I studied French for a year in university and it’s obvious I lack the linguistic gene. H on the other hand speaks 4 languages fluently while I struggle to have a conversation in Chinese, a language that I studied for 12 years. However all things happen for a reason and as fate would have it, my little French is put to use on our annual summer trip back to France where I have to read menus and converse with H’s friends and family.
I’ve been to Paris once in my university day with my brother and we done Paris as cash strapped students visiting the tourist sights and surviving on ham and cheese baguettes. My trips to Paris are now are filled with shopping and good food in the day and visiting family and friends at night. It is a city for lovers, and despite travelling to Paris every year, the romance of the Tour Eiffel never diminishes.
Basically everything European is cheaper in Paris than in Singapore, some of the favourites are Longchamp, LV, Chanel, Ferragamo. You need to spend 180euros at each shop before you qualify for the tax refund. In big department stores like Gallery Lafayette, Primtemps, you’ll have everything under one roof and it’s easy to accumulate 180euros. I prefer to shop at the boutique branches and they are scattered along Rue Saint-Honoré and Ave Montaigne. It’s less crowded and you have more selection.
A visit to the food halls in Le Bon Marche and Gallery Lafayette are a must for foodies. Gallery Lafayette has small specialty food kiosks, and our shopping list consists of Iberico Ham from Bellota-Bellota, saucissons, fruits and vegetables that are in season and rare in Singapore.
I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth! Desserts are my absolute favourite and no one does them better than the French(the Japanese give a very close fight). A few of my must haves when I go to Paris are macaroons and cakes from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, artesian chocolates from Jean-Paul Hevin and bespoke cakes from Maisons des Rêves. I prefer Ladurée as I find the macaroons and cakes from Pierre Hermé slightly too sweet. Ladurée tea house along the Champs-Élysées is a good place to have a break along the avenue and people watch. Jean-Paul Hevin has a cafe along Rue Saint-Honoré, ideally located for a break to rest your feet and recharge for a second round of shopping.
Le Chateaubriand & Le Dauphin
Chef Inaki Aizpitarte catapulted to cult status after Le Chateaubriand entered into the San Pellegrino The World’s 50 best restaurants list. I appreciated his creative and innovative modern French cooking and was wowed by his food. There is no menu and the chef serves a surprise menu of the freshest ingredients of the day. Food was fantastic when I went, and the price reasonable for the value. However, because the menu changes daily, it can be a hit or miss. Reservations are only accepted for the first sitting, if not, there is always a long wait for a table at the bar.
Le Dauphin, his second restaurant opened next door and it is also another crowd pleaser. It is tapas style with the idea of ordering many small dishes to try or share. We had the lunch menu and was very good value.
Le Chateaubriand – 129 Avenue Parmentier
Le Dauphin – 131 Avenue Parmentier
Christian Constant’s 3 restaurants: Le Violon d’Ingres, Les Cocottes and Café Constant are next to each other and a short walk from the Tour Eiffel. I love Café Constant for its tradition French bistro food, it feels home cooked and it never disappoints. It is abit touristy as it’s near the Tour Eiffel, as I suspect it is in alot of guide books, but the regulars are the Parisians and that is a testament to the good traditional food.
139 rue Saint Dominique
Young chef Bertrand Grébaut worked for Alain Passard before leaving to start his own place. You can expect the same high level of seasonal ingredients and creativity as L’Arpège. The modern French food was prepared perfectly, though some dishes were too complex.
80 rue de Charonne
Having French food every meal can be very heavy, so having Vietnamese food in Chinatown is a welcome change. Pho 14 and Quan Ngon are good places to satisfy the Asian craving.
Quan Ngon: 63 rue du Javelot
Pho 14: 129 avenue de Choisy