Sunday, 23 June 2013

Les Détails de Route 80

It's been a little while since my last post. I haven't been back to Paris for some time but I'll plan to go shortly where my time will be spent dining aux restos at every meal opportunity in a valiant effort to showcase more little gems of gastronomie. I's a dirty job...

In the meantime,'s clear interactive map shows route 80 and its stops. You'll see how it meanders through a variety of quartiers and arrondissements, just skirting the tourist hotspots of La Tour Eiffel and Champs-Elysées and venturing deep into le 15ème, le 10ème and the village-like 18ème. These arrondissements have so much to offer the adventurous or simply curious.  A vast number of neighbourly bistrots and cafés whose menus are impeccably crafted and executed. They're the type of places that you find yourself going back to again and again; where after a few visits you are soon welcomed as a neighbour - never too close, but civil, welcoming, hospitable. Any more and the relationship might become an obligation. It's the perfect balance.

Route 80 is one of the pampered routes of the ratp network with an articulated bus (yes, part of the fun - it's a bendy bus!) It runs late into the evening along the same route without déviation, the last départ from Mairie du 18ème at 0h30; the last départ from Porte de Versailles at 1h10. So you need not be too concerned about having to rush through dinner to catch the last bus. Restez tranquillement.

A plus!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Un petit plus du 7ème

Before we leave the 7ème, there are a couple more restaurants worth taking in. Au Petit Sud Ouest as the name implies is a little South West restaurant at 45, Avenue de la Bourdonnais. If you love foie gras this is most definitely the place to go. The resto itself is indeed petit but it is full of magnificence such as my absolute favourite, foie gras aux figues, smooth, rich foie gras stuffed with the sweetness of figs. It is served as customary with a crust of butter. It is nothing but decadence, the sweetness of the figs offsetting the richness of the butter and foie gras; taken with a cool glass of Jurançon and little toasts it is truly heaven. As you'd expect from a mecca of foie gras, each table has its own little toaster so you can toast your bread at your leisure. The hospitality is warm and welcoming - front of house fabulously orchestrated by madame (whose name escapes me embarrassingly.) She is everything you'd expect an elegant French woman to be. In addition to the menu which is very focused on canard, the boutique sells blocks of foie gras, confitures, and wine perfectly matched to the range.

At the Pont de l'Alma end of Avenue Rapp, is Café de l'Alma, rather more chi chi than the cute and quaint Au Petit Sud Ouest with a clientele to match. The service can be intimidating at times - one of the maître d'hôtels is quite frightening even to look at, but persevere; the food is worth it. Delicate, perfectly portioned plates with daily specials according to the seasons. The terrasse is perfectly situated to watch passersby and close to the Eiffel Tower and Musée du Quai Branly to make it a lunchtime pitstop. It has long opening hours so you might also like to stop off for a digestif in the bar or a stiff noisette with your croissants in the morning.

We may return to this end of the 7ème - there are many more great spots that spring to mind.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Le 7ème arrondissement

We start the journey in le 7ème, the arrondissement of embassies and expats, taking over from long-established très riche Parisian families. If you're travelling on the 80 towards Porte de Versailles from Mairie du 18ème arrondissement-Jules Joffrin, alight at Bosquet-Rapp stop; the counter stop is Bosquet-St Dominique.

You won't miss the very beautiful and symbolic Tour Eiffel standing guard across the Champ de Mars. It would be a nice pre or post-prandial amble. Don't be disheartened by the apparently tacky restaurants and cafés that fuel the millions of tourists that pass through here annually. In amongst it all are some gems. It is unfortunate to note that over the last few years, the number of souvenir shops has grown from a mere peppering to a veritable dousing. Mais bon courage - look beyond it.

My first recommendation and a real favourite is Les Cocottes (de Christian Constant) at 135 rue Saint-Dominique. M. Constant is a legend in Paris culinary circles and a great supporter of rugby, who regularly hosts les Bleus for pre or post-match dinners (what a training regime!) Les Cocottes takes no reservations. Casual, polite, efficient service manages this aspect well. But to avoid longer delays than you're happy with arrive before the 8.30pm watershed to secure a seat, either at the bar or at high group tables.

The name Les Cocottes refers to the little cast iron pots in which individual portions of slow-cooked heaven are served, whether pigs' trotters, sea bass, volailles, or even vegetables. Verrines are also served - glass jars of crab, avocado, velouté and foams, soft and subtle as you like. A great place to share pots of perfection with friends; but I found too a wonderful place to treat yourself to a perfect dine-alone experience, especially after a hard day at work. Not forgotten, but left comfortably to your own space to ponder the world, the crowd and all.

Christian Constant virtually owns this entire strip of rue Saint-Dominique. Cafe Constant is a smaller, more casual morsel of a space although it has two floors at 139 rue Saint-Dominique. It's a fine lunch spot, with simple, seasonal food, exquisitely prepared; the prix fixe menu is a worthy companion. Fresh asparagus simply prepared in summer; morels, chanterelles and other woody goodies in winter. All is right with the world with un pichet of crisp Touraine or earthy Bordeaux.

Promenez! Go and buy yourself a cheap little Eiffel Tower key ring from the lads on the Champ de Mars.

Bienvenue à tous

Bienvenue to my unfinished culinary journey on Route 80. I lived in Paris for 5 years and used bus route 80 frequently to meet with friends for wonderful dining experiences (and equally wonderful wine.) My friends and I spoke often of creating a blog in honour of the humble 80 and its dining establishments along its route. Sadly, my sojourn in Paris was cut short. The fine (and fun) dining stopped; the journeys pootling along rue Cambronne on the bendy Route 80 bus, the talk of creating a blog, too.

Well, I've done it. Charge the Navigo and let's honour the 80!