On an insider note, our France Daily Photo postings don’t arrive on a breakfast tray like a bright, new morning glory. Sometimes, they flow with ease. On other days, the tired mind reaches for a sparkling idea.
Today – voila! – a wonderful letter from our best friends in Paris gives us an insider look at dining in the Latin Quartier; and, no, I’m not too proud to pick it right up and share it in our blog. So allow us to introduce Sandy and Philippe, who savor good food, hospitality and the joy of lingering over a meal in Paris.
Now, from Sandy in Paris … I have a few (very few) favorites in the 5th that I keep going back to; as I appreciate the food, the ambience, the service and the clientele – and the prices, of course! But then you know me! I tend to stay away from the trendy spots and seek out the underdog establishments,that are sometimes so off the beaten path they are invisible to the naked eye.
One such restaurant that we recommend to all of our guests is l’Estrapade – a tiny hole in the wall on an insignificant residential corner, steps from rue Mouffetard. Perhaps the four of us have eaten there…? Marc and his assistant dog, Cooper, and his faithful chef are there for lunch and dinner through the week but are closed on the weekend. Go figure! It is a little pricier than le Volcan [I had sent her a review about Le Volcan], but the food is innovative, Southwest cuisine with a twist of Basque.
Le Descartes is still our ‘second home’, where we regularly meet for aperos. The interior decor is abysmal [well, after all it IS a fútbol pub kind of hangout!], but the terrace is divine. We have even become fond of the interior, if you can believe that! The wine carte is one of the best in the city, and the food is simple, traditional, fresh. Their cheese platter is out of another time in Paris – where every restaurant was proud to roll out a sumptuous cheese trolley at the end of the meal. Le Descartes presents a good 6 or 7 varieties of regional cheeses on a marble slab that is about the size of the table you’re eating on! And the bread is a dark, thick variety from the bakery next door on the Place – a ‘campaillou’ – a hearty country bread. Their winter soups are homemade and a meal unto themselves. The service is friendly and casual. The clientele is a wonderful mix of the neighbourhood; families, students, professionals, artists, TV and film people, businessmen and women and some tourists who happen upon this unlikely spot, before finding the Place de la Contrescarpe.
Last June, when my niece was visiting, she and I spent an evening at the Opera (Les Enfants du Paradis!) and afterwards went to dinner. It is difficult, as you know, to find a spot to dine late at night during the week. It was about 11 p.m., by the time we got back to our quartier. We ended up at a smaller brasserie on rue des Ecoles – ‘Le Balzar’. It has been there forever, but I had never tried it until that night. We were welcomed at the door by an ‘older’ server with a steely grey handlebar mustache, dressed in the traditional black and white waiter costume. He showed us to our table, and then another elegant waiter arrived to ask if we would like an aperitif before the meal. Yes, we each ordered a kir which was served with sausages, olives, toasts. The meal was delicious, the menu typically brasserie-style. The gratin dauphinois was out of this world. I have been back three of four times since.
So there you have it, our faithful readers – a genuine inside view of neighborhood dining in the Latin Quartier …. And thank you, Sandy, for sharing your rich comments!
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