Now that we are into our eighth month in Paris, we’ve had plenty of friends come through – 14 groups so far if I’m counting correctly, with many more to come this spring and summer. I’m often asked where they should go for a date night, or a business lunch, a girl’s night, or where to take the kids. Here are my picks of the top places to eat and drink right now, for every occasion.
Family Lunch on the Seine
Every 300 metres along the banks of the Seine there are Velib stations, Paris’ bike sharing program. As of April 30, there are P’tit Velib stations too, for kids aged 2 to 12. The best place to rent them is the foot of the Pont Alexander III bridge on the Left Bank – it’s Paris’ prettiest gold-flanked bridge with a view of the Eiffel tower. You’ll need to book adult bikes online; kids bikes require cash payment and a piece of ID. Ride up and down the redeveloped riverbank between Pont D’Alma and Musée D’Orsay, stopping at playgrounds along the way. Return your bikes and head to Rosa Bonheur Sur Seine, a floating tapas restaurant on a barge under the Alexander III bridge for oysters and bubbly in plastic glasses, and “le chien chaud” (hot dogs) for the kids. We’ll probably be there too. 37 Quai D’Orsay www.rosabonheur.fr
Date Night with a view of the Eiffel Tower
Kids safely tucked away with a babysitter from BabyChoux, we suggested our new friend Caroline and her husband head out to Paris’ mecca of modern art on the Seine, Palais de Tokyo. You can pop into the free Museum of Modern Art directly beside it first, then whip through the cavernous Palais, known for its avant-garde exhibits and fashion shows (think Rick Owens). A new casual open-air restaurant will open there this summer, but Monsieur Bleu’s romantic courtyard with views of the Eiffel tower can’t be beat. Reservations a must. www.monsieurbleu.com
Drinks at a Hotel Bar
When my friends Kim and Zoe came through on a one-night business stopover from London, I suggested they hit a hotel bar. Luckily, all are walking distance from our apartment. There’s the Hemmingway Bar at the newly remodelled Le Ritz in Place Vendome, the redone lobby bar at Le Meurice across from the Tuileries Garden, and the bar at Le Bristol on Faubourg Saint Honoré, famous for its stuffed peacock and topiaried orange trees on the gorgeous patio. If you want to shop pre-cocktail, there’s the Royal Monceau, with its branch of the amazingly curated fashion store L’Eclaireur in the lobby. Expect to pay 20 Euros for your flute of Champagne at all of these places, but the people watching is priceless and the bar snacks run to truffled cashews.
Lunch at a classic café in the Marais
When Murray’s long-time friend Mac came through Paris for a day from London via Sri Lanka, they needed a place where they could linger for a few hours, eat some manly but authentic French food (like a 14 Euro bavette-frites), and relax in the sun. Café Le Progrés ticked all the boxes. Try it before it becomes even more trendy with the fashion week crowd. 1 Rue de Bretagne, Paris 75003.
When my friends (both named Leah) flew through on a stopover to a film conference in Bordeaux, they wanted something close and delicious with a fun atmosphere. I sent them (on foot from our apartment) to Mamma Primi, the newest outpost of the Big Mamma group, where there are no reservations, delicious pasta, and big lines if you don’t get there early. They loved it. www.bigmammagroup.com
Group Lunch at a Big, Noisy Bistro
When Murray’s client came through with his family, they wanted somewhere classic for their one Parisian meal together. We suggested Champeaux, Alain Ducasse’s new bistro in Les Halles. It’s dinner theatre at its best, with wines by the glass poured from magnums, and a bell that rings to announce that the cheese soufflées have come out of the oven. Even the French onion soup is a grand spectacle. But the prices are moderate by Paris standards and the service (by servers in denim aprons) impeccable. Like an upscale French version of Cactus Club, is how Murray describes it. www.restaurant-champeaux.com
Lunch at the Train Station (with a Michelin star)
The past few years have seen the resurgence of fine dining at Paris’s many train stations. The newest is Lazare at the Gare St. Lazare in the 8th Arrondissement (where we live) which received a Michelin star in February. The chef is from the 3 Michelin-starred Epicure at Le Bristol hotel (see above) but it’s a relative bargain to order the daily lunch special at the bar (about 20 Euros). You might even be inspired to spend an addition 3 Euros and jump on the train to Château de Versailles on the L track across the hall. www.lazare-paris.fr