One loves the classics while the other adores the new and imaginative. But what these experts agree on is the restaurant with the best view of Paris.
The chef: Jean-François Piège, owner-chef of La Poule au Pot, Clover Green, Clover Grill and two-Michelin-starred Le Grand Restaurant.
The critic: Alexander Lobrano, author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France and a food writer for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
What’s your favourite bakery in Paris?
JFP: More than the bakery itself, it’s the baker I adore at Lalos. Frédéric Lalos is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France [winner of a “Best Craftsman of France” award] and makes many extraordinary kinds of bread with incredible ingredients, flours and fermentations.
AL: Paris right now is dancing a minuet between tradition and modernity; there’s spectacular, creative new stuff but the traditional hasn’t been this good in years. For classic French pastries, I send people to Du Pain et des Idées. It does excellent apple and lemon tarts and possibly the best croissants in the city.
And the best café?
JFP: The legendary and historic Café de Flore for its Parisian atmosphere. You just have to sit at one of its terrace tables and enjoy the comings and goings of passers-by, including actors and writers, on Boulevard Saint-Germain.
AL: If you’re after some place a bit old-fashioned, I would recommend Le Nemours, near the entrance to the Palais-Royal. You’d think a café within five minutes of the Louvre would be a tourist hellhole but it isn’t. The 18th-century interior has been renovated recently, it has very good coffee and the theatregoers from La Comédie Française make for fascinating people watching.
What’s your pick of Paris’s non-French restaurants?
JFP: At Racines, owner-chef Simone Tondo, who is from Sardinia, does incredible cooking full of fun, love and sentiment. That is what I truly love about him. When you taste his dishes you feel like you’re in Italy.
AL: A really fun foreign restaurant in Paris is Ibrik Kitchen, which serves Romanian food. The cabbage stuffed with veal and rice on a bed of mămăligă [Romanian polenta] may not sound like a dish that you’d jump out of your seat for but it’s unbelievably delicious.
If you could recommend only one Michelin-starred restaurant…
JFP: For me, the two chefs who are the undisputed masters of Paris are Alain Passard of Arpège and Guy Savoy, who runs the restaurant at the Monnaie de Paris. I would choose either of those places.
AL: I think the Michelin Guide is most valuable for its onestar picks – those that have achieved a suitable level of technical perfection but also have imagination. Virtus is run by two friends: a Japanese chef, Chiho Kanzaki, and an Argentinian, Marcelo di Giacomo. Their food is magical. It’s elegant but not pretentious; sincere, surprising and witty.
Where would you go for great food with a view?
JFP: The oldest restaurant in Paris, Tour d’Argent, has one of the best views of the capital and an amazing wine cellar. The chef, Philippe Labbé, is simply incredible.
AL: I’m not being very original here but Tour d’Argent has the sexiest view down the Seine. The food is festive and profoundly French. It’s the place to go if you have a ring in your pocket.
Who does the city’s perfect crêpe?
JFP: Breizh Café in the Marais. The ingredients are fresh and seasonal and the recipes are original.
AL: Breizh Café. The owner is from Brittany, where the best crêpes come from, and he uses organic stone-ground flour and organic eggs. Most people have a savoury crêpe or galette with a glass of hard cider then a sweet crêpe for dessert. My favourite is the sea salt caramel.
And the most delicious oysters?
JFP: Le Bar à Huîtres by Dorr has great atmosphere and décor and the quality of the produce is second to none. I love to have the fresh oysters with bread and salted butter and a glass of the 2015 Domaine de Belle Vue Muscadet Gaïa.
AL: Oysters in France are staggeringly good. They’re grown along the Atlantic coast and, like wine, have completely different flavours depending on where they are raised. Huîtrerie Régis, a hole in the wall run by an old man named Régis, serves the most superb oysters with excellent bread and butter and good white wine. You have to order a dozen at once, which sounds like a lot until you’ve tasted one.
Is there a restaurant that really nails the Paris vibe?
JFP: My restaurant La Poule au Pot in the heart of the city embodies French culinary art in a true Parisian institution. The cooking is French but the identity of the restaurant is Parisian, a style called cuisine bourgeoise.
AL: When visitors come to Paris, they yearn for that black-and-white-movie-type French food that never tastes the same anywhere else. I send people to a bistro in Montparnasse called L’Assiette, where chef David Rathgeber does magnificent modern versions of traditional dishes, including what is probably the best cassoulet in Paris.