Discover the top 10 foods you need to try when you visit Paris. Our favourite foodie picks will take your trip from ordinary to outstanding in 10 plates.
Take a stroll down the Champs-Élysées and plan your ultimate gastronomic tour of Paris. The French foodie capital is bursting with world-famous cocktails, hearty steaks and delicate pastries, so take your tastebuds on the trip of a lifetime with our insider picks of the best French fare on offer.
10 must-try foods to eat in Paris
1. Steak frites
For the quintessential bistrot dish, steak frites, head to one of Paris’ atmospheric French brasseries, complete with brass fittings, linen table cloths (red gingham optional) and smart, aproned waiting staff.
These restaurants are so integral to the city’s dining scene, even multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse has opened one: Champeaux in Les Halles. Choose your cut of beef, your ‘cuisson’ (order 'à point' for medium-rare) and a sauce, be it béarnaise or peppercorn, and crunch those crispy frites with a side order of squeaky haricots verts.
2. A cocktail at the Bar Hemingway
Paris’ most famous bar is tucked away inside The Ritz and celebrates the life and work of its most famous barfly – Ernest Hemingway. Try a sublime cocktail mixed by legendary British barman Colin Field, who has run the bar since 1994.
His two signature cocktails are The Serendipity, which mixes calvados with fresh mint, sugar, ice and champagne. His other speciality is the Clean Dirty Martini, which features a frozen cube of olive juice at its centre. You’ll have to guess the other ingredients, Colin says he is taking the recipe to his grave.
Until supreme patissier Pierre Hermé reinvented the small, smooth meringues filled with ganache, they were a fairly unassuming item in the extensive range of French patisserie, coming in just four flavours, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and raspberry.
Hermé took these colourful treats to another level, however, with flavours such as lemon, orange blossom and Corsican honey (this is called the Jardin de l’Atlas) and rose, lychee and raspberry (the ‘Ispahan’). For those who like one flavour only, his ‘Infiniment’ range takes one ingredient – lemon, chocolate, coffee and many others – and uses it to create different layers of flavour in one macaron.
4. Israeli food
The French aren’t known for embracing the cuisine of other cultures but Paris is currenlty undergoing a gastronomic revolution and the focus of many chefs is Israeli food. One of the hottest tables in town is at Balagan where chefs Assaf Granit and Dan Yosha and their team are serving fresh, vibrant vegetable, fish and meat dishes lifted with perfectly pitched spices, tahini and citrus.
For the best seat in the house, grab a stool at the kitchen counter and enjoy the chefs’ theatrics as they serve dishes, sing and knock back shots of cucumber and mint-enhanced absinthe.
This brasserie staple originally hails from Alsace, the border region in eastern France, but it came to the French capital at the end of the 19th century when the region was annexed by Germany and refugees fled to Paris. Choucroute is the French word for sauerkraut, a huge serving of white cabbage cooked in riesling, duck or pork fat, with herbs and garlic and topped with sausages and pork knuckle.
It’s the perfect dish to share between two and at Bofinger (which boasts stunning art nouveau décor and a glorious stained glass atrium) it is served on a heated stove so it stays warm as you work your way through it.
6. Cedric Grolet’s Patisserie
Is it really an orange? As you slice into its shell, you soon realise patissier Cedric Grolet’s extraordinary desserts are something very special – this is actually mousse filled with mandarin and timut pepper compote. At just 32 years old, Grolet has established a world-wide following (mostly thanks to his Instagram account) for his fruit desserts, which look every bit like the real thing.
Each one takes around a week to complete, from the outer shell made with cocoa butter, to the mousse and compote inside. Grolet and his team make around 200 a day, serving only the best to tea time guests at Le Meurice, a luxury hotel on the Rue de Rivoli.
7. A baguette
French President Emmanuel Macron recently called for the French baguette to be given UNESCO status but many Parisian bakers have already ordained their baguettes with a superior status. An annual competition to find Paris’ best baguette (official title: Grand Prix de la Baguette Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris) has been running since 1994 and each year the baker of the best loaf wins a medal, €4,000 and the chance to supply the Elysée Palace for a year. The winner for 2017 was Boulangerie Brun.
8. Jacques Genin chocolates
While the internationaly-famous Ladurée and Pierre Hermé carve out their global operations, the chocolatier of choice for discerning Parisians is Jacques Genin. Head up to his elegant boutique and salon de thé (133 rue de Turenne) not far from Place de la République to indulge in his exquisite and unusual flavours such as caper and basil, to sublime effect.
9. Coffee (or tea)
‘Un café’ used to mean just one thing, a bitter espresso consumed alongside a Gauloise cigarette (possibly while contemplating existentialism) but over the last few years Parisians have embraced a new generation of good coffee, where beans are carefully chosen, roasted and brewed. Taste it in the surrounds of one of Paris’ trendy coffee shops, many of which have sprung up near the hip Canal Saint-Martin or The Marais districts.
It’s not all about the flat whites and latte art, however. Tea (or thé) predates the coffee trend with elegant salons de thé attracting a well-heeled clientele to try such brands as Mariage Frères or Dammann Frères – but before you come over all English, these are consumed without milk. One of the most elegant and popular salons de thé is Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli, where tea and coffee should come with their signature patisserie, Le Mont Blanc.
10. Rhum baba
This dense cake with rum and vanilla cream dates from the 18th century and owes its place in French culinary history to King Stanislas of Poland, who was exiled in Lorraine. The king had fond memories of raisin brioches served with Tokaji wine and so charged his chef, Nicolas Stohrer, with the task of recreating the dish, which he named rum baba in keeping with his passion for the Arabian Nights stories.
When Stanislas’ daughter Marie married King Louis XV, Stohrer relocated to Paris and opened his own bakery, and the rum baba’s Parisian future was sealed. Chef Alain Ducasse adores the dessert and it's a signature dish in many of his Parisian restaurants.
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