What was once a non-descript spacious corner café, the kind where you go to buy cigarettes and men spend their day playing PMU, has been taken over by the team who turned Chez Jeanette in the 10th into one of the most talked about cafes in Paris.
They’ve kept much of the décor the same (although Figaro reports that they’ll be getting a facelift in March) except for a few disco balls and a retro juke box which turns out some pretty good music. With its long bar, 1950-style furnishings, and red banquettes it has an unintentional diner-like feel. I stopped by for a coffee and cheesecake shortly after the change of hands and wasn’t impressed. The coffee wasn’t great, the cheesecake too sweet, leaving me in no hurry to return. So it wasn’t with great expectations that I did return last week, wanting something quick and easy in the neighbourhood. Click Here To Keep Reading
Sometimes you find a little bit of happiness in the strangest of places and yesterday I found my happiness on the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, at Urfa Dürüm, a tiny hole in the wall serving marvellous sandwiches.
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly charmed by my first encounter with this neighbourhood when I arrived in Paris nearly ten years ago. It seemed a long way from the Paris I knew and loved (think the touristy 5th and 6th) and struck me as dirty and run down. The neighbourhood has undeniably changed in the last few years as more and more bobos move in, but perhaps my view of Paris has changed as well. The more I visit this neighbourhood, the more appealing it becomes. Sex shops and sleaze still abound on the rue Saint Denis, but there are pockets of charm to be found everywhere, like this lovely little passage way just off the rue du château d’eau.
Or, the picturesque Cour des Petites-Ecuries, where the King’s coaches were made and repaired in the late 18th Century and where you’ll find the celebrated Belle Epoque Brasserie Flo, one of the original brasseries of Paris.
And I’ve always loved the bustling Passage Brady with its restaurant hawkers, beauty salons and exotic aromas which make you feel like you’ve left Paris for some medina in a faraway land.
This is a vibrant immigrant neighbourhood, home to a myriad of ethnicities and their cuisines. Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Malagasy, Eastern Europeans, Turks, and Kurds can all find something from their native land in this quartier.
Not surprisingly the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis has more of its fair share of kebab shops. But how many kebab shops make their own flat bread right before your eyes?
They don’t serve much here, in fact the owner proudly told me that they only serve lahmacun, a sort of Kurdish pizza and urfa dürüm, these rolled traditional Kurdish sandwiches. No chips, no fries, no sauce, hardly any spices—just simple goodness rolled up in freshly baked flat bread. You can choose between grilled chicken, beef, lamb, lamb liver or, if you must, vegetarian. The meat is grilled to order and strangely they use a hair dryer to finish things off. No matter, the result was heaven. They add a bit of arugula, red onion, tomato, no more, all very fresh and crisp, which was the perfect contrast to the warm bread and perfectly grilled lamb.
You can take away but I would recommend having a seat in the quirky, but comfortable, wooden chairs out front; it’s the perfect place to watch the daily hum of this eclectic neighbourhood pass by.
56 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
Métro: Château d’Eau
Sidewalk cafés literally abound in Paris and can be found on just about every corner; since winters here can be grey and even a bit gloomy, it’s no surprise that at the first hint of Spring, Parisians come out en mass. Every terrace is overflowing, but too often these precious parcels of land are just steps from the street, with the whiz of scooters and haze of pollution as a backdrop, not exactly a refuge of calm by any means. However, if you know where to look, you can find little pockets of quietness, hidden away from the bustle of big city life.
The following are a few of my favorite outdoor spots on the right bank for some peace and quiet, a bit off the tourist track.
The first is the Place Saint Marthe, a peaceful square at the top of the rue Saint Marthe, a colourful street lined with an eclectic mix of artist’s ateliers, cheap and cheerful restaurants, associations and apartments—some of which are pretty run down but it makes for an interesting mix. The square itself is lovely, with hardly any traffic and two very nice cafés/bistros which are perfect for drinks or a casual dinner en plein air when the weather gets warmer.
Another secluded spot in the 10th is Café A, located just steps away from the Gare de l’Est. Leave the seedy surroundings of the station and step inside the grounds of what was once a convent—and is now the la Maison de l’Architecture—and you’ll find a beautiful courtyard café. It’s so calm that it’s hard to imagine that the Gare de l’Est is just outside its doorstep.
My next choice leads you to the Parc de Belleville, which is incidentally the highest park in Paris and offers a pretty amazing view. On a tranquil corner situated just in front of the park sits La Mer à Boire. The food here is nothing special and the inside in pretty non-descript but the terrace over looking the park is especially peaceful and the view of Paris below is worth the trip.
Rosa Bonheur, as I’ve written before, is another idyllic spot, so idyllic in fact that half of Paris now flocks to it on the weekends. Last weekend the slopping hill just in front was so crowded that it looked more like the beaches of Saint Tropez, than an urban park. Nevertheless, even with the crowds, the Buttes Chaumont is so lovely that it remains one of my favourite places to get a way from it all and if you go early, you’ll avoid the crowds.
The banks of the Canal Saint Martin are another great place for a lazy afternoon in the sun, although you’ll have to head more towards Place Stalingrad if you want some peace and quiet as the banks around rue de Lancry can be quite crowded. For picnic fare you can pick up a bottle of wine at the Verre Volé, order a pizza from Pink Flamingo (they’ll deliver it to the canal for you when it’s ready) or grab a sandwich from Chez Castro (which by the way has some of the best sandwiches in Paris).
There are also a few cafés along the canal which merit a detour. A few years ago, I would have included Point Ephémère, but it’s no longer a secret and the refugee camp that has blossomed a few feet away takes away from its charm unfortunately. Better to head to 25 Est on the Quai de la Loire or, better yet, to the Bar d’Ourq, where you can borrow a set of boules for a game of pétanque while you sit back with a glass of rosé.
So there you have it, a few of my picks to relax and soak up the sun on the next beautiful day in Paris.
Place Saint Marthe
148-154, rue du Faubourg Saint Martin, Paris 10th
Mer à Boire
1 Rue des Envierges, Paris 20th
2, allée de la Cascade, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris 19th
Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad, Paris 19th
68, Quai de la Loire, Paris 19th
A DJ was spinning the Godfather of Soul as Cococook, based in the Marais, served take-away style organic salads, sandwiches, muffins, smoothies, freshly squeezed juices, coffee and the like, including a pretty kick-ass carrot cake. Large round communal tables added to the convivial atmosphere.
There was something for everyone. Knitting circles thanks to Wool and the Gang, the Paris based company offering ready-made knitting kits with everything needed to craft your very own scarves, hats and sweaters.
The fashionistas from Bon Debarrass (Good Ridance in English) brought together several stands of vintage and used goods, from funky American t-shirts (by LA-based The Cobra Snake) and converse sneakers (or baskets as they say in French) to second-hand Cholé bags and Prada shoes.
The fun continues the first day of each month at Le Comptoir Géneral.
80, quai de Jemmapes
Métro : République
*bobo: short for bourgeois-bohème or bourgeois bohemians, a term very much heard in Paris, first coined by David Brooks to describe the new affluent urban class.
Tucked into a funky street in a seldomly visited part of the 10th, not too far from the Canal, you’ll find La Tête dans Les Olives, where Cédric Casanova, a former tight-rope walker, sells amazing hand-picked Sicilian olive oil and other seasonal products.
The shop itself is miniscule, with shiny metal vats lining the walls, tagged with names like Angelo, Bianca and Nunzio, evoking the artisans who produced these fragrant, delicious olive oils, each with their own distinctive taste. Depending on the season you might also find organic lemons, wild oregano, fennel seeds, pink peppercorns, heads of garlic, divine sun-dried tomatoes, salted capers, ricotta salata, bresaola and bottarga of tuna, and—not surprisingly—olives. Each product has a story and name behind it and you get the sense that Casanova knows each producer well.
Happily, the store has begun doubling as a table d’hôte during lunch and dinner with one—yes one—lone table of five squeezed into the middle of the shop. The 30€ menu takes you through most, if not all, the offerings Casanova has on hand. If you want to try the tuna and anchovies, it will cost a bit more, but not much.
On the day that I visited, Marco presented us with an antipasti of olives, tomatoes, tapenade, cucunci, and oil-soaked bread infused with salt, oregano and fennel seed. Next up was minted carrots and ricotta salta, stuffed mushrooms, and a truly incredible Sicilian sweet and sour pumpkin. We opted to try the fish plate with anchovies, and two types of tuna–bresaola and a tuna “saucisson” –all caught by Captain Cangemi, a fisherman Casanova met in Italy. Then, miraculously, our host Marco whipped up some buccoli pasta with tomatoes, eggplant, pesto and ricotta salata, all this with no real kitchen in sight and only a hot plate to cook on. We lingered a bit with espresso and almond cookies, taking in the unique experience.
I was a bit worried that with one single table it might be impossible to get in, but at least for now it didn’t seem too difficult. Perhaps the fact that you need to have a party of five in order to book is a detterent.
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La Tête dans Les Olives
Lunch served from 12-13h30 (the shop opens at 14h00)
Dinner from 20h00
Closed: Sunday and Monday
2 rue Sainte Marthe, Paris 10th.
I’m not usually one to run out to try the latest Costes establishment; spending a small fortune on so-so food, served by glamorous young things who know nothing about cuisine, no matter how beautiful the setting, is not really my thing.
If your ever spent time in Paris, chances are you’ve been to one of establishments of Jean-Louis and Gilbert Costes, the two brothers who have managed to build a small culinary empire in Paris. They started some 25 years ago with the Café Costes, designed by the then up and coming designer Philippe Stark, and now can count a long list of establishments owned by the brothers themselves or one of their kin. Places like Café Marly in the Louvre, le Georges with its stunning view from the Centre Pompidou, le café Beaubourg, L’Avenue on rue Montaigne and the Hotel Costes and Costes K, are all owned and operated by the Costes brothers or a member of their family.
I broke my anti-Costes stance when their latest establishment (or one of the latest, as they seem to open left and right) opened in my neck of the woods, on the place Franz-Liszt in an up and coming part of the 10th. The large terrace, which overlooks the Place and Saint Vincent de Paul, was just thing for a hot Sunday night in August, when many decent restaurants have packed it up until the rentrée in September.
The food—and prices—were surprisingly not bad with neo-italian dishes that included an artichoke salad, smoked breaded mozzarella, several pasta dishes like penne alla boscaiola, rigatoni all’ arrabbiata, jumbo shrimp risotto, and a puttanesca which strangely included eggplant, zucchini, olives, tomatoes and ricotta in the list of ingredients. Main courses include a whole grilled sea bass, grilled calamari, veal Marsala, and the entrecote Montana. We opted for what turned out to be delicious fried smelts with tartar sauce, a perfectly acceptable, although a bit bland, artichoke and arugula salad, a so-so linguine with baby clams and an impressive grilled entrecote served with delicious looking fried potatoes that my companion devoured before I could steal a bite. They also serve “Lo Snack” for those just wanting something simple like carpaccio or an assortment of charcuterie. Unfortunately, we didn’t save room for dessert and lingered over an Illy café instead.
Service was—unlike my memory of Georges and Hotel Costes—welcoming and professional and definitely an addition to the experience. Our friendly server forgot to fire our main courses and apologized before we even noticed and comped our second bottle of Pellegrino to compensate. The fact that he noticed and apologised is definitely a first for me in Paris.
All in all, I found this newest Costes, a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Open daily from 8am-Midnight, continuous service.
Prices: entrées 7-12 €, plats 12.5-19.5 €; desserts 3-7.5 €; les snacks 6-12.5; petit déjuner 7.5€, sunday brunch 23 €