06 Dec Travel Tuesdays – #No 4, Paris
So we arrive in Paris, the first leg of my journey, a journey that will take me right through to Rome.
As a reminder, back in 2014, I hadn’t embarked on my plant based life, so don’t be confused by my definitely not plant based food choices. From memory, I can’t remember there being too many plant based choices in the restaurants in Paris. Though I’m sure there are specialised places, the standard places one passes in Paris all seemed to stick on some cheese, or a bit of meat to whatever the dish may be! Anyway, enjoy your Parisian edition of Travel Tuesdays.
France, the home of the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world. I felt like I was making some sort of pilgrimage, a kind of foodie Mecca. And no, I don’t mean dinner night at the bingo!
I was expecting to stumble across many a brasserie and bistro (whatever the difference is); maybe share a beer with a French peasant, him/her letting me dip my baguette into their beef bourguignon (unfortunately, not a euphemism). This to my disappointment did not happen. In fact all the stereotypes I had going in to France; peasants, good bread, moody, rude people, were unfounded. In fact, I found quite the opposite to be true in all these pre-conceived, slightly xenophobic notions, (must watch less Top Gear!).
Firstly, it turns out that the traditional French peasant I pictured were more a fixture of nineteenth century France. The bread, based on my experience failed to live up to its big reputation. Furthermore, I found the Parisians to be up there with the friendliest locals I encountered on my trip; helpful, friendly, and the garlic breath bearable and by the end of my stay, mutual! I genuinely found them to be very accommodating.
Anyway, back to the food. I was perhaps the most disappointed with the food scene I found in Paris than in any other place I visited. For starters (pun so intended), I found that if you want to eat really well in Paris, you have to pay top dollar (Euro) for it. The main tourist sites were surrounded by fairly low quality yet high priced eateries. I generally found it hard and time consuming to discover places I wished to eat in. I should mention however, that I found the service to be of the highest quality than anywhere else I visited.
Despite finding it difficult to be impressed by the restaurant scene in Paris, there were still a few places worthy of a review in this (future award winning) book.
Chez Papa – Paris
153 Rue Montmartre,75002 Paris, France
If like me, you find yourself lost and alone, with the night shade closing in around you on your very first day in Paris and you too are lucky enough to stumble across Chez Papa, expect to find decent, traditional French grub within. I had a confit duck, rich in garlic and salt, which fell effortlessly off the bone, served simply with parsley potatoes. It was perhaps the perfect meal to kick of my trip. No fuss, simply well cooked, flavourful food. My memory may be a little biased towards this place however; as I say, I was lost and alone on the first day of my travels and serving me was a very charming French lady. So while the food was good, it’s not particularly where my fond memories of the meal lay.
8 Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 Paris, France
As hinted at in the introduction to Paris, I was disappointed not to be constantly tripping over bistros and small, independent cafes serving homemade gourmet treats. I was becoming slightly irritable, with my feet not yet accustomed to this month of nomadic adventure and my belly rumbling, furious at me for not abiding by its usual feeding time. In the infancy of my trip, with my budget lying there, beautiful in its untouched state, my economic awareness (polite way of saying stinginess) not yet developed, I headed into Villa Spicy. This despite it clearly being beyond what a student traveler should be spending on dinner. The table of business people meeting next to me confirmed this.
For my starter, I went for satay prawns with dragon fruit. I was sold at satay prawns and neglected my dislike for the more exotic fruits. Unfortunately, this neglect haunted my enjoyment of the prawns. The dish itself though lacked direction and didn’t really come together to form a dish that felt it belonged as one.
Caramelized veal and pureed broad bean was my main course. The impression I got from my starter was that here is a restaurant that thinks it’s better than it is. Offering quite unusual dishes, at a fairly exhausted price, but failing to execute how it wishes it could. The main however, soon shut me up! A huge slab of deeply lacquered, caramel coloured fillet of veal, with a smear of green broad bean by its side. The old cliché that such simplicity must be matched with perfection could have been applied to this dish. Executing perfection they did. The veal delivering smoky, sweet, meaty goodness, with the broad bean just there to bring it all together. I must have looked terribly out of place as I scavenged the bones for any remaining morsels of meat.
Must go rating:
Au revoir Paris
So this calls time on the fist leg of my trip. An enjoyable leg, but perhaps overall, a little disappointing. In terms of food, I sampled a few tasty pastries and ate one or two impressive dishes, but all in all Paris didn’t do much for me food wise.
‘But how did you enjoy the city as a whole Alex?’ Well, thanks for asking and I shall humour you with a response. I would go back, certainly. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe being my favourite landmarks (how obvious I know). But they really are both quite something, both genuinely amazing landmarks that are worthy of the mass of people that flock to see them every year. I imagine that sort of recommendation from I will really boost tourism to the area!
However, I wasn’t quite swept off my feet by a romantic, love in the air type atmosphere that I was hoping for. Perhaps visiting in the height of tourist season is the reason for this. But as cliché’d as it sounds, I think next time I would like to go back with someone special on my arm. So ladies, the offer is there. Anyone, hellooo?! No? Fine.