The best restaurants for small plates and tapas in Paris
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.
A cross between a restaurant and a tavern, Aux Deux Cygnes is a snug little retreat kitted out with a cute bar, plenty of flowers and a calming colour scheme. Heading the operation is To Xuan Cuny, a Franco-Vietnamese lady whose diminutive stature is of a piece with the petite venue. Having acquired a passion for natural wines at hotel school in Copenhagen, she now specialises in the stuff: every bottle served here is 100% natural. Aside from the usual gastro-bar fare – cheeses, chorizo platters – you'll find a range of Vietnamese dishes: banh mi baguettes, prawn crackers, and (most intriguingly) a salad of hake, cucumber and courgette.
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).
Formerly the wine cellar Contre-Etiquette, La Cave à Michel has been spruced up to be able to welcome customers in for a drink. Simple and rustic, the wine cellar oozes charm. Portuguese azulejos tiles brighten up the wooden countertop and tables, and outside is a little courtyard. Welcoming and chatty, the manager Fabrice is a crucial part of the package, inviting passers-by in with gusto. Platters of meat cuts bought from the Spanish shop just over the road are served alongside the wine from his top quality selection. All produce is high-quality, organically produced and unique.
Named for a wild and rocky northern coast in Brittany, the new wine bar and restaurant from Thierry Breton is squeezed in between his two other hideaways on the Rue Belzunce, Chez Michel and Chez Casimir. The pretty, lively bar welcomes bohemian high jinks (there’s a grand piano ready and waiting under the glass roof) as well as more classy meals (on the big communal tables covered in red and white tablecloths).
It would be easy to walk straight past the latest venture from the team behind Candelaria and Le Glass – with its nondescript front door and simple neon sign, the Mary Céleste oyster bar looks more like a neighbourhood pizzeria than the newest, hippest destination in the Marais. But we like this lack of pretension, and the big bay windows that will remain steamed up throughout winter promise great things for pavement apéros in summer.
Top notch Mexican food has landed in Pigalle – and there’s not a cheesy sombrero in sight. The cuisine does its own talking at Luz Verde, a stylish taqueria and wine bar in the 9th arrondissement. Run by Frenchie alums, bartender Quentin Zuddas and cook Alexis Delassaux have gathered a passionate following since they opened in late 2014. Inevitably, the buzz means queuing for a table, but sticking around is worth the wait, as welcoming staff are quick to put a fresh pisco sour in your hand (€11). Tuck into quesadillas and tacos (chicken, lamb, venison or octopus) followed by a delicious fresh sea bream ceviche with radish and citrus caviar.
Housed in the former canteen of the 19th century Cirque d'Hiver (still going strong a couple of doors down), Clown Bar's vibe is clean and cool and hipster. There's a prestige team behind the scenes – chef Atsumi Sota was formerly at Vivant, and owners Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne have a bunch of other greats including Saturne – and it shows. The short, seasonal menu doesn't do descriptions, just lists ingredients, so if you're unsure or queasy about some of the more adventurous parts of French cuisine, get the bilingual staff to help you out. Portions – including the opening 'snacks' – are extremely generous.
This micro-brasserie and restaurant specialises in matching its drinks to its dishes, with a twist – here it’s all about beer rather than wine. Stouts, ales and trappist beers are available as well as craft beers from Belgium, Italy, England and Germany and in-house beer by a Canadian brewer – all matched with the kitchen’s clever small plates. Le Triangle gets full points for the creative attention with which their tasty, intricate plates are pulled together, plus the clever drinks matching makes it worth a special trip.
Sauvage’s relatively small menu comprises a number of appealing dishes, each containing a trio of key flavours like clams with lemon and cider, hake with beetroot and pear, foie gras with rhubarb and celery, and scallops with mélilot (a sweet yellow clover) and brioche. All the plates pack a splendid punch, especially the perfectly creamy foie gras, which is elevated by its excellent seasoning, and the tangy scallops, expertly cooked using a blowtorch, doused in clover-infused butter and served with the sweet, Speculoos-infused brioche.