Dining alone in Paris

The best restaurants and cafés for going solo

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Eating alone can be a joy, especially in Paris, where café culture means that lingering over coffee and a book is positively encouraged. Still, you want to find somewhere with the right vibe. For business or solo travellers, or if you just fancy spoiling yourself without having to make conversation, these are some of our favourites. Have another restaurant you want to recommend for a meal in blissful solitude? Let us know in the comments box below.

Dishes for one • Les Cocottes

Christian Constant has found the perfect recipe for pleasing Parisians at his new bistro: a flexible menu of salads, soups, verrines (light dishes served in jars) and cocottes (served in cast-iron pots), all at bargain prices – for this neighbourhood. Service is swift and the food satisfying, though the vraie salade César Ritz, which contains hard-boiled egg, shouldn't be confused with US-style Caesar salad. Soups such as an iced pea velouté are spot-on, and cocottes range from sea bream with ratatouille to potatoes stuffed with pig's trotter...

With a book • Les Editeurs

Time was, Saint-Germain-des-Prés had some serious lit cred. All the big publishing houses were based here before rents soared and they were forced out to the suburbs, and in the early 20th century the tracks made here by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and others are legendary – and it also attracted slews of local bohemian artists, writers and musicians. Today, the neighbourhood is still littered with bookshops – many of them second hand English vendors, plus a lot of comic book and manga vendors, and plenty of antique and specialist boutiques...

Lunch at the wine bar • Verjus

American team Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian started out in Paris running a well-regarded supper club, ‘Hidden Kitchen’, so it's little surprise that Verjus – opened in 2012 after rave reviews paved the way for a full-blown restaurant – hasn’t quite lost its word-of-mouth feel. You reach the small, stylish dining room through an unmarked iron gate on the Rue de Richelieu, up some well-worn steps and through a plain grey-painted door. The adorable, pocket-sized wine bar on the floor below is accessed via a different street altogether...

For making friends • Frenchie Bar à Vins

Grégory Marchand’s restaurant Frenchie has become legendary not just for the quality of its food, but for the almost superhuman effort required to secure a table in the tiny dining room. Luckily there is Frenchie Bar à Vins across the street, where you can sample his Anglo-influenced take on bistro cooking without a reservation.Showing up just after 7pm, we were able to take our pick of the high tables, some of which already had a few occupants. This is the sort of place where neighbours quickly become friends...

Pavement café • Chez Casimir

Thierry Breton, owner of Chez Michel and of this bistrot next door, takes the idea of generous servings to extremes. Here, this doesn’t mean an American brunch experience – instead Chez Casimir lays on ‘le Traou Mad’ (meaning ‘good things’ in Breton), served continually from 10am to 7pm. You can fill your plate with delicious fare from Brittany and elsewhere, starting simply with salted butter on exceptional country bread, and moving on to just about everything else: charcuterie, seafood, boudin, smoked salmon, salads, omelettes…

In or out • The Sunken Chip

The idea of a fish and chip shop in Paris carries with it overtones of the dreaded Irish bar abroad, all stale spilled Guinness and badly dressed tourists out on the lash. Thankfully, The Sunken Chip couldn’t be further from this shudder-filled idea. It is run by expats, and it has set up shop in that crook of the Canal Saint-Martin so popular with nesting Brits and Americans, but it has done so with style and plenty of local sympathy (the menu is knowingly bilingual). It’s also a very smart move – younger Parisians are endlessly enthusiastic about foreign fast food innovations...

For an adventure • Maison de la Culture Arménienne

Would it be as much fun eating here if it wasn’t so hard to get to? Of course not. The double-take at the unmarked door at 17 Rue Bleue, the struggle with the entryphone (you don’t need to punch a number, just push the call button), the bemused scamper across the quiet internal courtyard, the furrowed eyebrows at the signs in Armenian script and the shoulder-shrugging climb up a twisting staircase in the direction of the smell of food – it all adds up to a meal out with the thrill of finding a genuine hidden treasure...

Treat yourself • Le Chardenoux

The area around the Marché d’Aligre hosts well-heeled young families, well-to-do professionals and the restaurants they like to eat in. Perhaps the proximity to the market also plays a part, encouraging restaurants (like Table) that source the produce for their menus on a daily basis. The result, anyway, is a concentration of understated bistros serving notably good food, of which Le Chardenoux is a sterling example (it has a sister venue, Le Chardenoux-des-Prés, in Saint-Germain). A stone’s throw from Bertrand Auboyneau’s triptych of venues...

For vegetarians • Saveurs Végét'Halles

It’s not the most beautiful or chic location – a purple-painted frontage on an indifferent street behind the tiresome Les Halles shopping centre – but once inside Saveurs Veget’Halles you’re enveloped in a comforting fug of delicious cooking smells and the feeling of being in a valued, homely local joint. The long, narrow dining room with its plain walls and serviceable furniture is decorated with trays of live plants, but you’re mainly here for the solid vegetarian and vegan cooking – there’s a substantial wipe-clean menu covering everything from mezze and salads to soya kebabs and tofu...

At the bar • Le Terroir Parisien

The prospect of a chef’s umpteenth restaurant opening can make one feel weary – even coming from a great chef like Yannick Alléno, with three Michelin stars for his work at Le Meurice, here claiming to cook food from the ‘local’ Parisian terroir. But in this case, such weariness would be unjustified. Instead, in this modern bistro designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, you’ll find one of the best ideas in Paris’s recent restaurant history. Simply, it offers historic Parisian recipes, cooked using products from small regional producers...

On a budget • Un Zèbre à Montmartre

This easy-going bistro on the overcrowded Montmartre drag of Rue Lépic (to give you an idea, the street also hosts Les Deux Moulins, haunt of the area’s doe-eyed poster girl Amélie Poulain) isn’t quite as out of place on the charming cobbled streets as a real zebra would be, but it’s still a noteworthy address for some unstudied local colour and seriously well-priced food amid the many tourist traps. Sure, the chalkboard menus are in English and the bar supports as many beer-swilling Germans as it does wine-quaffing Frenchmen...

Spoil yourself rotten • La Table du Lancaster

A stone’s throw from the Champs Elysées but a world away from the crowds, La Table du Lancaster is hidden away in the luxurious Hôtel Lancaster, as discreet as it is enchanting.This one Michelin-starred venture was run for many years by Michel Troisgrois (who has three stars at the Maison Troisgros in Roanne), but since November 2012 has passed to the executive chef, Julien Rocheteau. The décor is timeless, immune to the capital’s trends, and it’s always a pleasure to come back here. The elegant sobriety of the room, from the comfortable armchairs...


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