There can be a lot of pressure to make an evening out in Paris especially romantic and memorable – and finding the perfect restaurant is a particularly difficult choice in a city also famed for its cuisine (but not its customer service). Our picks below are our favourite, tried and tested venues for romantic evenings à deux, whatever your budget. Think we've missed a great romantic restaurant? Let us know in the comments box below.
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.
This Paris institution is regaining its lustre following the death of aged owner Claude Terrail in 2006. In the kitchen, Breton-born Stéphane Haissant has brought a welcome creative touch to the menu, bringing in unique dishes such as a giant langoustine dabbed with kumquat purée and surrounded by lightly scented coffee foam. But he also shows restraint, as in duck (the house speciality) with cherry sauce and a broad bean flan.
In a modern-day gastronomic and architectural fairy tale, avant-garde Spanish designer Jaime Hayón and chef Antonin Bonnet, formerly of Mayfair’s The Greenhouse, have rescued a former pub on the Ile St Louis from a future of tourists and bad beer and turned it into a princess among restaurants. Stone walls and a medieval-inspired décor are finished with modern white and green touches that work with the changes in daylight.
You’d expect the cooking of France’s only Japanese chef with a Michelin star (two, to be precise) to be something a little out of the ordinary. But it’s not just what’s on the plate at Passage 53 that holds the attention. Shinichi Sato, who trained at l’Astrance in Paris and Mugaritz in Spain, has found the ideal space in which to showcase his talents, with this tiny space in one of Paris’s most charming locations.
If you have a picture in your head of a golden age of Parisian dining, it probably looks something like Benoit. Though the outside of the restaurant is fairly plain, it has a plum position just moments from the imposing Hôtel de Ville, and is set on the border of the Marais, today a humming area full of hip bars, cafés and boutiques. Inside is where the magic really happens.
A seriously-swanky address facing the Champs-Elysées complete with an Eiffel Tower view - NoLita restaurant goes full throttle for its upscale status. Chic black and white interiors give NoLita a trendy minimalist atmosphere. Alain Ducasse-trained chef Vittorio Beltramelli works with beautiful regional produce, impressing with classics like Sicilian suckling pig and more unusual dishes like Martini and shrimp risotto. Choosing from NoLita’s excellent wine list is almost as big a thrill; there’s over a hundred of Italy’s great and good bins.
Top quality, serious classic French dining should be tried at least once on a trip to Paris. This doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands at big-name restaurants – there’s a new breed of bistros serving some of the best Parisian contemporary cooking at prices that, while not exactly cheap, won’t make you retreat to the nearest Quick drive-thru. L’Auberge du 15 is a little off the beaten track.
This listed dining room – with vintage frescoes and big oak benches – exudes a pleasant air of expectation. Don't expect cutting-edge cooking, but rather fine renderings of French classics. Lobster served on walnut oil-dressed salad leaves is a generous, beautifully prepared starter, as is the pistachio-studded saucisson de Lyon with a warm salad of small ratte potatoes. Mains of veal chop topped with a cap of cheese, and sandre (pike-perch) with a 'risotto' of crozettes.
American chef Daniel Rose was one of those who led the charge on a breed of restaurant that is now to be found everywhere in Paris, in more or less successful incarnations. All the ingredients of the place will now be familiar to regular restaurant-goers: the open kitchen, the set multi-course menu that changes daily with the market produce, the feeling of being somewhere simultaneously laid-back and special, chic and modern while concentrating on quality ingredients.
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 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.
The slightly battered back streets of the 12th arrondissement don’t immediately suggest a good quality bistro specialising in seasonal, local produce. But l’Ebauchoir (it means ‘the chisel’, presumably a nod to its authentically agrarian connections) is a valuable find, with its roots firmly in the terroir, or origins, of its locally-sourced ingredients. Genuinely friendly waiters welcome you into a long room.
A restaurant called Pirouette suggests both deft maneuvering and a dash of panache. Set in a secluded little courtyard behind the concrete mess of Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement, the stage set for the meal is immediately promising, so shiny new behind its huge plate glass window that the first thing you notice as you walk in is the fresh smell of the wood pannelling. So, with a swift arabesque, to the menu, which includes a formule for a mere €36...
This heart-warming bistro gets it right almost down to the last crumb. A starter salad of ris de veau illustrates the point, with lightly browned veal sweetbreads perched on a bed of green beans and baby carrots with a sauce of sherry vinegar and deglazed cooking juices. A roast shoulder of suckling pig and a thick steak with a raft of golden, thick-cut frites look inviting indeed. Desserts are superb too, including what may well be the best île flottante in Paris...
Though an undeniable indulgence, dinner on the rooftop of Mama Shelter is a surprisingly homely affair – thanks to the mellow vibe engendered by the ping-pong table and the array of hammocks and mattresses. The food is fairly straightforward stuff, though invariably prepared carefully, with top-grade ingredients. Make sure you try the excellent house cocktails (prepared with fresh seasonal fruits by the resident mixologist), and one of the range of transcendent desserts.
The third of chef Bruno Doucet’s régalades – after the original La Régalade in the 14th that he took over from Yves Camdeborde, and La Régalade Saint-Honoré in the 1st – occupies the ground floor level to the left of the lobby at the swish boutique Hôtel de Nell. It really doesn’t feel like a hotel restaurant though, if you discount the wander through a waiting area and down broad cream stone steps to find the bathrooms.
Chez Prosper welcomes punters all day long with that simplest of gestures: a smile. Yes, even when squeezing past people queuing for a spot on the sun terrace, the waiters are positively beaming. The traditional dining/drinks area – tiled floor, large mirrors, wooden furniture – is run with military precision, and orders arrive promptly. The steak-frites and croques (served on Poîlane bread) are hearty.
Star pastry chef Pierre Hermé visits this cheerful little bistro and wine bar high up in Belleville at least every two weeks to fill up on Raquel Carena's homely cooking with the occasional exotic twist. Typical of her style, which draws on her native Argentina, are tuna carpaccio with cherries, roast Basque lamb with new potatoes and spinach, and hazelnut pudding. If the food weren't so fantastic, it would still be worth coming for the mostly organic wines.
Those in the know are wise to the promise of Le Bistrot des Dames wine bar and restaurant, found underneath a youth hostel. The enormous wine list will present you with plenty of difficult choices, but go the whole hog with starters too (delicious duck carpaccio, artichokes and buffalo mozzarella) and the main dishes are all highly recommended. There’s a big choice of fish (medallions of tuna with a balsamic sauce for example), and excellent desserts to finish up with (pear sorbet with cognac, crème brûlée with ginger).
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.