An old school bar-tabac in the heart of Montmartre, which recalls the beatnik and rock bistros of the 1970s with its table football, ancient stickers, Beatles records and walls covered with old vinyl. Serge, the owner, is a neighbourhood character with a reputation for grumpiness, which the regulars love, and although a little prickly he’s basically a nice guy. His dive doesn’t just attract nostalgics but all rock fans, thanks to the live music put on every Friday. Art and music magazines are piled on the bar, and there are colourful chairs and tables on the terrace outside for sunny days.
The younger sibling of the mythical concert hall, Le Café de la Cigale is a haunt of arty types on the Boulevard Pigalle, an area little used to seeing trendy bars open up between the sex shops. Philippe Starck and Thierry Costes came together to open this chic, modern and surprising rock’n’roll bar and restaurant – in an industrial space of inner city concrete, Starck has placed small tables under a vast glass ceiling. On the grey walls, the music programme is scrawled in chalk, and artists have also been invited to personalise parts of the place (even the backs of the chairs, decorated with colourful faces by the American Phil Frost). A long wood and glass bar leads to a small stage that plays host underground groups and live surprise acts, also shown on a giant plasma screen. The graphic artist and DJ Uncle O (known for his Shaolin Soul mixes and nights at Toxic) has brought his distinctive touch to the logo and musical selection, which selects from the best of garage, alternative, punk and lo-fi.The Costes imprint is found in the menu and in the old school service. The Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège has ‘cast an eye’ over the menu, which includes various American dishes along with classic brasserie recipes. Fruit cocktails like ‘l’amour’ (vodka, elderberry, apple juice and red fruits) are served in individual shakers so that you can savour every last drop. The external terrace is a good spot to enjoy the sun on the boulevard but gets very crowded even in winter
The bar of Le Grand Hôtel de Clermont has become known as ‘Chez Ahmmad’ thanks to its proprietor, who has manned it for more than 50 years. The warm welcome from Ahmmad and his son is lavished on the local clientele of cheery, cheeky, eccentric old regulars form the neighbourhood. Under the low ceiling is an old-style bar and ageless murals and paintings on the walls. You never get bored here, as it’s a place for animated conversations between the clientele, often with a spot of dancing to the Brazilian funk and jazz soundtrack after a few drinks. Avoid the slightly unsanitary toilets in the courtyard, though they do have amusing drawings on the walls.
The Café du Commerce has kept the name of the local gambling hall, which is was before its metamorphosis in 2011. A few partitions have come down, huge walls of mock pebbledash, revealing an enormous space dominated by a handsome bar. Comfortable banquettes sit at the back of the room, and on the walls a series of naïve frescoes of Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge, with pink lighting and vintage gadgets giving a cosy atmosphere in the evening.During the day, the regulars linger over drink their glass of red, leafing through the papers. The lunchtime set menu is affordable, varied and very good, with good value salads and burgers (€10) a la carte. From the first rays of the sun, people gather at the big bay windows and on the terrace above the pavement. The prices are reasonable even if a little more than they generally are in the area (half pint €3, cocktails €7). Wine is a bit more by the glass (€4.60), so stick to the 50cl pichet to share (€17).In the evenings, the bar is rammed during the happy hour from 6pm-10pm (pints from €3.60, cocktails from €5.60) and on until closing. The deal for a pint of Kronenbourg and chips at €7 is a huge success, same for the €9 tasting platters (samosa, goat’s cheese, polenta with broccoli and deep-fried courgettes). The weekends are the same story, with DJs heating up the atmosphere. Thursday night is live gigs, and Sunday night is Brazilian.
Set back from the great tourist waves battering Montmartre, in a small street hidden at the foot of the Sacré-Coeur, No Problemo is a likeable little bar with a little terrace of just two tables outside. Inside, it's decorated with lamps shaped like portholes, a beautiful big boat propeller on the wall and the coat of arms ‘gastronomic ship’ engraved on the mirrors. This high quality bistro attracts a few tourists who’ve wandered off the beaten track and lots of regulars who have been seduced by their delicious homemade seafood dishes. A la carte, allow around €30 for a three-course meal that could include a dish of squid with chorizo, an amazing fish curry, succulent Roquefort ravioli or a gratin dauphinois. At lunchtimes, the set menu of soup, bruschetta and tarte tatin for €13 is light but restorative, and the salads are also worth trying. There’s live piano music and classic chanson every Thursday from the extremely popular group Les Blondes, so come early if you want to get a table.
Likely unknown to anyone not living near the Porte de Clignancourt, La Renaissance is a delightful Belle Epoque bistro well worth a detour. Featured in films ‘Le Mouton Enragé’ and Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’, the 1930s décor has been miraculously conserved. A copper bar makes a lovely curve in the right hand corner, there are period neon lights in the windows, screens between the tables, a mosaic floor, pretty wooden panelling and huge mirrors spotted with age...
What with Bières Cultes, the Brasserie de La Goutte d’Or and now the very welcoming Supercoin, barley and hops are being celebrated in the 18th arrondissement – a welcome departure for Parisians used to eternal weak demis. Supercoin is all about characterful beers, rock music and having a good time – their motto is ‘artisanal beers and pop culture’. You’ll need more than just one night to test out everything they’ve got on offer, as the beer list is regularly updated – there are dozens of bottled...
With its large terrace and the small army of young, mustachioed men wearing lumberjack shirts that fill it, Mansart wears its hipster credentials proudly – not surprising given its location in the heart of trendy SoPi –South Pigalle. Inside it’s packed, with people elbowing each other to get to the bar, and music so loud it’s hard to make yourself heard when you do get there. Inevitably, it's not particualrly cheap, but it does have table football, rare in Parisian bars – though this gets oversubscribed as well. Unless you've money to burn and sharp elbows, come early to enjoy the beautiful décor over a quiet glass of wine before it gets busy.
At Casa Lola, you’ve hardly even sat down before everything is on the table. It starts sweet, with jars of jam, butter, lemon curd, chocolate spread and caramel with salted butter – everything arriving quickly in a barrage of spreadable goodness. Then hot drinks, orange or freshly squeezed grapefruit juice follow, then fresh bread and slice of cake (lemon or carrot). If that all sounds a little high in sugar, you can also order from a savoury selection, each dish accompanied by the house coleslaw and onion rings. The bagels (with pastrami or salmon) are served with bacon and scrambled eggs; the fried egg on toast is accompanied by an assortment of Italian and Spanish charcuterie – or try the pastry with egg and beef tartare with fresh herbs. Whether riding the sugar rush or sated and salted, your experience here will leave you with a full stomach and the urge to come back.
Between Château Rouge and Montmartre, Au Clair de Lune is an unpretentious, lively bar where the locals like to meet for an aperitif and a gossip. The long happy hour runs from 6pm to 10pm, with pints of Stella for €3.50, Leffe for €4.70 or cocktails for €5. A few old posters, orange poufs and some '70s-style tables escaped the recent renovations. We love the neon pink above the old-fashioned counter, the friendly staff who know all their regular customers by name, the hip clientele and, perhaps most of all, the rock bottom prices. One corner of the room is reserved for small groups whilst out the front, a verandah looking onto the street offers high tables and becomes a smoking corner in summer. On sports match nights, the screen attracts a more masculine crowd than usual. Once the televisions are turned off, the funk/soul/reggae is pumped up.