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The best tapas bars in Paris

The trend for tapas is sweeping Paris. Try our pick of the best

La Prune folle

Proprietors Sol and Victor welcome their customers with broad smiles at La Prune Folle [the crazy plum]. Opened in April 2012, this café-bar elegantly encapsulates the trend for vintage twee with a few Formica tables, random second hand Chinese lamps, family photos and period wallpaper. And while the design definitely counts in its favour (take a look downstairs), the relaxed ambiance and the tasting menu are the icing on this cupcake. “We wanted to create a place where you feel really at home,” says Sol, a former sports instructor and talented pastry chef in whose retro teahouse the waiters are always friendly and the cakes have pride of place on the bar. Fancy tapas at 11am or brunch at teatime? No problem. La Prune Folle isn’t uptight about things like that.The menu’s sweet notes sing out the strongest, with things like spiced carrot cake and an unctuous cheesecake. But cocktail hour is not forgotten – with whole regiments of tapas to accompany it. Try the “Vin gourmand”, various wine samples with three mini tapas for €8. There’s a bit too much ABBA on the sound system for all but the most nostalgic audience, but most won’t be able to resist the set lunch menu, which includes a pudding for just €1 extra. This place definitely brings the good life to Oberkampf.

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11th arrondissement

Les 36 Corneil

Note the address well, because there’s no other sign to indicate the whereabouts of this tapas bar, opened at the end of 2010 by a chap called Cornélius (whence the name). But once you do find your way inside, to the room with its big windows and warm atmosphere, it’s easy to settle in. No pretentious clientele here, but rather the neighbourhood regulars drinking a glass of wine or a bottle à la ficelle (you only pay for what you drink) chosen with the wise counsel of the proprietor. You can also eat very well here, snacking on canailles [‘rogues’], a sort of French tapas, from a regularly changing menu. At three top quality canailles for €12, or five for €15, the prices are really very good for what you get. Beneath the gaze of the enormous scarecrow installed behind the bar, you can also spend your weekends dancing to disco and rock. Overall, a great find in the 9th arrondissement.

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9th arrondissement

Chair de Poule

The only shivers you’ll get at the Chair de Poule [goose bumps] are those of pleasure – both from their electric cocktails and from their menu, which fuses all sorts of exotic ingredients in high-class tapas. Order a whole bunch of things to share and you’ll be able to taste everything from baba ghannouj (puréed aubergine with spices) to oysters, then salmon tartare with mango and sesame, pork with miso, sea bass tartare with pomegranate and pain perdu with figs. As you can imagine, the fork fights for the last scraps can be quite dramatic.Natural or organic wines are available à la ficelle (you only pay for what you drink), which is a great opportunity to discover some independent vineyards, and locals and Brits (friends of the cheerful proprietor) rub shoulders here. Happy hour is the time to try imported beers or indulge in a Pimms on the terrace. The design inside is fun and retro, with psychedelic curtains from the 70s, an old Piaggio scooter parked in the dining room, and the loos papered with kitsch posters and cute vintage adverts. Some evenings they put on a gig or a DJ to warm up the atmosphere, though it’s always already very jolly. Brunch on Sundays.

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Oberkampf

Aux Deux Amis

Be warned: don’t rock up at Aux Deux Amis on a Friday night expecting to sit down. If, like most people, you haven’t reserved, you’ll be staking out a few square centimetres at the bar. Here you can chat with your neighbours while good-naturedly knocking into each other, wines and beers in hand. Then, it’s time to eat. The melting ‘Tortilla de Janine’, the princely acorn-fed ham with grilled almonds, the brilliant house mozzarella… according to the whims of the chef, there will also be things like fresh sardines, black pudding purée, cabbage salad, crunchy beetroot with Bismarck vodka, herring, and sterling classics like burrata and manchego cheese. The setting for all this? Tiled walls and floors, 70s neon lighting, a hip clientele and plenty of wine, which is all 100% natural and served by David Vincent-Loyola, formerly of Chateaubriand, who has transformed this old neighbourhood dive into an unmissable stop on the Rue Oberkampf. At midday, his acolyte Mathieu Perez joins the kitchen, offering an impeccable, affordable set menu. If things start to lose their fizz, the lovely terrace is a great place to let the party spill over and outside.

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Oberkampf

Le Blah Blah

Le Blah Blah is a quietly classy tapas bar and restaurant, located in the hip Strasbourg Saint-Denis area but hidden away from the crowds on a little side street. There’s no greasy chorizo or patatas bravas here, but top quality ingredients cooked in small, perfectly formed dishes. The atmosphere is buzzy, boozy and friendly, with patrons seated around big communal tables on jolly orange banquettes, and there’s also a pretty, quiet terrace outside.The tapas menu changes with the seasons – it’s not cheap, but it is inventive, generous and well judged. We tried a perfectly seasoned cod ceviche and a gravlax of Wagyu beef, smoked mozzarella with mushrooms and lemon and a plate of Pluma de Bellota, superb Spanish ham. With each tapas priced between €9 and €15, the bill can escalate alarmingly, and the wine list keeps pace. But if you feel like splashing out, Le Blah Blah is a wonderful place for a long evening with friends (it’s not really a casual after-work drink place) – just reserve ahead on weekends, as the secret has been out for some time.

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Château d'Eau

Le Bistrot du Vin Qui Danse!

Le Bistrot du Vin qui Danse! is a friendly wine bar where the jolly atmosphere attracts fans of good wine and good cheer. Take a seat in the little bar with its bare stone walls decorated with pretty murals of coloured frescoes, though mind the loud music and people shouting to be heard. There’s a great range of organic wines, many available by the glass, and an inventive menu of apéritifs and cocktails.The tables tend to be under assault at dinnertime, so you’re advised to reserve if you want to eat. The chef has put together a menu that changes with the seasons, with tapas from €5 and various tastebud-tingling dishes: rounds of grilled Argentine beef, fillet of pork confit with sweet garlic, scallops skewered with pork belly, tiramisu with cinnamon biscuit. During the happy hour, every day from 6pm to 8.30pm, a glass of wine with a tapas is €6, a good opportunity to discover new vintages.

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Oberkampf

Toro

A bar-restaurant where you can get a bit of Spanish sun by dancing to live Andulasian flamenco while you wait for your tapas order, in a convivial atmosphere with an original menu. As well as tapas, there’s delicious paella with black rice or an Iberian hamburger with touron (nougat) from Alicante, accompanied by a good bottle of Rioja and iced jijonas sweets. During the evening, the Toro opens its basement for amazing DJ sets of electro-Latino and flamenco. A small downer is that the service is pretty disorganised: you’ll wait a while, most of all for big parties. But the food is good enough that you’ll forgive the inefficiency, and the sting of the bill.

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Les Halles

Candelaria

Has Paris woken up to the temptations of the taco? Apparently so, thanks to this taqueria, with its almost totally expat clientele (English and American rather than Mexican). The tiny white room with its open kitchen, a few stools and communal tables doesn’t give a hint of the hip bar behind, where the neighbourhood’s youth come to sip margaritas or the house specials, like the guêpe verte [green wasp] (tequila, lime, pepper, cucumber, spices and agave syrup).On the food front, you have the choice between tacos and tostadas at very reasonable prices (€3 for one, €5.50 for two), full of ground meat or Mexican cheese and vegetables. The tortillas are home made, and the spicy sauce packs quite a punch – it’s almost like being in California. Since they’re open non-stop (including Sundays), try and avoid the busiest hours.

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3rd arrondissement

Mil'A

One of Paris’ most fashionable restaurants, Chez Mil’a, has quickly become the place to go in the centre of town. While other establishments around the Louvre area appeal to a moneyed, older crowd, Chez Mil’a is all about the young and fashionable, fresh from a Colette shopping spree. With its laid back vibe and urban reclamation look, complete with low-hanging lightbulbs and chalkboard walls, refectory style tables and scrubbed wood flooring. Busy to the point of heaving, the Chez Mil’a vibe is laid back and friendly – you’ll go home with a contact book full of the phone numbers of new friends made over a bottle of wine and a shared love of tapas.

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1st arrondissement

Andy Wahloo

Andy Wahloo (wahloo meaning ‘I have nothing’ in Arabic) is a hip little bar that channels the king of pop art, Andy Warhol, through a Moroccan village. In a pretty private building in the Marais owned by the Mazouz brothers, this kitsch alternative bar fits in nicely with its trendy neighbouring restaurants Le Derrière and Le 404. It’s decorated with kitchen supplies from 70s Moroccan homes – paint pots as poufs, washing powder packets papering the walls – and there’s a lovely tree-lined courtyard. During the day, stretch out here on cushions for a mint tea, in the calm, with mezze on hand (aubergine caviar, hummus). When evening comes, it’s set aglow with romantic candlelight, and inside you can sit on Moroccan sofas, sipping one of the many inventive cocktails (around €10) that the menu offers during the happy hour (5pm-8pm). From Wednesday to Saturday, DJs get the evenings going with sophisticated electro, hip-hop and tropical electro. The bar gets (too) packed with a trendy crowd of regulars – it’s a shame that this beautiful place is often privately booked during the week, and that the atmosphere is a little superficial on nights where it’s overpopulated with wannabe celebs.

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The Marais

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