Gorgeously atmospheric, the rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais offers such a surfeit of cute boutiques, come-hither cafés and stylish bars that it can be difficult to pick a spot for lunch. Three of the venues on the street are run by the same outfit from Xavier Denamur – L’Etoile Manquante, La Belle Hortense and Le Petit Fer à Cheval – and this last is an excellent choice. Even a miniature Shetland pony would be pushed to squeeze his hoof into this fer à cheval (horseshoe) – the adorable little café, in business for more than 100 years, has one of France's smallest bars.
The tiny entrance, flanked by a couple of postcard-sized pavement tables, conceals a generous dining room at the rear, while in front the shining bar welcomes drinkers, quick lunches and dining alone. Stylishly shabby, Le Petit Fer à Cheval has the air of an authentic bistro, all dark wood, reclaimed Métro benches, patchy plaster, arty posters and gilt-edged lettering on the signs outside. The menu, too, is solidly bistro – affordable sandwiches, coffee, drinks and snacks, and a more substantial, beautifully done selection of things like duck confit, steak and salads. Brisk but cheerful staff keep the buzzing tables happy during peak hours, and people linger long over their coffees in the afternoons. All in all, a lovely atmosphere, good food and classic Parisian vibe – right down to the hole-in-ground toilet at the back, which is best avoided if possible.