Parisians still rock in spite of all they have to put up with and so does Paris. Unless I’m mistaken (and I’ve visited 6 countries this year so far) it is only in Paris that people in the street make comments on your clothes. The Eiffel Tower is where you get your first French kiss. No not that kind – a kiss from a Frenchman. C’est comme ça in Paris – lovers embrace passionately everywhere. From my funky, chic Hotel Fabric in the 11th arrondissement near Place de la Republique, I have the world at my fingertips gastronomically speaking. The best restaurants these days are not in the classic central parts of Paris like St Germain and the Marais but the previously working class 9th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. This is where young chefs, who have trained in top starred restaurants, are now turning everything upside down, experimenting and breaking the stranglehold duo of ‘refined cooking equals expensive’. The new movement is called bistronomie and the deal is innovative accessibility – simple fabulous food in unpretentious surroundings.
A perfect example is the Clown Bar, walking distance from my hotel. I used to live across the road from this bar in the 80s and basically paid their rent for them. It’s a very old (1902), tiny bar graced with the most enchanting Belle Epoque circus tiles over the walls and ceiling. Three years ago it was sold and became a restaurant. The chef Sota Atsumi, Japanese born and French trained, is cooking supersonically refined and precise food without the stratospheric price. It’s not cheap but it’s not outrageous. And it’s still a wine bar with lots of desperately fashionable ‘natural’ wines on the list. The kitchen is minuscule, the whole place is the size of a postage stamp and you have to reserve miles in advance. Think a whole pigeon served with claws and everything - perfectly roasted legs and perfectly very pink breasts. Think foie-gras with beetroot. Think lemon tart with really sour curd topped with honey infused cream.
Paris is still the gastronomic centre of France because it’s a melting pot of cultures and it has the population to support lots of restaurants. Another really good thing you can do when you get sick of following your google map around, is join a culinary tour. I did one in the Marais which was very good – we spent three hours visiting and tasting in cheese shops, wine bars, chocolate shops, charcuteries, boulangeries etc. It was cold and pouring with rain and a practicing terrorist stole my umbrella... but what do I care when the next stop is another wine bar?