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La Cantine Russe
© John Brunton

Secret restaurants in Paris

Bored of basic bistros? These secret Paris restaurants all reward the intrepid eater

By John Brunton

If you've had your fill of the guidebook standards, it's time for a new perspective. These Parisian restaurants and cafés all have something special – a magical location, a bright idea or an unusually good deal – that make them worth seeking out. Read on and discover our selection of hidden, unusual and offbeat places to eat out in the French capital.

Got a favourite secret restaurant you want to share? Let us know in the comments box below. And don't forget to check out our latest restaurant reviews and 100 best restaurants in Paris features for more great dining ideas.

Our favourite secret Paris restaurants

Full Moon Creperie

Restaurants Crêperies 7e arrondissement

The Full Moon Creperie lies tucked away on the ground floor of the cavernous Chalet Society gallery, next to the artists' workshops, and at first glance it looks like an afterthought – a token gesture to weary culture vultures. The menu's certainly small – just a handful of pastries and crêpes, both savoury (€4.50) and sweet (€3) – and the décor minimalist (white walls and plain wooden furniture), but this all of a piece with the bare, straightforward aesthetic of the gallery that houses it. The crêpes are as small as they are cheap, but the friendly chefs pull off the classics with simple style...

Le Drapeau de la Fidélité

Restaurants French Necker

Get ready for a tight squeeze. Le Drapeau de la Fidelité, a simple and characterful little hole run by a former philosophy professor from Vietnam, is as small as it is inexpensive – but then this only adds to the conviviality. And what prices: they’ve barely gone up in the restaurant’s 30-odd-year history, allowing you to indulge in a beer for €1.50, and a range of unpretentious Vietnamese dishes for €6 (€5 for students). Mr Quan, the owner, lets his eccentricities shine through in the décor: tracts on metaphysics plastered over the walls, the old State of Vietnam flag perched over the bar, French pop songs from the ‘80s playing in the loo…


Café du Cinéma Studio 28

Restaurants Abbesses

The Abbesses neighbourhood in Montmartre is one of the hippest parts of Paris, teeming with crowds of people and filled with bars. But wander up the quite side street that leads to the iconic Windmill de la Galette and you arrive at one of the city’s most famous art house cinemas, Studio 28. Walk past the ticket office and a long corridor brings you out into a hidden jewel, a magical covered interior courtyard that opens up every afternoon as a bar, salon du thé and restaurant. The cinema has been owned by the Roulleau family since 1948, but when Alain Roulleau took over in 1996 he wanted to do something special...

La Cantine Russe

Restaurants Russian Chaillot

A hundred yards along the Seine, just up from the flame memorial that marks where Princess Diana died, is a rather sober building that houses the grandly-named Sergei Rachmaninoff Russian Conservatory of Paris. This august establishment opposite the Eiffel Tower was founded in 1923, and continues to train budding musicians in French and Russian. But when the school closes up for the day, a more intriguing locale, La Cantine Russe, opens up in the basement. Run by the ebullient showman George Kazarien – who acts as host, Master of Ceremonies and musician – the Cantine is a quite surreal venue...


Maison de la Culture Arménienne

Restaurants Eastern European Faubourg Montmartre

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...

Chez Ramona

Restaurants Spanish Belleville

The alleys of Belleville are a delightful mishmash, a labyrinth of little streets full of cafés that welcome night owls and lost souls. Among these there is Chez Ramona, the grand old lady of rue Ramponeau, and her restaurant is a local legend. The place has the air of a mini-market, with shelves and shelves crammed with ingredients and Spanish specialities. On the walls, plastic flowers, cardboard souvenirs, a mock bull’s head, odds and ends from all over Spain, old paintings, family photos, plates of all sorts...


Ecole Ferrandi

Restaurants Rennes-Sèvres

Ferrandi is one of the most important cooking schools in France, a giant building on the Rive Gauche with over 1,300 students learning how to be bakers, barmen, waiters and chefs. Of course they have to practice their skills on the general public, so the Ecole has set up two restaurants that are firm favourites with foodies-in-the-know (the waiting list for a table can stretch for several weeks, if not months – bear in mind they are closed during the long French school holidays). Le Premier is a showcase for students learning a basic cooking apprenticeship, so the cuisine tends to concentrate on traditional French cuisine, serving classics like dos de saumon Duglère, oeufs, asperges...

Restaurant Boucherie Les Provinces

Restaurants 12e arrondissement

The Marché d’Aligre is already one of Paris’s favourite foodie markets, and now there's a new reason to visit. Young artisan butcher Christophe Dru began to make a name for himself hosting events in his shop during the annual Le Fooding festival. The success of these tastings gave him the brilliant idea to transform his butcher's shop into a restaurant as well, and the place has been packed out since the day it opened less than a year ago. As you walk in, all the meat is displayed on the left as usual, with Aligre locals lining up to do their shopping, while the rest of the space is a jumble of tables and counters...


Foyer de la Madeleine

Restaurants La Madeleine

The Place de la Madeleine is a favourite Parisian foodie pilgrimage, hosting as it does the Aladdin’s cave gourmet boutiques of Fauchon and Hediard. But most of the shoppers there shelling out a fortune for foie gras, caviar and champagne have no idea that right in the middle of the square, tucked away beneath the imposing Madeleine church, is an offbeat canteen that serves up simple but tasty fare to over 300 people every lunchtime at the quite ridiculous price of €8 for a three course meal. Over on the side from the grand entrance into the Madeleine itself, a small door leads into the Foyer. This is actually a narrow arched passageway...

Foyer Vietnam

Restaurants Vietnamese Quartier latin

The best Asian cuisine in Paris today is either in Belleville or the sprawling Chinatown that covers most of the 13th arrondissement. But the earliest oriental restaurants were actually opened up by the Vietnamese in the then-Bohemian Left Bank, and in 2013 a new address popped up on the chic Rue Monge, just by the Sorbonne. There is no sign outside that gives any idea this might be a restaurant, but open the door and you walk right into a bustling, colourful diner that the voluntary staff who run it like to call ‘a small corner of Vietnam in the heart of Paris’. Although there is definitely some link with official organisations of the Vietnamese government...



Restaurants French Le Marais

Sitting outside on the cobbled terrace of this brightly-painted café, it feels more like being in Provence than the heart of Paris. Yet on one side of this quiet pedestrian square is the Seine, and on the other the bustling bars and boutiques of the fashionable Marais. L’Ebouillante started life almost forty years ago when a local artis with the nom-de-plume Gali, had his painting studio here, and was always entertaining friends, gallery owners and other artists by serving tea outside. They eventually persuaded him to open a proper ‘salon du thé’, with a menu of what were then exotic dishes, with recipes he had picked up on his travels. Everyone’s favourite, the Tunisian ‘brick’...

La Refuge des Fondus

Restaurants Abbesses

Pass under the elaborate carnivalesque décor that adorns the entrance, and muscle your way through the mass of tightly packed diners to a spare table – from here on, providing you surrender all claims to personal space, you’re set for a highly original dining experience. Things are kept simple and unpretentious: in place of a menu you’re given a binary choice between red or white wine, and cheese or meat fondue (the latter consisting of chunks of raw meat dipped in a boiling broth). Count €21/person for the food, including complimentary antipasti. To circumvent that great outrage to French drinking culture – the tax on wine glasses – all vino is served in baby bottles...


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