Similarities and differences to London abound in Paris, and its many restaurants, bars, galleries and shops offer the perfect antidote to the weekender looking for a break from the London routine.
Heading for the weekend mid-March, I arrived at the Gare du Nord and headed straight to our apartment for the weekend in the Place de Clichy area. It is just a stone’s throw away from the trendy Pigalle which used to be known for its sex shops, theatres and adult shows and is now gentrifying at the pace of Shoreditch. It is filled with cool bars and restaurants and has its very own named menswear brand by Stephane Ashpool.
We got ready to go out for the evening towards the Champs Élysées. Our first stop for dinner was Minipalais, a chic restaurant situated in the Grand Palais. Whilst the setting is impressive, with a terrace adorned with large Roman columns and palm trees and the interior made up of silvery ceilings, dark wood, and classical marble, I was most impressed with the food, particularly the Cabillaud en fine croûte de tamarin, bouillon thaï (cod with a tamarind crust and Thai broth).
We then went to Manko, in the 8th arrondissement. Headed by chef Gaston Acurio, it is one of the Peruvian restaurants taking Paris by storm. It has an impressive dining room, decorated with Mayan accents, adjacent to its cabaret theatre. While we didn’t get to experience the food, the cabaret show was a great surprise, reminding me of the Box in London’s Soho but with a few more theatrics and colour.
The show ended at midnight so we continued the night closer to home at Carmen in Pigalle. The venue itself is an opulent, rococo architectural gem, built at the height of Empire decadence in 1875, where Bizet wrote his famous opera. The crowd is very cool, with a DJ playing funky house on the ground floor and hip hop in the basement. With the clock nearing 4am and with much to see the next day, we decided to call it a night.
Halfway through Saturday
We woke up on Saturday noon to a grey sky but with a distinct feeling of Spring in the air and so took the Metro down to Le Marais. Often compared to the West Village in Manhattan, it is made up of small crooked medieval lanes alive with bars, restaurants, hotels, boutiques, bakeries, cafes, art galleries and museums. We arrived at our brunch spot, L’Îlot, at 2pm. It is a small but cosy restaurant serving delicious seafood at extremely reasonable prices. Our table was covered by sharing plates of taramasalata, salmon rillettes, pink Madagascan prawns, scallop and mango tartare and octopus carpaccio.
The variety of shops and boutiques in Le Marais is outstanding. A personal favourite and surprising discovery was the new Paul Ward eyewear boutique--reasonably priced eyewear at 98 euro a pair in stylish designs. Le Marais is also home to our very own brand, Le Baigneur, and La Compagnie du Kraft is not too far away in Saint Germain.
After a few hours into our meandering, we stopped off for a coffee break at L’Improbable, a great spot tucked away in a covered courtyard, serving Belgian pistolet sandwiches. The cafe has a truck in the middle and is reminiscent of an indoor flea market with cosy corner areas to meet with friends and relax.
We went back to the apartment to get ready for evening drinks and dinner. First up, Maison Souquet in Pigalle for aperitifs. The hotel, which opened in 2015, is hidden behind an unmarked facade, and signalled only by two red lanterns. It has a mix of Arabian and Belle Epoque decor and takes inspiration from Maison Closes, the pleasure houses in 18th and 19th century Paris. The bar area is split into three rooms, each decorated in red velvet and diaphragm arches. The cocktails were delicious, named after famous French courtesans.
The second stop was the restaurant Très Honoré, which also houses a bar and lounge beneath it. We had a selection of starters, including the tartare de thon rouge (red tuna tartare), the burrata and the beef tartare as a main. Afterwards, we decided to go check out the famous Hôtel Costes for a post-dinner drink rather than stay put. The crowd and decor reminded me of London’s Chiltern Firehouse. Dimly lit with red and gold accents, we had drinks by candlelight to the sound of the hotel’s eponymous lounge mix.
As if two bars weren’t enough, we made another stop at Andy Wahloo, a pop-art and 60s inspired cocktail bar with Moroccan accents (Wahloo means ‘I have nothing’ in Arabic) and is owned by the same owners of Sketch in London.
The night ended at La Mano, an electro club which everyone has been mentioning over the weekend as the hottest place in town. Rightly so, I spotted Waris Ahluwalia, an apparent regular, amongst the crowd.
Our previous night was a little more tame, so we made the most of Sunday before having to catch our Eurostar back to London in the evening. We had lunch at Merci’s Used Book Cafe, where you can pick up a book along with your brunch. Merci is an 18th century ex-fabric factory turned designer concept store. We had freshly squeezed juices, spelt tabbouleh with avocado and radish and the farmhouse rillettes with toasted bread and cornichons.
Lastly, we decided to check out the Palais de Tokyo before heading back to the Gare Du Nord. Sadly, Charlie Le Mindu’s exhibit was closed, but we got to see Shana Moulton’s kelidoscopic visual installation and Jean-Michel Arberola’s multimedia solo show, the perfect cultural ending to much too short but eventful weekend away.
Our address book
Minipalais: 3 Avenue Winston Churchill, 8th Arr.
Manko: 15 Avenue Montaigne, 8th Arr.
Le Carmen: 34 Rue Duperré, 9th Arr.
L’Îlot: 4 Rue de la Corderie, 2nd Arr.
L’Improbable: 5 Rue des Guillemites
Maison Souquet: 10 Rue de Bruxelles, 17th Arr.
Très Honoré: 35 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 1st Arr.
Hôtel Costes: 239 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st Arr.
Andy Wahloo: 69 Rue des Gravillier, 3rd Arr.
La Mano: 10 Rue Papillon, 13th Arr.
Merci’s Used Book Cafe: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 3rd Arr.
Palais de Tokyo: 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 16th Arr.