & ricotta ravioli in a truffle cream sauce (€18.00) (the crux of having similar tastes I’m afraid), which was very, very good. The handmade pasta was beautifully al dente and the truffle cream sauce plentiful & decadent, as it should be.
The cheese King arrived:
The only possible criticism that I could give is that the sauce overshadowed the spinach & ricotta filling, which I think there should have been more of to balance the two elements better. Of course, the portion size was also rather Italian (i.e. small), but this place was authentic to the max, so I will not fault them on this. We greedily licked our plates clean, which is surely always the sign of a successful meal.
Since we had bought (the most amazing) chocolate fondant earlier that day in Galeries Lafayette Food Hall, we skipped dessert and scampered off home for our chocolate-y fix.
That’s not to say that I didn’t glance over the dessert menu scribbled elegantly on the wall that, keeping with tradition, featured only quintessentially Italian options, including tiramisu and panna cotta, which I am certain would have been just as good as our previous courses, should one be that way inclined.
Our total bill, without service, came to €84.00 for 4 glasses of red wine (€6.00 per glass), 1 sharing starter and 2 mains. Not at all bad for the EPIC overall service, food & wine. You’re even offered a shot of homemade limencello post-meal! The experience was so truly Italian that one could easily be mistaken for thinking that they are in Italy. Not to be missed.
2. Frenchie (5-6 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris):
Frenchie… Oh Frenchie, where to begin? Frenchie popped up time & time again during my research of ‘best Parisian restaurants’ and appeared on every level to meet the criteria that Michael and I look for from a great restaurant; cool, relaxed atmosphere; unpretentious, delicious, quirky food; reasonable pricing and good wine. Plus, it was a 7-minute walk from our apartment. We simply HAD to go. However, we soon came to learn that booking a table was nigh on impossible unless you booked months in advance or personally knew the chef and, even then, your chances would be questionable. This, of course, only made my inner child more intent on going. I asked a favour from a couple of really rather powerful people and was shut down immediately – apparently I was simply going to have to accept that Frenchie and I were not to cross paths on this trip.
Weeeeeell I’m pretty persistent, so I grabbed Michael under one arm and my clutch under the other and padded around the corner to try our luck. It was a Saturday, it was 8pm, and it was bank holiday weekend. Our prospects looked pretty bleak, to say the least. We walked through the front door to an onslaught of busy chatter, loud music and warmth. A cool, young French waiter appeared out of nowhere and asked if he could help, to which I told him we were hoping for a table.
An hour later and a bottle of champagne down – ‘Pascal Doquet, Champagne Extra Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs’ (€80.00) we were seated on what I would consider to be one of the best tables in the tiny place, right next to the kitchen, where we eagerly observed the chefs hard at work. Result or what? ‘Don’t ask don’t get’ once more proving itself to be the best motto that I live my life by.
Moving on, the restaurant is small and split into two rooms, both featuring the same high tables and bar stools that you must share with other diners. Communal dining is a very hit & miss restaurant experience for me but it totally fits in with the extremely laid-back, hip vibe that Frenchie embodies. The 3 waiters on shift all wore jeans and chequered shirts, were drinking wine & singing along with Eminem, Rihanna, Elvis and everyone else included on the eclectic playlist. I genuinely thought we had struck gold. The menu is short with some seriously appetising-sounding options, so we didn’t mess around ordering as soon as we sat down.
All of the dishes are designed as sharing plates, with a recommendation of 2-3 plates per person. For once Michael and I fancied different things (ish), so I ordered Burrata, pickled pear, citrus and datte from Medjool (€12.00) (the new love of my life after our experience the previous night at Bar Italia Brasserie; he ordered the homemade smoked Banka trout, white asparagus and horseradish (€11.00); we shared the marinated mackerel, roasted cauliflower, homemade tarama and Piemont hazelnuts (€14.00) and ordered a French Lobster Roll each (€22.00).
The Burrata was good. It was probably my favourite dish of the night, but it wasn’t as good as the one that we (/I) had devoured the night before. It was more runny instead of creamy, and although I really enjoyed the sweetness from the date puree I wanted something sharp or spicy to offset it slightly. I requested pepper 3 times throughout our meal… it never came. The portion was generous however and I did enjoy it all mopped up on a slice of bread, although that also wasn’t nearly as good as the previous night.
Michael’s trout wasn’t at all what he had envisioned; he has expected actual slices of the fish rather than a pate blended concoction. The other elements mushed in with the fish retracted from its flavour, with him likening the dish to tuna mayo – not exactly what you want from a ‘top-dog’ restaurant, or any, for that matter. The white asparagus was well-cooked but slightly random and didn’t seem to complement the fish in any way, since it wasn’t as if one had both in one bite.
The mackerel was similarly disappointing; tiny slivers of fish which were, in their defence, flavoursome, flakey & tender, but where exactly was the rest of it? I thought we ordered a mackerel dish?! A whole mackerel fillet wouldn’t have been hoping for too much, I don’t think. Tiny dots of inconspicuous sauce and simultaneously raw & burnt cauliflower florets didn’t get us particularly amped either.
So far, not so good. We held out for the lobster brioches though. They arrived and, indeed, looked a thing of beauty. Copious amounts of fresh, warmed lobster meat poked out of the buttery, lightly toasted roll.
The brioche was superb and the perfect warm blanket for the tender meat it surrounded, whilst the filling was just good for me and great for Michael. I personally would have preferred more seasoning and citrus with the lobster, a cleaner finish I suppose, but Michael loved it just as it was. A mediocre dish as far as I am concerned; Burger & Lobster’s is better!
At this point I feel that I must make clear that despite the lacklustre food we were having the best time; a bottle of bubbly and nearly a bottle of rouge down – ‘Alonso Etayo, Vina Ilusion, Rioja, 2011’ (€22.00), we had made great booze-fuelled friends with the group of young guys sat next to us and were more engrossed in socialising than berating the food, so all was not lost. I decided to give Frenchie one last chance though (plus I wanted a pud), so ordered the Tarte Tartin and creme fraiche (€9.00). Due to our vantage point I literally watched the waiter walk into the kitchen and tell the cooks my order; a cook slice the tart, place it on a plate and into the heating oven; retract it and place a dollop of crème fraiche on top; and it float back towards me and placed in front of me. It’s fair to say that I enjoyed this little private viewing leaps & bounds more than the end result.
I don’t know what went wrong but the plate was too hot to touch whilst the tart was an unpleasant combination of hot & cold. The pastry was good and crisp but the actual apple was undercooked and too firm. I also didn’t think the tart itself was sweet enough to justify the crème fraiche accompaniment; I’m more of a crème anglaise, ice-cream kinda gal. Overall, just a poor pud. I personally think it’s a disgrace and a very difficult achievement to make a pudding unenjoyable, at least by my standards. Butter + sugar should always = joy!
Thus, as much as I enjoyed the evening itself and the relaxed, buzzy atmosphere, both the food and service were simply nowhere near up to scratch to warrant both the real life and internet hype. I think the chef/owner has probably gotten slightly ahead of himself with this bizarre craze and betrayed his original mission to provide an experience “animated by generosity and excellent products”. The quality of the ingredients aside (I am sure they are very good), the dishes are not executed well, and as for generosity, I saw nothing of the sort in my measly portions of ‘excellent products’. Thankfully it was not crazy expensive and we could stomach the €192.00 bill (without service) due to the 2 bottles of (by the way, outstanding) alcohol that we had had. And, as nice as the staff were and it was all fun & games to crack a joke with them, they were slow on requests and re-filling water, forgot (despite asking THREE times) to bring me pepper, and apparently didn’t have any butter (1) I thought we were in France, 2) what on earth does the chef cook with?), but which then later magically appeared as a tiny cube. Essentially, if you’re intent on going then I think it’s a good place for a drink and a laugh, but there are hundreds of places that provide the same cozy, fun atmosphere and serve food far, far, far superior to Frenchie.
3. La Societe (4 Saint Germain-des-Prés, 75006 Paris):
La Societe is a super exclusive, super elegant , super expensive restaurant that only hires super attractive people and only feeds super chic people (obviously, this includes us).
It’s definitely one of those pretentious places where you kind of have to ‘fake it to make it’ and pretend you’re somebody to get good service. Usually Michael and I would run a mile from this kind of place, but it is sooo gorgeous; both its indoor & outdoor seating area and the black & white theme are stunning, it was lunchtime, the sun was shining and there were lots of free seats.
I also realised that we had visited for dinner on our last trip to Paris (the reservation was made by a Parisian who ‘knows people’) and I got a little nostalgic about it as we had had such a lovely evening there on what was our first ever trip away together, all of 3 years ago now! We took our seats amongst the sparkling white cushions, tablecloths and silverware as I got overly excited about our upcoming feed.
It wasn’t long before a 6”3 leggy waitress served us almonds, olives and bread, all of which were seriously good. I then made the faux pas of requesting tap water and the game was up! I was snootily told that they do not serve tap water, and would I like still or sparkling. As Michael and I are both literally camels when it comes to drinking water with meals, plus I deeply believe that water should always be served free of charge, nothing gets under my skin more than having to pay a disgusting amount of money for a tiny bottle of water. But what can you do but smile and oblige, since a meal without water is not an option for me. €7.00 later a 1l bottle of Evian water arrived. Aside from this, since she had worked out we weren’t going to be leaving her a fat tip we were suddenly bumped down the chain of priority and our meals arrived before our wine; another serious no-no for me.
Despite her misplaced sense of self-importance, the food was sublime. We both ordered the beef tartare (€32.00), which comes with a side; chips or salad – is this even a question?
Particularly since we have reminisced about the chips that we ate ‘at that restaurant in Paris’ numerous times since we last visited, mostly because of the (very unexpected and totally out of place) HUMUNGOUS portion that you are served. Our memories served us well, because a mountain of chips was placed before each of us.
One might think that you could not (or should not) finish this portion, but how wrong they would be. The beef tartare was of exquisite quality, with the meat melting like butter in your mouth, the few pieces of rocket added a nice pepperiness, and the olive oil drizzle added a lovely hint of flavour & texture.
I could probably have done with a little more heat, but that is some serious nit-picking. As for the chips, they are unusual in that some are super soft whilst some are very crisp, which makes for a surprisingly enjoyable mouthful when you stuff (/delicately place) a load in your gob at once, however, they don’t top the chip chart by any means. They are simply different and good.
We had a glass of very nice, dry, white wine each (€13.00) to soak up the sun and make the most of our cheeky treat, which meant the total bill, without service, came to €97.00. Although an expensive lunch, if you order right you can get the most for your money and I don’t actually think the bill was at all bad when you take into consideration the freebies, the portion sizes, the quality of the ingredients and, at the end of the day, the beautiful surroundings! You could also just go for a drink in the afternoon, pre- or post-dinner, as I recommend in Bottomless Glasses of Bubbly & People Watching. It’s a beautiful venue and I really can’t recommend visiting under whichever circumstances suit you more. They could of course work on the manners of their staff but sadly this is always the way it is at these kinds of places and something which you have to take the attitude of ‘like it or lump it’ towards; I recommend you ‘like’ it, along with myself and everyone else on tripadvisor; it’s worth the experience!
4. Presto Fresco (14 Rue Montmartre, 75001 Paris):
Presto Fresco is a well-rated Italian restaurant in Rue Montmartre. There are so many amazing looking restaurants to choose from in this area that you really are spoilt for choice, and I am sure that many of them serve truly delicious fare. On our final night in Paris however, Michael and I fancied some pizza. Presto Fresco stood out to us due to its attractive, authentic-looking, blue-tiled window-front.
We peered a little closer and were drawn in by the busy restaurant that was attracting more & more customers by the minute.
I loved that it had an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs performing their pizza magic and that you could see that there was an actual pizza oven (which is obviously a must for any decent pizza).
Michael and I were lucky enough to, again, bag what I would class as the best seats in the house, right next to the colourful wine rack with an unobscured view of the pizza spinners.
Without fail we always place the same orders when it comes to pizza (unless we’re eating at Homeslice, mmmmm, my favourite), so it didn’t take long for us to get down to business. Pepperoni for him (€13.00) and la reine (€14.50) for myself, just like when we went to Franco Manca. The pizzas arrived within minutes, which was actually totally fine by us as we were starving. The pizzas were of a good size and had a nice, thin crust.
My pizza was definitely good – I don’t think I’ve ever had bad pizza? is there such a thing? but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. I thought that they could have been more generous with their toppings and I didn’t think that the slices of prosciutto had particular depth. None of the flavours really stood out to me which was a bit of a shame and resulted in an all over heavy dousing of chili oil, which livened it all up a bit!
Michael’s, on the other hand, was much better. It’s fair to say that I had food envy and promised myself to order the equivalent of an ‘American hot’ next time we grab pizza, as I really love spice and must accept that it’s not boring by only having one topping; it’s actually damn good. The pepperoni had a solid flavour and was decent in terms of thickness and the amount that they had added.
Both had been fancied up by the addition of a few fresh mozzarella balls, which was a nice touch and provided a cool contrast in texture. The crust, however, was a bit of a let-down on them both and if it hadn’t been for the physical pizza oven staring me in the face we agreed that we might have suspected that they were supermarket-bought, since the crust had that hard, cardboard-like consistency. I personally like a doughy crust, but thankfully there wasn’t much of it!
Don’t get me wrong, the pizzas were both entirely edible (and Michael’s far better than mine); the restaurant had a good ambience; there are plenty of other Italian dishes on the menu; the staff are friendly, albeit they don’t speak fluent English and were a little overstretched; and the wines were extensive, so I would definitely recommend stopping by if you fancy some cheap Italian. Our total bill, without service, came to €54.00 for a bottle of red wine (€26.50) and 2 pizzas. Ciao!