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April in Paris...any suggestions?

  • g

Hi guys we`re food enthusiastics from Monterrey Mexico and will be in paris by the end of april for a week, we have been reading all your valuable posts, and like to ask you for a few things in order to make the most out of our trip, we are planning to have at least 4 or 5 good meals (lunch or dinner) (planning to spend 100 euros for two with wine) and definitely splurge on one fine meal, the rest we are planning street food, baguettes, picnics, cheeses, crepes, the famous falafels in the marais, so we will much appreciate if you could give us your thoughts about:

The best 4 or 5 restos spendind 100 euros with wine.
a good place to splurge (for us at least) ( not going above 400 euros)
good areas to get street food
good place to buy food and wine for a picnic
good places for morning coffee and croissants

we are staying in the 7th, also please;

any thoughts about hiramatsu, les fables and la cagouille?
how to make a resevation to le comptoir du relais,
any hidden gem in versailles after a day at the castle?

thank you very much

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  1. Le Comptoir is a bistro on weekday evenings and you need a reservation (I heard up to a year in advance) and then a brasserie every lunchtime and Saturday evenings (not certain about Sunday). As a brasserie it doesn't take bookings you simply arrive and wait your turn. It is very small so the wait can be long. The menu is very different between the the brasserie and bistro. However the brasserie often has one or two of the bistro dishes as specials and there are some bistro classics always on the regular menu (i.e. foie gras presse with morilles).

    Best place for picnic food in the 7th is Grand Epicerie in Le Bon Marche (Department Strore) they have everything under one roof - a good range and good quality. Obviously there are lots of other small shops in the 7th. Around the corner from Bon Marche is the best cheese shop in Paris "Barthelemy" (51 rue de Grenelle, and the corner of Boulevard Raspail). On the other side there is "rue Cler" which has a good selection of shops - including another great cheese shop "Marie-Anne Cantin" (12 rue de Champ-de-Mars) is just around the corner.

    In the morning simply wander into a local cafe/brasserie, stand by the bar, order a "creme", grab a croissant from the basket on bar and dip it in the coffee, and enjoy. You will find lots of locals doing the same, it is inexpensive and good. OK not the "best of the best" but good fun and tasty. Or simply find a cafe/brasserie with a decent terrace, nice view and watch the world go by (the coffee and croissant will be the same but you pay more to sit, and even more to sit outside). I wouldn't waste effort looking for "the place" with the best coffee or croissant because the location and atmosphere are what is important - if you want the best croissants you need to buy them from a bakery and take them home - the best bakeries generally don't do coffee etc (there business is baking). I also recommend avoiding cafes/brasseries around major tourist spots like the Champs Elysees, Rue de Rivoli (Louvre), instead choose a local spot near a good shopping streets (rue cler 7th, rue du bac 7th, rue Montorgueil 2nd) - cheaper, better and more friendly.

    Street food is an interesting question. Fallafal in rue des Rosiers in the Marais is great and not just at L'as du Fallafel. However, I don't really think of Parisians being big on street food - hence the profusion of cafes, brasseries and bistros. OK there are kebab shops, stands selling crepes etc. But my impression is that the French believe good food is something you sit down and enjoy and street food is only really OK after you stagger out of a nightclub or need to need to feed hungry kids but it isn't really a gourmet experience. It is no coincidence that the highest concentration of "street food" outlets tend to be in tourist areas i.e, the latin quarter in the back street around Boulevard St Michel, or near he bars and nightclubs near Oberkampf - even the Fallafel places in the Marais have tables which are very popular.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      My advice for Le Comptoir is to go for a late lunch. We had lunch there at about 2pm and the tables were just turning from the lunch rush. If you are looking for lunch at noon or there abouts you will have to wait. To try for a dinner reservation you might have your hotel call in the afternoon and see if there are any cancellations.

    2. I thought I would hold off on giving my thoughts on 'Les Fables de la Fontaine" (131 rue St-Dominique, 7eme) as we had a table booked for last night, Sat 17th March, and I would be able to give you a fresh perspective.

      First, it is a FISH restaurant, this may seem obvious, however last night the waiter patiently translated the whole menu to an American diner, who then promptly asked for steak! The waiter replied "but sir we are a fish restaurant" to which the diner responded, "no I want a steak, don't you do any meat?" The diner declared (loudly) he would not eat there and simply finish his glass of wine - this took him 45 minutes - not cool in a restaurant that only seats 20 and is so popular. Maybe he thought he was "La Fontaine de Mars" which is next door but closed at the moment for serious renovations.

      OK how was it? This is our fourth visit in the last year, and yes we really, really like it. The menu is quite short, written on a blackboard, and seems to change regularly (no English version, but the waiters are patient, translate and explain). The food in innovative with many dishes served in glasses and consisting of layers of flavor much like an ice cream sundae. Prices are good the meal for two with wine and aperitifs was €130, first courses €12, mains €24 to 30, and deserts €8. The wine list is short but also good value with a Petit Chablis for €26 (most wines are also available by the glass and carafe).

      My wife enjoyed a layered crab starter, topped with a red pepper mouse (a regular on the menu as we have had it before?), I had another layered dish of sheep's cheese sauce with carpacio with with an avocado mouse. For the main course I had Turbot with garlic and my wife had scallops with bacon and asparagus (both dishes served traditionally on flat plates). For desert we had another layered dish of chocolate ganache with poached pears. Every dish was great, the combination of flavors that you get with the way dishes are served in glasses is good and shows real creativity. It is not traditional french cooking, but all the better for that.

      It is a very small restaurant and popular so you need to book even for mid week. There are only 20 covers and the tables that are packed together even more densely than normal in Paris. They do two sittings one at 8:00 and another at 9:30/10:00. Thus the service is quick (but not bad) as they have to turn the first sitting over quickly. I suspect this keeps the prices down. I like to linger over food so prefer the second sitting, but if you like efficient dining the first is fine. Apart from the aforementioned American gentlemen I think we were the only non-French people there, with lots of groups enjoying a family get together.

      Finally - it has just been awarded its first Michelin star in the 2007 guide which came out in February - certain to make it more popular.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        I too will be in Paris next month. I have been once before and to be honest, prefer Belgium much more (the people, the food, the chocolate...) I wasn't blown away by the cuisine in Paris, but several people are telling me to give it another shot.

        Thanks for the recommendations and if anyone else has more, please do post!

        Thanks so much,


        1. re: HeatherFL

          I really appreciate Phild for such a valuable information it will help us a lot, Right now i am triyng to make a reservation for lunch at l`angle du faubourg, and the rest of the bistros we are plannig to go i think i will give it a try the day we arrive in Paris and see if we can reserve at least 5 or 6 of them.
          certainly Les Fables sounds very good and will be at the top of my list (by the way, did you have trouble getting a reserve?) we are hoping to have lunch / dinner at any of these, the other days,

          Le Clos des Gourmets
          Le Petit Troquet
          La Régalade
          L’Os a Moelle
          Le Temps au Temps
          Le Comptoir du Relais (quite impossible i know)
          Chez les Anges
          le phamplet
          la cagouille.

          If any of you guys have any fresh comments about these restos of have any other recommendation, as Heather says, please do post!


          1. re: garz

            No problems getting a reservation Les Fables - we booked 3/4 days in advance. We wanted the later sitting but the 8:00 was the only availability.

            Another recommendation for fish is "Gaya Rive Gauche" (rue du Bac, 7eme), it is a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant also with a Michelin star. Like Les Fables the menu is far from traditional, with many of the courses served in "Tapas" sized portions. We tend to sample 5 or 6 dishes and share them all (between 2). This allows us to graze and thus sample a wide variety.

            More expensive than Les Fables but still good value (we are booked in tomorrow).

            1. re: garz

              I know it's a bit late, but I should mention that L'Ourcine has really fallen in quality recently. The last two times that I've been there (February and March) have been nightmares of poor service. Their desserts have become rather banal and tasteless, and they seem to change their menu less often. Unless there's a substantial change (i.e., management), I'm not going back.

              1. re: LMGM

                I live near L'Ourcine and am sorry to say that its quality has indeed declined over the last 2 years.

        2. While not a fancy place, the absolute most fun you would have for dinner is at Nos Ancetres Les Gaulois on Ile Saint Louis. It is about 40Euro for all you can eat and all the wine you can drink. There is a French folk singer who entertains on his guitar. It is lively!
          The first thing you see when you arrive at your table is a huge basket of fresh vegetables and an empty pitcher. You take the pitcher over to the wine barrel and pour away. Then you serve yourself fresh sausages, antipastos, breads. After you are filled to the brim, the waiter will come over and offer you a main course of meat, meat meat or meat (lol) Quality of main course is decent, not great by any stretch!!

          After main course comes a massive cheese tray --- to DIE for!!!--- along with fresh fruits and desert.

          A fun place that I go to every year when I am in Paris!!! Enjoy....

          Cliff_for _food

          1 Reply
          1. Excerpt re Hiramatsu from my Mar 8 review of Paris Decadence
            Well our last night and we had reserved our anniversary dinner at Hiramatsu. A study in perfection. The room is elegant and sparse but what is there is worth looking at and enjoying . Well spaced tables, white linens , blue or red glassware adds accent to an other wise quiet landscape .. some lovely accents all of which are fine Baccarat ..and not, I repeat Not, pretentious atmosphere .. We had the tasting. I have posted here before about a wonderful meal that we had at La Pergolese in the 16th that was until this meal my best memory…Hiramatsu gave it more than a run for its Euros . The tasting was amazing . What I can reconstruct is a pumpkin soup with truffle, a large portion of lobster in a delicious sauce served cold , a perfect scallop , a roasted bar, saddle of venison, and dessert , dessert , dessert . My description does not do it justice as I was not taking notes or thinking about a post .. but rather enjoying the pure pleasure of the night . It was here that we had our most delicious Condrieu and also the most relaxing and savory night of our decadent trip . I apologize for the laspses in memory…they are all due to pure culinary joy… If I remember more I will post. Bonne Nuit

            1. I was in Paris in January and we just walked into Comptoir du Relais for lunch with no problem. Get there early. Dinner might be another story.
              In the 7th, have you been to Robuchon's L'Atelier ? All counter seating. Great fun, most excellent food. No lack of food places in the 6th and 7th. Again, we just wander in, but in January it is probably a different story than May.

              Versailles, forgetaboutit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: julieg

                Robuchons L'Atelier does have a strange booking policy. I believe you can reserve at either 12:00 ot 6:30 pm only. For tables at other times you have to put your name on a list and arrive later. First time we tried the list was full. Next time we were waiting as they unlocked the door and got on the list, arrived at 9:00 and waited 30 mins. All in all it can be a lottery getting a table unless you like eating early (or in January).
                It is good, albeit expensive. However another negatives apart from the booking system is that the service is very speedy - I think they try and turn the tables at least 3 or 4 times a night. We asked them to slow down last visit and the waiter was quite rude. We have even had the next dish bought to us before we had finished the one we were eating.
                I now stick to Gaya which is opposite on Rue du Bac and in my opinion better.

              2. Le Coq de la Maison Blanche
                37 Boulebard Jean Jaures
                Saint Ouen 93400
                01 40 11 01 23

                if you are into wine and, specifically, white burgundy, this place is not to be missed.
                1996 J.F. Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 550 euro.

                Just Do It, Baby.

                1. Our current favourite is Le Pre Verre, 8 rue Thenard in the 5th. We had dinner there one night and liked it so much we went back for lunch the next day. The food is non-traditional and very original. It's a good bit cheaper than EUR100, though. :o)

                  Here is a review I found for it: http://cucinatestarossa.blogs.com/web...

                  The parsley ice cream is very good!

                  1. La Cagouille is one of my favorites, and has been favorabley reviewed by numerous hounds.

                    For morning coffee and... you'll want to find a place near your hotel for everyday, but I recommend a jaunt over to the rue Mouffetard at least once to the Cafe Mouffetard, which still has what I'd say are the best croissants and brioche I've ever eaten. The brioche are like silk! They make all their own baked goods.

                    For a splurge, I like Taillevent. I've heard smashing things about Pierre Gagnard, but have never dined there myself.

                    1. I also like La Cogouille. It is one of the better fish restaurant in Paris which there are so few. And it is not expensive.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: PBSF

                        Once again thank you very much you guys for so good information, so far we have reservation to l`angle du faubourg for lunch and dinner at chez les anges, since we like very much fish and shellfish les fables de la fontaine and la cagouille will be at the very top of our list once in Paris, and thanks to your posts we are very interested in triyng new restos for us such as spring and le pre verre, we cant wait!! just 3 more weeks!!! Thanks!!!!

                        1. re: PBSF

                          I'd like to cast another vote for La Cagouille. I couldn't think of the name when I last posted. Excellent seafood and great service.

                        2. Ok- I promise to post more when I get home from work but there was a tiny restaruant with the friendliest waiters right across from the Notre Dame. We ordered Beef tenderloin for 2, and it came on the huge board wrapped in foil. It was steaming hot, juicy and cooked to a perfect med rare. On the side we had the best ever au gratin potatoes- perfectly cheesy with a golden crust and so fantastic. Will post the name tonight but if you are looking straight at the front of Notre Dame its to the left, right near the line waiting to go to the top (ps much shorter than the Eiffel tower line and also a great view!).
                          Non food related you should sign up for a bicycle tour of the city if you are into that. Try to do it the first day or 2 so you get an overview and know where you want to go back.
                          I have been to many cities and Paris is hands down my favorite. Don't believe the common thought that everyone is rude- if you are polite and try to speak a few words of French- they are very gracious.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jme1beachbum

                            I have eaten there and it is great, it is Le Vieux Bistro. 14 Rue Du Cloitre Nortre Dame. They close between lunch and dinner. First time I went to have lunch I got there too late and had to return the niext day, well worth returning to for the great food. Fabulous rack of lamb as well as escargot, and great scalloped potatoes. Phone number 01 43 54 18 95. I would reserve cause one time when I was in Paris my husband and I couldn't get in for lunch cause they were too crowded.

                          2. Ok- so thanks to kitty kat for Le vieux bistro- it was my fave place there. Unfortunately we are about to move to Seattle and everything I own is packed away so I can't remember all the places we went. Grr! Hope you have fun- we used the Frommers guide to Paris- it has a handy map and great recs for dinner too- I believe the website is helpful as well. You must go to La Bon Marche- it is a food store and a department store. Any foodie should head straight to the food section and spend a few hours there. We sampled cheese and bread and wandered the aisles. We purchased some 1/2 bottles of wine, cheese, meat, breads and a container of most perfect little strawberries I've ever had. We went towards the eiffel tower and picniced in the park there. Stunning!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: jme1beachbum

                              Thank you , thank you! both jme1beachbum and kittykatkid - hubby and I will be staying really close to Notre Dame next week and this place looks great. My son just moved to Paris from Seattle - you will love Seattle. Awesome restaurants there too. He was heavily involved in fine dining.

                              1. re: lexpatti

                                Hey lexpatti, imagine meeting up with you on the Paris board...anyway, if you like mustard, go to the Maille store on the Place de la Madeleine--you can buy fresh mustard which is dispensed from a spigot on the counter, and they must have a hundred different varieties. Fauchon is also around the corner.

                                1. re: whs

                                  how funny, and I love mustard. I'm gathering all this info so I have a good agenda going. - I think I've heard my son talk about that market since he's been there. - we're hopping over to Italy for 5 days too. Mostly spending it in Florence - beeen scouting that brd too.

                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                    Thank you very much folks, we are off to Paris tomorrow afternoon, we will gladly post as soon as we return our fresh dining experiences in this beautiful city, see you soon!!!


                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        thanks folks!, we are back and very very pleased and having tried so many new flavors and wines and culinary experiences that made this trip to Paris a very special one, everithing was excellent, the weather just fine, clear blue skies ( except a sunday afternoon with little chilling showers) the people very nice and willing to help and explain and the bistros and boulangeries just lovely, here are some of our notes;
                                        we arrived thursday 26 in the afternoon and since we were staying in the 7th made a reservation for dinner at chez l`ami jean, they couldn`t get us until 10:15 but it was just fine, we arrived walking with a map in hand, pass by l´afriolle, the street seemed very quiet and what a wonderful susprise when we entered the place and saw paris life going on!! tha place was packed, full with cigarrete smoke, waiters running, everybody cheering and talking loud, we saw the whole picture in a nutshell and knew it was going to be great, we managed to sit in between tables and promptly had the menu, we decided to go with the menu and order right away, i must say that we speak little french but the waiter was very willing to translate in italian (the best he could do) ( we are from mexico so it was no problem undestanding) and we ordered.......soon it came entree.....wowww... my wife had squid and i had white asparagus and wow!! what can i say...it was very good bistro food...very good executed, flavorful, well presented, mine with a big bone marrow and bread...hers with a geleé with flavors that i admit we couldn´t figure it out what it was but very subtle and refined,,,,,we were happy!!!! and a bottle of chablis on the side, next came plat, we both ordered fish ( red mullet and seabass) both so different in flavors and equally well executed and flavorful that really, we were just looking each other eating with a smile on our faces and that´s it, life is good !! then dessert, my wife had a pear with chocolat and i, a kind of panacotta with madeleines on the side...mmm very yummy both, very good straight forward presented, we skip coffee and check came to 90 euros wich we consider it was worth every penny of it, really good, we were very pleased after dinner having made a very good choice, really,, and really go to l ´ami jean, is good food you will leave happy!!, had to go right now, but to be continue with the next days!!
                                        thanks folks.-- garz.

                                        1. re: garz

                                          I can't wait to hear the rest, garz!!! I've been following this thread intensely as we will be heading to Paris in about two weeks. Honestly, most of my ideas have come from this board and all of the wonderful people who have contributed.

                                          I'm in the final phase of narrowing down, and I hope to start making reservations SOON! I really am eager to hear more about your experiences as our taste and price range seem very similar... Thanks for the great update so far and I'm glad you had a great time!

                                2. re: lexpatti

                                  Hi. Doing great here in Seattle. There are great places her for sure! How was Paris?

                                  1. re: jme1beachbum

                                    Fabulous Fabulous,, it just became our must annual getaway place. My son took us to some wonderful places, didn't make it to Le vieux bistro though. He knows how to dine. Glad your liking Seattle, I loved it there - awesome dining. Couple favorites: Harvest Vine, Salume, Matts in the Market, Dahlia Lounge

                              2. This is funny, we must have gone the same time. We left on the 24th of April back on May 7th (hit Italy too). Did you find awesome falafels? We did. What an awesome city - I didn't keep details of the fabulous dining (too much) but where we ate - I did. My favorite restaurant for dinner (if I have to choose) was Le Clos des Gourmets near the eiffel tower - what was yours?