Restaurants Bofinger

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Bofinger draws big crowds for its authentic art nouveau setting and its brasserie atmosphere. Downstairs is the prettiest place in which to eat, but the upstairs room is air-conditioned. An à la carte selection might start with plump, garlicky escargots or a well-made langoustine terrine, followed by an intensely seasoned salmon tartare, a generous (if unremarkable) cod steak, or calf’s liver accompanied by cooked melon. Alternatively, you could have the foolproof brasserie meal of oysters and fillet steak, followed by a pungent plate of munster cheese and bowl of cumin, washed down by the fine Gigondas at €35.50 a bottle.

Restaurants Café Ginger

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Tucked cutely down a side street near the Place de la Bastille, Café Ginger’s bright green exterior and the psychedelic paintings adorning the walls inside give it exactly the cheerful, hippyish atmosphere you’d (shamefully, stereotypically) expect from a vegan café.

It gets instant points for cosiness, friendly waiters and a family-run feel, but the small team can also seem a bit frazzled when too many people come through the door. The dish of the day came with a choice of homemade tart with some interesting filling options: sweet corn and tofu, spinach and potato or pumpkin and mushroom. You can also opt for a gluten-free version. Disappointingly, the tart lacked much depth of flavour and the vegan pastry didn’t have the desired rich crumbly exterior. The best bit was in fact what came around the tart on the plate: a beautiful selection of vegan goodies in dinky portions. Our favourites were a delicious herby lentil salad, a flavoursome bean puree and a creamy potato salad.

This is vegan food at its most comforting, with no grand fussing over presentation or fancy flavour pairings. It’s like you’ve popped over to your vegan nan’s for tea – one for vegans to add to the regulars list, but for non-vegans probably not worth crossing town for. The dessert menu offers some imaginative takes on recognisable classics: a carrot cake with touches of cashew nuts and coconut, and the terrine au chocolat lightly spiced with Christmassy notes of cranberry and ginger.

Which leads us to the question: what came first, the ginger or the name? Café Ginger takes its namesake a little too literally, with gingery flavours popping up in both savoury and sweet dishes in the menu. If you don’t like this particular root, you might find that your options are slightly limited. But if you’re vegan and living in Paris, you’re probably used to that.

Restaurants Les Associés

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Les Associés restaurant is a terrific stop for a no-frills French lunch or dinner in the trendy Marais area of central Paris, just across the street from the Arsenal on Boulevard de la Bastille. Bright red banquettes give a cheeriness that’s matched by the service and Les Associés’ young crowd, many of them university students. The literary evenings in the book-lined Library Room every Thursday are particularly popular. Familiar French classics dominate the menu, saving you the need to think hard before knowing what you want. Every Friday at 10pm the live band starts, playing songs which usually get the happy crowd singing along – Les Associés really is great fun.

Restaurants Rosemary

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This new gastropub will delight French and British alike. Scotch eggs, beef Wellington, sausages, haddock, porridge, pecan pie and homemade scones are all set to take our tastebuds on a trip across the channel. The place to try typical British fare and have a drink or two in an authentic pub setting (with a large choice of beers), the Rosemary seems to have something for everyone. They also offer a Sunday brunch menu, which can be enjoyed in their courtyard garden.

Restaurants Swann et Vincent

Swann et Vincent

With its Parisian bistro allure, this tiny Italian restaurant offering classic transalpine cuisine is nothing if not convivial. Sugared olives and charcuterie ‘du pays’ are served by Italian waiters who move the chalkboard from table to table across the tiled floors. The solid menu offers all you would expect: fish or pasta of the day with a choice of sauce, veal escalope, gorgonzola tagliatelle. We appreciated that the warm herb bread was served throughout the meal. The look and feel of this place, where the crammed together tables are conducive to meeting fellow diners, are exactly what one expects of a neighbourhood Italian. The only regret is that the menu is slightly predictable. But perhaps that is the price one pays at such a successful place which has for a very long time welcomed lovers of authentic Italian cuisine. To finish, a worthy tiramisu, coffee and a passable Orvietto by the half bottle, you come out having spent under €30 per person. It’s not a place worth shouting about, but it certainly does what it says on the tin.

Restaurants L’Amarante

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Seasoned bistro chef Christophe Philippe impresses with exquisite meat dishes at his second major opening.

From the outside, this little address near Bastille appears quite unassuming. Nothing but the name L’Amarante and the words ‘Cuisine de France’ are printed on the glass, and if you peer inside, the interior design looks similarly basic, with classic red benches, bistro-style furniture and large mirrors on the wall. But the menu tells another story.

The head chef at L’Amarante is Christophe Philippe, who worked through a number of established kitchens before opening Chez Christophe a few years back. L’Amarante is his second project, and it’s already become one of the most talked about restaurants in the area – mainly because it serves great French cooking at relatively cheap prices. Take the lunchtime ‘worker menu’, which allows visitors to choose between four different starters, mains and desserts at €22 for all three or €19 for two courses. Simple yet varied, there’s something for everyone. Start with a fantastic melon soup dotted with crunchy, streaky bacon, and follow it up with an exquisitely tender cheek of veal, so soft it can be cut with a fork.

Portions aren’t overly generous (as is often the case with bistronomie), but you’ll still come away feeling satisfied here, especially if you’re looking to grab something light on a weekday. For a more substantial evening meal, this is the place to try specialities like starters of perfectly cooked Bourgogne snails or pig’s trotters (€10), while main courses feature calf sweetbreads and Limousin lamb (€25-€30). In every one of Philippe’s dishes, taste comes out on top.

 

Restaurants Le Cheval de Troie

Le Cheval de Troie

An exotic enchantress near Paris’ Opera Bastille, Le Cheval de Troie restaurant serves Turkish delights at irresistible prices. It specialises in skewered halal meat slow-grilled over a wood fire, hot and cold mezze, fragrant tagine and other traditional dishes that play heavily on a heady marriage of flavours. Mop up your main with warm sesame bread not long out of the oven. Le Cheval de Troie’s two atmospheric rooms are decked in a rich mix of Turkish art, handwoven rugs and homely bits and bobs. The warmth of the Le Cheval de Troie staff and service is another draw, alongside a curvaceous belly dancer performing to the friendly crowd on Saturday nights.

Restaurants Gentle Gourmet

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If vegetarian restaurants are on the rise in Paris, vegan can still be a challenge to track down. It’s a tough sell, especially in France: the savoir-faire and imagination required to produce good cooking without any animal products, including milk and eggs.

This American enterprise does well. The sober black and white room, strung with origami shapes, happily looks more like a business lunch venue than a hippy hang-out. And on the menu, as well as the inevitable veggie burger, there are plenty of French-inspired dishes plus flavours from around the world, like Cajun tofu.

We were intrigued by things like a soup with pumpkin, peppers and mushrooms, and a Moroccan salad with chickpeas, roasted carrots, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries, which were both very well executed. In contrast, the tofu burger, with an over-smoked taste and slightly limp texture, was a bit of a let-down, as was the substitute cheese tart. Happily, a delicious bourginon stew with root vegetables saved the day.

Portions are generous enough that you might not need dessert, though they offer vegan versions of all the classics – tarte tatin, crème brûlée, millefeuilles. Give the place time to even out the menu and push the kitchen a bit further, and it could be somewhere really good.

Restaurants Sardegna a Tavola

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The strength of Italian cooking lies in its simplicity and variety; at its best, the dishes are constructed around a single top-quality ingredient, with as many variations as there are regions in Italy – not to mention the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. For a true taste of Sardinia in Paris, head to the outer reaches of the 12th arrondissement and Sardegna a Tavola’s friendly blue frontage.

Inside is a room as pretty as a postcard of the Med: Sardinian pottery, rustic countryside furniture and olive-wood tables, dried herbs and hams hanging from the ceiling, nautical frescoes, black and white photographs and shelves of local produce. It’s not cutting-edge contemporary, but transports you immediately to a sunny island – an impression reinforced by owner Tonino Simbula’s accent, which you could cut with a knife, and waiters who delight in speaking nothing but Italian.

The cooking is full of surprises, with enormous richness and variety from one island. The huge menu covers pasta, of course (pumpkin ravioli with mountain pork fricassee, spaghetti with mullet and tuna bottarga, chestnut pasta with goat ragout), plus artisanal charcuterie including a lovely fennel sausage, and a number of solid traditional dishes like a farmer’s ‘in sa pinetta’, a mixture of Sardinian pasta, goat fricassee, pork, lamb sausage, chickpeas and baby onions, all scattered with grated pecorino cheese.

These are delicious and generous versions of the island’s traditional cooking – just be aware that the prices are rather less rustic, at around €20 for a starter and €25 for a main

Restaurant Passerini

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Refined takes on simple, traditional Italian dishes work wonders at Giovanni Passerini’s latest gastro trattoria.

Parisian aficionados of acclaimed chef Giovanni Passerini have had to wait two years to get their fill of his fine, relaxed, straightforward Italian cooking, after his previous outpost Rino was shuttered in 2014. His new address has certainly been worth the wait, though, and is already booking up weeks in advance.

Sharing premises with Pastificio, a fresh pasta shop run by Passerini and his wife Justine, the Restaurant Passerini welcomes diners in a spacious main room, equipped with large bar counter and stylish open kitchen, in which the broad-shouldered chef toils away with his carefully appointed team. This time, his menu focuses on simple, traditional Italian dishes, with a short menu of two starters, two pasta dishes, a main and a dessert available every day for lunch.

When we go, main dishes include a heady grilled veal tongue with marimba tomatoes, stracciatella (creamy mozzarella) and anchovies, and a comforting plate of fresh tagliatelle served with duck ragout, while the evening menu features plates of duckling and pigeon, as well as various fish dishes. A brilliant French and Italian wine menu compiled by sommelière Cécile Massé (also ex-Rino) allows each dish to flow seamlessly into the next, while a ricotta and strawberry tart accompanied by a rhubarb sorbet brings our meal to a delightful close.