If there ever was a city designed to best capture my heart, it would have to be Paris – food aromas filtering up from twisted, secretive streets, the river reflecting the setting sun to neon-orange highlight the pompous architecture, the resplendent beauty of Notre-Dame and the parks, verdant pockets of calm amidst the bustle. At night, lit up electric white, it buzzes with people – the city of romance but, much more importantly, a city with over 8,500 restaurants and only one weekend to try them all.
I, my rumbling stomach, and my Parisian companion set out on a restaurant hunt. I brought the weather with me from Ireland and we were soaked through in minutes, the umbrella helpless against horizontal rain. A beacon of light, Les Philosophes, had a queue out the door. We decided to wait it out – somewhere this packed with natives had to be good, right? – and were seated under a blazing heater within twenty minutes, peering out at the poor, damp souls making their way up the cobbled road.
Surprisingly, for the centre of Paris, the prices were reasonable and we both went for the two course meal at €25 a head. I tried to appear as French as possible and chose gratin onion soup with boeuf bourguignon, despite my complete inability to pronounce either, and my friend opted for tomato mozzarella salad followed by rump steak.
Sipping on sharp-sweet caprioska, slowly regaining sensation in my sodden skin and people watching from a cosy bubble of warmth, I would’ve been content to continue in that vein all night, all thoughts of food aside – an extremely unusual occurrence. However, when the steaming hot bowl of soup arrived, I realised my folly. Satin soft onions steeping in beefy broth, with three chunks of bread smothered in melted, stringy cheese. Filling, full of flavour and fabulously warming, my chilled insides thanking me with every bite. The unending supply of fresh bread allowed me to soak up every last drop. To be fair, I could’ve cleared a basket of the bread by itself, had I not controlled myself in anticipation for the second course. My partner eagerly cleared her plate; the salad was farm fresh, and the more-ish, nutty pesto was clearly homemade.
Speaking of farms; the supplier of each ingredient is listed on the menu. I assume this is so you can contact them to thank them for dedicating their lives to supplying such fantastic food – a reasonable response, considering what happened next.
My main, the boeuf smileandpoint was.. I think, for once in my life, I’ve lost words. The beef dissolved into fibres as I touched it with my fork, into its rich, satisfying sauce flavoured with lardons, red wine and garlic. The carrots were crisp, the peas, sweet and uneven in size, as if I had picked them myself in my Dad’s greenhouse. The whole plate was a shining example of hearty, well made, quality food, impeccably seasoned and sauced, the vegetables with a vital crunch.
Heated to all my extremities, pleasantly full, and more people watching to complete, we ordered another drink. All in all, we must have sat for three hours; never once were we hurried or rushed by the attentive staff, despite the crowds.
The next day, in a desperate attempt to eat all the food in Paris, we headed on the Flavours of Paris food tour. Despite my best attempts – pulling off handfuls of crusty, chewy, slightly sour baguette, running my finger around the cup to catch the last drop of thick, luxurious hot chocolate (with imperceptible spices that raised it from great to heavenly), inhaling spoons of homemade tapenade on delightful salty pastry bites and letting gooey sweet macaroons disintegrate on my tongue – I did not manage to eat Paris out of house and home. Even eating the entire round of the creamy, crumbling goat cheese from our tasting platter – I highly recommend you eat all the mimolette you can find and avoid livarot, unless you enjoy licking barn floors – didn’t help.
This only means one thing – The Consumation will have to return to Paris for a second attempt – the training has already begun.
2 starters, 2 mains, 4 drinks, 1 espresso €90
Maison Kayser – Great breads, with seasonal variations
Un Dimanche à Paris – The best hot chocolate I have ever tasted
Première Pression Provence – Olive oils sourced in Provence, with homemade tapenades that will make you look like an incredible chef
Gerard Mulot – Macaroons the way they’re supposed to be
Flavours of Paris tour