Good coffee, good food, warm welcome

Top Ten Paris (inspired by Phil C)

Our Barista Phil is away in Paris at the moment- he's an American living here for a few years and it's his first time in Paris. Needless to say, as a dedicated Oenophile, not long back from a wine trip to Reims & surrounding area, he is having a fantastic time and posting lots of photos on Instagram and Facebook. This took us back to our time in Paris last summer and inspired by the memories we are posting our Top Ten Paris*! There's no theme to this list, but a big part of any trip for us is food and tracking down a decent coffee!

* Other Top Ten Paris Attractions are available.

1) Museé des Plans-Reliefs- 6 Boulevard des Invalides, Hôtel National des Invalides, 75007 Paris, France (Invalides Metro)

This is a quirky museum, which we discovered on a weekend trip to Paris 7 years ago- our first weekend away without our then baby, Arthur. I think Rob saw it mentioned in a pamphlet; it was raining and we went! It is at the top of the Invalides building and is a dimly lit attic gallery of glass cases containing military models of various places that Napoleon planned to invade. It is very atmospheric and the models are detailed, yet strangely amateur. It is easy to imagine Napoleon and his men like little boys gathered around their war games. We loved it and always recommend it.

2) Cafe Marlette- 51 Rue des Martyrs, 75009, Paris, France (St Georges or Pigalle Metro)

We fell in love with this little cafe at a time when we were busy planning Coffeesmith. It had the essence of what we are aiming to create ourselves. Run by two sisters, Scarlette and Margot Joubert, hence the name, it is a beautiful tiny cafe on the picturesque Rue des Martyrs specialising in gluten free baking. They sell pre-packaged gluten free cake and bread mixes, and serve an amazing brunch called 'Le Frenchie'. We had a chat with them and their hospitality and service is great.

We spent a couple of hours there and it's well worth a visit, unlike the Rose Bakery on the other side of the street. We visited them having been big fans of their cook book  (and their marbled cheesecake recipe). Their hospitality in contrast was extremely poor- many of the staff are American and all speak English- we can get by in French so there was no excuse at all for being, frankly, rude! So Team Marlette every time!

3) The Eiffel TowerChamp de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France

Hated and loved in equal measure by the Parisians, no trip is complete without a visit to La Dame de Fer (The Iron Lady to you and I). 

 We're here! Yeah!

We're here! Yeah!

Our kids loved the scary see-through floor which Arthur and I braved, and just the experience of being up the Tower (we had been watching a Monster in Paris a lot last year).

We looked for somewhere to eat, and ended up in a nasty cafeteria style place with no seats and horrid, plasticky Croque Monsieurs- come on La Tour Eiffel, we thought, you can do better than this! Then we discovered Le 58- the restaurant on the 1st floor. It is extremely cheesy, and is a fine dining restaurant in look, but not food or service. Nonetheless, for the views and the experience it was absolutely worth it.  The children had dessert made in Eiffel Tower shaped moulds- what more could you ask for?!

4) Le Coutume Café47 Rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris, France (Sèvres - Babylone Metro)

Coutume is seen by many as leading the vanguard of third wave coffee in Paris and this is probably true. Four years after this, their first site opened in the heart of the Left Bank, it is still achingly hip and still serves the finest coffee we had in Paris. The tables are communal and the style is unfussy utilitarian white tile and stainless steel within the shell of a Belle Epoque building. Since we visited they've opened a site within the Finnish Cultural Institute (which Phil visited yesterday) and one in Tokyo too.

5) The Carousels of Paris- dotted across the city!

Paris seems to have as many carousels as it does cake shops! They are an especially French phenomenon-one story is that Louis XIV had his engineers design the first one to amuse his troops  when he moved his court from Versailles to Paris. This took place in the Place du Carrousel of the Louvre, hence the name. We especially liked the Dodo Manege in the Jardin des Plantes (of which more next).

 So pretty!

So pretty!

6) Jardin des Plantes (aka FRANCEUR'S HOUSE!!)- 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France (Gare d'Austerlitz Metro)

Our children became obsessed by the film A Monster in Paris. So much so that Sophia requested a Monster in Paris birthday party when she was 3! The film is a favourite of theirs and is strange in that it captures two different sides of their imaginations. On the one hand,  they love the soundtrack of accordian-backed breathy Vanessa Paradis pop; they love the romance and the beautiful Paris backdrop, but on the other hand it speaks to their primitive fear of darkness and monsters. They vascillate between loving it and being too scared to watch it. Anyhow, they wanted to see what they call, 'Franceur's House'- in the film Franceur is a flea who is accidentally gigantisized in a mad scientist's laboratory in Paris, which, it turns out is based on the Glass House in the Jardin des Plantes. The garden is near Gare d'Austerlitz- a place I used to visit when one of my school friends was at university in Paris. It was a real trip down memory lane, or as her street is actually called, Rue Nicolas Houell!

 La Maison de Franceur!

La Maison de Franceur!

7) Buvette- 28 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009 Paris, France (Pigalle Metro)

This place is actually the Paris outpost of a New York restaurant, and has a New York style pressed tin ceiling- it is at the top end of Henry Monnier in south Pigalle- a street lined with excellent neighbourhood style restaurants and bars- it's the kind of place where locals tend to outnumber the tourists. We had heard good things about it and decided to go for dinner and take the children. They do small tasting plates, tapas style. The cocktails are supposed to be very good, although we stuck to wine. Arthur has a tendency, despite living in a household of experimental cooks and spice lovers, to prefer plain food- but he absolutely loved the food here- we had to order more of the delicious thinly sliced rose coloured lamb with beans, just for him.  It's not just the food here that's exquisite either- they have beautiful menus, cards and coasters too- a feast for all the senses.

8) La Mere de la Famille 35 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, France

The oldest chocolate shop in Paris, founded in 1761; this is an absolute gem of old Paris. By happy coincidence, we were staying directly opposite this shop  and passed it every day before finally going in and discovering the most delicious ice-cream we've ever sampled (and we've eaten a lot of ice-cream). Once through the door, heralded by the old fashioned tinkly bell, this place is like the inside of a jewellery box. Wood-panelled, gold lettered, mirrored, glass cases filled with glittering pâte de fruits, smooth slabs of orange-studded chocolate, and all of the old-school French confectionery you can imagine. (Made myself hungry just remembering this place!) We bought their book to bring home and there are some beautiful recipes including our favourite chocolate and pistachio biscuits.

 Chocolate Heaven.......

Chocolate Heaven.......

9) Bouillon Chartier7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, France (Grands Boulevards Metro)

Chartier is a Paris institution and an experience not to be missed. Founded over a hundred years ago, its raison d'etre has always been to provide a decent meal at a reasonable price, originally to workers. It is housed through a yard between other buildings, in an old station concourse. We had noticed queues of people snaking down the street to get in, so on our last night, we joined the line. There is a convivial atmosphere in the queue- locals and tourists alike stand chatting as the Maitre 'D walks the line asking how many are in your party and matching groups to empty seats. Once inside, the festive atmosphere continues. It is rather like being on a film set- the waiters wear the traditional 'rondin' uniform of long white aprons and black jackets, and the space is extraordinary. Double height, wood panelled and stained with years of thick dark varnish and the patina of gravies and sauces long since enjoyed, there is a pillared mezzanine and a general hub-bub in the air. You sit with other patrons which makes for a sociable experience.

Don't go for the food though. The quality and presentation took me right back to early 1980's school dinners- gelatinous brown sauces and overdone meat. The snails were rubbery, as is their wont, the plonk was cheap and warm, and the service brisk and charmless. The bill is scrawled on the paper table cloth at the end, and money taken to an imperious and well-fed old lady who sits on high in a cashier's booth. And with in excess of 50 million meals served since they first opened, who can blame her for looking rather pleased with herself?

10) De Hillerin18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris, France (Les Halles Metro)

Strolling along on a beautiful morning, going nowhere in particular (but on the lookout for a decent coffee of course), we happened upon De Hillerin. This is the kitchen shop to end all kitchen shops. Do you want a 24cm Copper Tatin Mould with ears? They've got it! A 50cm Turbot Kettle? No problem! This place really is an Aladdin's Cave of kitchen equipment. When Les Halles was a big produce market, many of the city's restaurateurs would shop there, so lots of kitchen shops sprung up nearby, including this one which is probably the best known. They also ship worldwide. Rob bought some beautiful and ornate metal skewers- like mini-rapiers that we use for everything from mixing drinks to pricking potatoes- they make the mundane kitchen tasks that little bit more beautiful!

Don't worry Phil-fans- the Barista du Jour will be back from the City of Light next week with a spring in his step and doubtless some fine stories to tell.  Bonne Voyage Philippe et Famille!