Neil Perry makes his way through Paris, one glorious meal at a time.
Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. You can walk for hours, marvelling at the architecture or just soaking up everyday life. There seems to be a pâtisserie, boulangerie or fromagerie on every block; fruit shops with perfect spring asparagus; fishmongers with their seafood spread out on ice; chickens, pigs and ducks glistening as they turn golden brown on rotisseries.
I particularly love Rue Saint-Dominique but there are hundreds of streets just like it.
The point is you don’t need to go to a restaurant to eat well. If the weather is fine, a trip to Paris should include delicious food in the park with a wonderful bottle of French wine, even if you only have plastic glasses.
But the restaurants are marvellous. My wife, Sam, and I had a wonderful and inexpensive lunch at Le Servan, a lovely bistro run by Tatiana Levha (who worked at L’Arpège and L’Astrance, two of the greatest Michelin three-stars) and her sister, Katia. Born in the Philippines and raised in France, Tatiana has managed to achieve a seamless integration of both food cultures.
We started with clams served with chilli and Thai basil. A little like cockles, they tasted of the sea, with a perfect balance of hot, sweet and salty flavours. We soaked up the juices with a crisp baguette.
Then we got into some white asparagus with mustard cream dressing, chilli, bacon, fried shallots and almonds – a very French technique with an Asian twist. Next time, I’m going to have all the snacks and starters – they were the highlight.
At Le Duc, we had superb seafood, starting with cracking oysters – Belon and spéciales No. 3. They were both a little bigger than I like but so tender. The Belon oyster was rich and meaty, while the other was steely and salty. Teamed with a slice of good bread and butter, it was a great way to start.
We also shared a crab-and-lettuce salad with olive oil and lemon dressing. But the dish of the night was pan-fried calamari with garlic in butter – so simple, so tender and so perfectly cooked. Our sea bass and salmon tartare with toast was delicious, too.
We finished with a delicate, sweet little sole meunière, perfectly cooked on the bone. Don’t come expecting modern fine dining; come expecting the best seafood in Paris, cooked well. And get some white burgundy to complete the experience.
Le Comptoir du Relais is one of those places that never lets you down. A plate of chorizo and cornichons with bread and butter was great but add my favourite dish – eggs with mayonnaise – and you are in heaven. It’s so simple: great eggs, hard-boiled to perfection, the whites firm and well set, the yolks creamy and full of flavour, the mustardy mayonnaise smooth and sharp. You just place a mayo-topped egg half on buttery, crisp French bread.
I want to eat it every day (don’t hold back on the butter). Simple dishes, great bread and a glass of wine. Now you know why I love Paris. ￼
Coutume is near Le Bon Marché food hall, one of the world’s best. The menu is small but smart and includes a piccolo.
Boot (19 rue du Pont aux Choux; +33 1 73 70 14 57) is a hole-in-the-wall café in Le Marais. The coffee is very good and you can grab a pastry.
5 Pailles in the 10th arrondissement is a sweet place doing great coffee and quite a good breakfast and lunch. If you like a piccolo, order a cortado.
O Coffeeshop is near the Eiffel Tower and is part-owned by an Aussie so it’s possible to order a flat white or piccolo without going into a pantomime.