Yes, yes, I know. More Paris. We didn't make any reservations for our trip and I chose to ignore a lot of the popular advice about finding 'off the beaten track' restaurants. We did a bit of a research into places we night like to eat though, and chose to have a shortlist, depending on where we found ourselves and what we fancied. It worked out pretty well we thought!
Cafe Constant, 139 rue Saint Dominique (Ecole Militaire/Eiffel Tower)
Cafe Constant is the bistro sister to Daniel Constant's main restaurant. We stumbled across it as a 'not tourist-y' place to eat near to the Eiffel Tower. We were actually aiming for his other casual dining restaurant (Les Cocottes) on the same street, but it was closed for refurbishment.
The menu is short and simple, classic french style and moderately priced (for Paris). This scallop dish (cooked simply in garlic and butter) was a main course and came with a spinach salad, Uncomplicated but a bit of heaven. T ate oyster & salmon tartare as a starter and sea bream for his main. We were both too full for desert and we enjoyed a lovely bottle of Chablis with all this seafood. The total bill was about €90 and worth every cent for friendly service and perfectly cooked food and a beautiful bottle of wine.
Chez Omar, 47 rue Bretagne (Musee Carnavalet/3e Arr.)
France is pretty well known for it's North African immigration and this means there's a whole plethora of food influenced by or in the style of North Africa. Chez Omar is famous for it's couscous and it's well loved for that (go early or expect to queue). We ordered the Royale which is the mixed grill option, but they also have options for lamb, chicken, beef, vegetable etc. The format is pretty simple- a mountain of cous cous, a large bowl of vegetable and chickpea broth type... thing and a platter of whichever accompaniment you have ordered.
Whilst it doesn't look like anything special, it's the most fluffy couscous I've ever eaten, the warm savoury broth was a perfect savoury note to add moisture and every variety of meat was perfectly grilled and falling apart. The wine list is short, and starts with Algerien options, followed by French. We had a half bottle of a medium bodied Algerien red, which was perfect with all this savoury, meat filled loveliness. The service was a little offhand, what I had expected of the Parisian stereotype until we met Omar himself, who couldn't have been more lovely, and realising I definitely wasn't French, turned out to be super pleased to meet Londoners, having lived there himself in the 70's.
Saturday Night (and I like the way you move....):
L'Affineur' Affine, 51 rue Notre Dame de Lorette (Monmarte/Opera)
After spending the entire afternoon post-Chez-Omar hauling very full bellies around, we decided the evening needed to be leisurely and perhaps nothing too full on, and you can't be in France and not enjoy some fromage, can you?
This fromgerie and restaurant is a mere 10 minute walk from the hotel we stayed in and is close to Montmatre and the Opera district. The 2 friends who opened this small but perfectly formed place are what you might call experts. They stock 120+ varieties of cheese, and you are free to choose your own selection of 2, 5, 10 or 15 or they will happily curate a plate for you. We asked for a selection of 10 French cheeses and made sure to say that we love goats cheeses and that there isn't anything we don't like. The cheese plate comes with stunning homemade breads and a bowl of dressed salad as well.
It's only a proper cheese restaurant if your bill comes in a Camembert box
To say we enjoyed this (and the bottle of Bordeaux cabernet we had with it) would be an understatement- we haven't stopped talking about the cheese, the friendly and welcoming service, the amazing amount of knowledge and fabulous selection. We lucked out getting a table as reservations are strongly recommended, so clearly it was meant to be, and what a way to spend a Saturday evening.
Paris has more restaurants with stars, awards or whatever than you can shake a stick at, and as someone from a fine dining background, everything has it's time and place but we SO enjoyed more casual dining and whilst I know to some these simple meals will seem pricey, one thing the French have known and still understand how to get right is pairing flavours and perfection of the simple things.