It’s a familiar story: young chef with haute cuisine credentials opens a small bistro in an out-of-the way street. Here, the restaurant is even tinier than usual with only 20 seats and the cooking is unusually inventive. Chef Mickaël Gaignon has worked with Pierre Gagnaire, and it shows in dishes such as l’oeuf bio – three open eggshells filled with creamed spinach, carrot and celeriac – or roast monkfish with broccoli purée and a redcurrant emulsion. The dining room is pleasantly modern and staff are eager to please.
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With its modern interior of pale wood and its choice of 15 artisanal ciders, this outpost of a restaurant in Cancale, Brittany, is a world away from the average crêperie. For the complete faux-seaside experience, you might start with a plate of creuse oysters from Cancale before indulging in an inventive buckwheat galette such as the Cancalaise, made with potato, smoked herring from Brittany and herring roe. The choice of fillings is fairly limited, but the ingredients are of high quality - including the use of Valrhona chocolate with 70% cocoa solids in the dessert crêpes.
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The new fairtrade concept store Merci is all about feeling virtuous even as you indulge, and its basement canteen is a perfect example. Fresh and colourful salads, soup and risotto of the day, an organic salmon plate, and the assiette merci (perhaps chicken kefta with two salads) make up the brief, Rose Bakery-esque menu, complete with invigorating teas and juices. Rustic desserts add just the right handmade touch.
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This rustic-style auberge is a fitting embassy for the hearty fare of central France. An order of cured ham comes as two hefty, plate-filling slices, and the salad bowl is chock-full of green lentils cooked in goose fat, studded with bacon and shallots. The rôti d'agneau arrives as a pot of melting chunks of lamb in a rich, meaty sauce with a helping of tender white beans. Dishes arrive with the flagship aligot, the creamy, elastic mash-and-cheese concoction. Among the regional wines (Chanturgue, Boudes, Madargues), the fruity AOC Marcillac makes a worthy partner.
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By noon on a Sunday there is a queue outside every falafel shop along rue des Rosiers. The long-established L'As du Fallafel, a little further up the street boasts the longest line, whereas Hanna remains something of a locals' secret, quietly serving up falafel and shawarma sandwiches to rival any in the world. A pitta sandwich bursting with crunchy chickpea-and-herb balls, tahini sauce and vegetables costs €4 if you order from the takeaway window, €8 if you sit at one of the tables in the buzzy dining room overlooking the street. Either way, you really can't lose.
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Opening a raw-food restaurant is a gamble, so the owners of Cru bend the rules here and there, offering root vegetable 'chips' and a few plancha dishes. Still, the extensive menu has plenty for the crudivore, such as some unusual carpaccios (the veal with preserved lemon is particularly good) and intriguing 'red' and 'green' plates, variations on the tomato and cucumber. The food is perfectly good, but the real reason to come here is the gorgeous courtyard terrace lurking behind this quiet Marais street.
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Thierry Costes discreetly took over this vintage bistro overlooking the Seine in spring 2007. The zebra banquette near the loo upstairs is most reminiscent of the Costes style, but the 1920s dining room is also unmistakably chic with plum walls, a big chandelier and red banquettes, and the terrace outside now stretches across the cobbled pedestrian street. The food is predictable and pricey - crab salad, steak with shoestring fries, roast Bresse chicken with mini-potatoes - but it's hard not to enjoy this slice of Paris life.
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The once-fashionable Omar doesn't take reservations, and the queue can stretch the length of the zinc bar and through the door. Everyone is waiting for the same thing: couscous. Prices range from €11 (vegetarian) to €24 (royale); there are no tagines or other traditional Maghreb mains, only a handful of French classics (duck, fish, steak).
Overstretched waiters slip through the crowds with mounds of semolina, vats of vegetable-laden broth and steel platters heaving with meat, including the stellar merguez. Even on packed nights, there's an offer of seconds - gratis - to encourage you to stay a little while longer.
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Derrière restaurant on the edge of Paris’ Marais district is a clandestine restaurant that is one of the hottest meals in town. First, locate the unmarked door between the 404 restaurant and Andy Wahloo that leads into a courtyard and from there into eccentric Derrière. Dining at Derrière is like dining in a restaurant and also in a friend’s boho-chic home. You choose if you’d like to sit in the living room with the live ping-pong table, the bedroom with the mosaic mirrored ceiling where you’ll sit on the edge of the mattress, the screening room den or a host of other apartment-like chambers. If you fancy a fag break, find your way through the mirrored wardrobe into the off-the-record fumoir – very cool. Chef Lionel Delage brings real French culinary nous to his menu of modern French cuisine that features lots of salads and dishes like slow-simmer beef cheek bourguignon. Great wines and service and truly great scene.
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A little corner of kosher Brooklyn lost in the Marais, Schwartz’s is all hot dogs, pastrami, pecan pie and onion rings. The area’s locals swap family news with the waiters, and mix easily with hipsters among the old film posters, red leather banquettes and checked tablecloths. A must-try is the pastrami sandwich, a mountain of dried beef wedged between two hunks of bread, served with fries and a little pot of coleslaw for €16.50 (or €19 for the version with veal). Or you could go for one of the numerous burgers (€12-€24), from classic cheeseburger to avocado, or even the Rossini (steak, foie gras, rocket and port sauce) – impressive, if not quite as decadent as its price would suggest. Also a good bet are the milkshakes (€7.50), often with real chunks of Oreos or other biscuits, though you’ll want to save room for dessert: the strawberry cheesecake is one of the best in Paris – and at €7 a slice, it should be.
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The original ‘Nénesse’, the owner Ernest, has moved on – but his replacements, a friendly family from the Le Sart area, are keen to maintain tradition, keeping the sign and the name. It’s a really old-fashioned restaurant, where time stopped somewhere in the 1960s – mismatched tiled floor, retro fittings, uncovered wooden tables dressed with pink tablecloths in the evening, ancient oil-fired stove. A simple approach that also shows in the food: bistro style at lunchtime and restaurant-quality come the evening.
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Ochre hues, bare wood and yellowing wallpaper give this Aveyron canteen the charm of a Parisian bistro of yesteryear. On sunny days, the verdant terrace is a lovely place to digest a generous house salad of tuna or gizzard confit, lardons and potatoes. Starters are excellent things like foie gras ravioli (€7.50 euros) or aubergine and goat’s cheese millefeuille (€6.90).
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The Meat at La Pulpéria comes with a capital M, served in a noisy, welcoming little dining room and whipped up in white-tiled kitchen by talented Argentinean chef Fernando Di Tomaso and his South American team. The menu changes daily, but on our visit it all began with crunchy calf’s sweetbreads accompanied by a few girolles mushrooms and a cep sauce, and a pretty cod ceviche surrounded with fine slices of sweet potato, avocado purée and a splash of lemon juice. Each flavour sung out, while perfectly complementing the others on the plate. Then the mains (vegetarians look away now). A bloody, magnificent churrasco cut of beef, just recently arrived from its native pampas, served with rissole potatoes and garlicky, spicy chimichurri sauce. There was also the pluma ibérique, a piece of pork wrapped in a very fine layer of well-flavoured fat and pan-fried then grilled, producing a delicious dish, so tender in the middle that it almost seemed not to be pork. Both dishes were generous, precise and seriously good.
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It's worth making the effort to find this bistro by the Centre Pompidou, with its terrace tucked away in a hidden alley and excellent cooking. A bowl of tapenade and toast is supplied to keep you going while choosing from the comprehensive carte. It yields, for starters, tasty and grease-free rillettes de lapereau (rabbit) alongside perfectly balanced pumpkin and chestnut soup. Main courses include pan-fried foie gras on a smooth potato purée made with olive oil.
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