Paris was an interesting struggle: one the one hand, plentiful avo-toast cafés* with pricey banana bread and flat whites. On the other hand famous for their traditional cuisine: viennoiserie pastries dipped into Café au Lait followed by late night pepper steak with fries… Tough choices, but we found a good mix: waiting in as many lines as we could to get a taste of Brittany’s crêpe scene (only knowing Ti Breizh in Hamburg), eating pesto filled snails in the Hogwarts-styled dining halls and scouting out which of those avo-toast cafés are actually worth a next visit… From the moment I arrived, dragging my suitcase up and down cobble-stoned streets to customize my Magnum, till the last day where we stashed up on squid ink-cumin baguette and Beaufort to munch our way out of Paris… this trip was amongst other things guided by its tastes.
If I'd sample only three places, then: Ice cream at Berthillon Crêpes in Rue de Montparnasse Blé Sucré's croissants although my dad especially liked: the "unpretentious fine dining in a funky neighbourhood" at chatomat
Pop-up store, I don’t know if this is a french invention but Parisians seem to have them all around. Including foodie versions like by Magnum. I was worried that I’d regret getting a chain treat when travelling, but I definitely didn’t. This was a one-time experience. Freshly dipped into it’s coat and topped with your choice of nutty, rich or sugary ingredients it didn’t only look super attractive but seriously tasted much more flavorful than the new Dare to go Double!
First dinner I chose to be fancy and tranquil. North of Cimétière du Père-Lachaise where my little self had visited Chopin, Oscar Wilde or George Bizet – at chatomat. I did make the recommended reservation (from one of the CITIx’s 60 locals), and thought it was unnecessary for the first hour, but prime ETA seemed to be 20:45 – all guests were couples. I guess it is the optimal spot for a date: delectable haute-cuisine in casual surroundings, for a mere 40€. We enjoyed how classy but unique their dishes were: from savoury to sweet touches with avocado, celery or rhubarb on every other dish; and popcorn-like tasting eggplant crisps on the french version of baba ghanoush, (which was our amuse bouche).
We started off with some fresh fruit on the hand from Marché d’Aligre on our way to scout out Blé Sucré and their croissants. To make it short: this was by far my best pastry of the whole trip! And it wasn’t just the peaceful neighborhood atmosphere we had while eating them in the park right across the street. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a croissant with such an elasticy, soft inside and perfect crispy exterior – left by flakes all over the bench, buttery fingers, and a smiling face.
After strolling through the Marais for some hours, we passed by the first avo-toast café: Fragments. We sipped a coffee (very good), and a soy chai latte (also great) while observing the antique racing bikes parked in front of the door. Half of them with locks (identical fat kryptonite) the other half removed from their pedals (I guess that’s another version of a lock) … After discussing a while we concluded that it was pure style. Just like you buy nice cushions for your café, you can buy retro racing bikes to block cars from hiding the street view.
Not long afterwards we found the second croissant spot : 134 RDT (this patisserie is actually named after its address on Rue de Turenne; only to bad it moved, now it should be called 69 RDS (Rue de Saintonge). This crescent pastry was also superior, a bit less greasy which taste-wise made its ranking stay under Blé’s.
Next we strolled through Marché des Enfants Rouges, a fairly small and covered outdoor market, with many options for lunch: Lebanese, Italian pasta, Caribbean, … and blindly went for the Moroccan cause it had the longest line. The food wasn’t bad but I’d recommend it more for the atmosphere. Just 10min later (time for Papa’s second coffee) it was time for the next avo-toast café: The Broken Arm. It’s the second half of their concept store, unfortunately with similar prices. But everything else about this slick, little cafe stunned me. I wish I would have been hungry enough to try the passion fruit cheesecake, or impeccable looking tartines and little salads. This spot is definitely on my Paris Bucket List.
Sometime in between we decided intertwine our croissant survey with every chocolate macaron we passed …
Macaron, Croissant, Macaron, Croissant, Sleep, Ice Cream, Repeat…
but at some point stopped, after not being able to resist the whole palette of Pierre Hermé’s creations – especially the passion fruit.
So to feel real healthy again, I stopped in the first cold pressed juice bar I saw – all organic, and Paris based – and chose Miss Green, squeezed out of fennel, banana, spinach and sprouted seeds.
Then, the worthy detour to Berthillon. As maybe the best ice cream of this metropolis, it deserves it’s own complete island. Île Saint-Louis. Here you’ll see Berthillon being served at any shop, sourced from their real parlor just around the corner. It’s the one with the huge line that closes in July and August to vacation by Côte d’Azur. This sublime, creamy and rich glace was definitely worth the talk about it. I don’t know how else to describe it than:
“The dainty scoops reformed themselves after every lick – into reflectively shiny, smooth, sort of sculpted substance.”
And although the Caramel au beurre salé was my ultimate favorite, it improved in combination with super deep chocolate flavours or the fruitiest wild berry sorbets.
After some more walking past castles and jardins we fixed dinner at Chartier Bouillon. No matter how much I googled, I couldn’t come up with casual dinner suggestions that satisfied my healthy, meat-less wishes but also represented something french (yeah, I really do love Chipotle, but sorry no. I can’t get myself to have burrito bowls whilst in Paris). So what better than to follow a locals suggestion. They’ll be a really long line, that leads around the corner. But with its Hogwarts sized dining room, and those attentive typical french waiters whipping around the tables, you won’t have to wait more than some minutes. The ambience of this national historic monument, that opened in 1896 is one-of-a-kind: French. Filled with locals friends and couples, celebrating families, international students, daughters and dads. I would highly recommend this place for it’s cultural experience and uniqueness. Although the escargots (snails) stuffed with pesto or an avocado filled with shrimps weren’t bad. And my dad was quite pleased with his “real french food” call it pepper-steak and fries.
The plan was to stroll through Marché Bastille, grab some fresh fruit and enjoy a lively farmers market before the “real” breakfast: croissant of course 😂. Well it kinda flipped, because my dad was unpatient enough to luckily order a galette at the first stand he saw: Warm, soft and hearty, with tomatoes (my most hated food) that I somehow liked. And only when we arrived at Du Pain et des Idées along Canal St. Martin, we realized that they’re closed on weekends. Luckily we quickly found an alternative on the other side of the canal. Super idyllic three little shops: the florist, followed by Myrthe, a local cantine-epicerie, and lastly the coffee-bar Ten Belles. Flat white for my dad while I had a difficult time choosing between all of the sandwiches from Myrthe (I ended up taking the baguette with Morbier, arugula, hazelnuts, and some specialty olive oil) And I regret not having taken any of their local spreads, confitures or craft drinks home. So at least the artsy parisian chocolate I got my sister hit the spot.
Our next grab of … umm … sugar, cream and egg white was from Berthillon 🍨 again. We had to come back to try burgered ice cream macarons. What more can I say? Raspberry macaron covering glace: Caramel Beurre Salé and the almond around wild berry sorbet – both dribbled with chocolate sauce. The lady next to us ordered a fancy hot chocolate and got served the scoop of ice cream, next to a bowl of whipped cream and steaming cocoa… we all wondered in what order to mix them, but for sure it tempted me as well.
After viewing EM soccer on the world’s largest TV, or being distracted and watching local guys wrestle themselves in some sort of “fun game” we biked to the touristy but serious crêpe-full street Rue de Montparnasse. It’s by the Montparnasse train station, where all trains from Brittany used to arrive – and all the galette masters unloaded their craft. I counted 13 within half a block. So many to choose from and we still decided to wait in the one and only line at Crêperie Josselin. Quite different from the open faced, thin, gallettes I saw elsewhere, these were super dense, triangularly folded which filled them with flavor and goodness. The interior made me feel like in a vacation hut of Brittany; of course strengthened by their local cidre before and Crêpe caramel salée afterwards. So packed that you couldn’t get out of your seat, super quick service – nevertheless the only queue; that’s proof for how good it was.
We built up some croissant appetite by running along the replanted old railway tracks (Promenade Plantée) and were disappointed by finding that Blé Sucré had taken Monday off. So I got a pain au chocolat at another bakery that had great baguettes (one with squid ink and cumin) which we packed up for the dinner picnic in the train. Then we went riding towards Karl Lagerfelds home (the 7th Arr) to one of the oldest patisseries in France, Poilane, famous for their sourdough bread. We admired the sculpted soccer ball bread, and ate only viennoiserie pastries.
Not much later we decided to check out what the security controlled super market was about. It had more in a common with a high-end department store than any grocery shop I’ve been to. Was it 125g of raspberries which cost 9€ ? The cheese had a reasonable price, so we stashed up on Beaufort, to accompany the baguettes later on. And lastly we finally got to try an Eclair.
Just afterwards we stopped by Coutume Café for the last French coffee. I had pre-rated this as another avo-toast café, but it wasn’t. With the flair of a chemistry lab, one of nine unique coffee machines in the world, a spacey and casual interior, it sold Australian as well as French pastries. So before I ran out of the chance for all those French goodies, I got another Choux pastry – a Profiterole (that is a puff pastry filled with custard, cream and in our case raspberries. It looked very cute ☺️. (Avo Toast Café Nr. 2 on my bucket list)
There wasn’t much more to the day then biking through the Latin-Quarter, getting a short insight to wonderful Jardin du Luxembourg, and a last taste of Berthillon before hopping in the 8h train ride back home and eating our way through french remnants before arriving back in Hamburg!
∗ Avo-Toast Café: To make it easy, I will call all these cafés that 1. know their coffee machines, 2. can make some good granola or 3. avocado toast, 4. be creative with their pancakes and 5. accommodate vegans: avo-toast café. And yes, some of them might not even serve avo(cado) – on sourdough bread, or the poached egg If you still don’t know what I mean: Creative (or mainstream) partially diet restricted and instagram worthy spots that haven’t been there for more than 5 years.