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10 Day Foodie Trip to Paris in April 2011

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My partner and I will be making a trip to Paris in April and need some help with our food itinerary. At the moment, we're planning to visit some of the fine dining establishments, casual cafes and bistros and eat lots of pastries and desserts (because my partner has a really sweet tooth). These are the places that we've shortlisted so far. Would appreciate if you could give your opinion on whether these places are complementary cos we want to make sure that we don't end up eating too much of the same thing. One thing is we're planning to visit Bras at Lagouile and we're concerned that the food might be similar to the other fine dining places that we've shortlisted.

The restaurants we've shortlisted are as follows:

Le Cinq

Le Meurice

Le Chateaubriand
Chez Dumonet
Restaurant Allard
Les Comptoire du Relais
Cocottes des Christian Constant
Chez Flottes
Bistro Les Papilles

I have some other questions which might sound stupid but here goes...

1) Do restaurants in France/Paris serve tap water or do we always have to order bottled water?

2) Would it be too ambitious to have a 3 course dinner meal at say, a place like Frenchie after having a 3 course lunch at LeDoyen?

Please do let me know if there's any place which is worth trying.
Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. Wow! A 10 day foodie trip to Paris.

    A few years ago, I did a five day foodie trip and almost killed myself (well, not literally). It was great but definitely overdone.

    What I found was that after spending almost four hours having lunch at Restaurant Guy Savoy, one had to spend the next four hours doing nothing but walking (and we were lucky we could even manage that) just in order to have enough appetite for dinner at Taillevant that night. Five days of that, and coming home to nothing but salads and grapefruit was a necessary and welcome change.

    I'd say if you're keeping things to three courses per meal, you shouldn't have that problem, though. If you do any extended course tasting menus for lunch, plan on a light dinner and vice versa.

    Have fun!

    1. "1) Do restaurants in France/Paris serve tap water or do we always have to order bottled water?"

      Yes. No.

      "2) Would it be too ambitious to have a 3 course dinner meal at say, a place like Frenchie after having a 3 course lunch at LeDoyen?""

      You might be able to do it but would you enjoy it? In your pacing of restos, perhaps you should try to think in terms of enjoyment instead of endurance.

      One good meal a day is plenty. For me, one meal is usually enough to cover a 1.5 day period. Your list is mostly a good one. For example, Allard is not the worst resto in Paris, but try to eliminate places like it when your list is so full already. Why give yourself a full stomach from Allard and jeopardize your enjoyment at your jext meal?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        Don't miss lunch at Le Cinq and dinner at Josephine's. You'll be in heaven. Add Gerard Mulot to your list for patisseries , In particular the tart au peche. Have a wonderful time.

        1. re: DaisyM

          If you're in your twenties and plan to do serious walking between meals, you might be able to manage and even enjoy 2 major meals a day but if you do a major restaurant meal for both lunch and dinner you will not be able to enjoy bread and pastries or other fabulous foodie snacks that Paris is so well known for. In the high end restaurants, even though you may be having the 3 course lunch, there will be many in between the courses treats offered, so it's way more rich food than just 3 straight courses.

          For us (middle aged, walking lots, total foodies in great physical shape) we find we really don't enjoy more than one serious meal a day. And sometimes after a real blowout (Le Cinq, Dumonet, etc) we skip a restaurant meal entirely the next day and just snack. And Paris is full of such wonderful pastries, bread, pate, and cheeses that we don't want to "waste" all our eating capacity (or money!) on full restaurant meals.

          And yes, you can ask for a carafe of tap water in any restaurant.

      2. My vacations are coordinated around dinners. (I prefer a special dinner to lunch, since I aim to visit as many museums, galleries, architectural highlights, etc. during the daylight hours and eat a small breakfast and a snack to tide me over until it's time for an important dinner.) In any case, I can go for two weeks eating and drinking multi-course meals at dinner without feeling overwhelmed (but then I do need to resume a regiment of salad and fruit). Accordingly, whether you indulge in a special lunch or dinner, I agree that I great meal a day is a sensible limit, to preserve your appetite for the subsequent meals. From your list, I would endorse all of your "Lunch" options, your "Dinner" option, and from the "Others" category, I would select Saturne, Frenchie Les Cocottes (or its sibling Cafe Constant), and I would add Spring, L'Agape and Passage 53.

        For pastries, my favorites are Hugo and Victor, Pain du Sucre, Des Gateaux et du Pain and Jacque Genin for the chocolate mille feuille and his most fabulous caramels.

        1. Thanks for all your suggestions so far. Really comes in useful. Yes, definitely have to do tons of walking and stick to a salad and soup diet after I return from my trip.

          Forgot to ask another question. If i'd like to visit some food markets where I can see produce and enjoy some street food at the same time. Which ones would you recommend?

          3 Replies
          1. re: syzal

            The market at Bastille on Sundays ('til 1:30 or so) is enormous and my personal favorite. Lots of good produce, amazing spreads of seafood. I don't usually get anything to eat on the spot but I know I've seen a variety of different offerings. It gets pretty crowded though - if you want a more quiet and leisurely pace you might prefer one of the smaller weekday markets. If you go to this link there's a list of all the markets by day of the week.


            1. re: syzal

              Yeah the market on Richard Lenoir is great. My other faves are Maubert and St Eustache, which are more compact but with real maraîchers.
              You can find their hours and days, plus other markets in every arrondissement here:

              The article is very informative, but the one most important info - the hours - is a little off. It says that several morning markets end at 3pm. No way. Morning markets start closing after 12:30.

              1. re: syzal

                Thanks for the suggestions and the links. I guess the sad part is that I'll be looking at all the beautiful produce but yet can't buy any of them since I prob won't get a chance to cook. Still, I reckon it would definitely be a nice thing to put the markets into the itinerary just to see the side of living in Paris.

              2. Jumping on this thread because:
                A) Will be in Paris at the same time, considering many of the same places.
                B) Have done trips with big lunch/big dinner many days in a row
                C) Was, much like you, considering Bras.

                With regard to the meals - I'm 30, I run daily, and its not unheard of for me to walk 10+ miles a day during a visit to a pedestrian friendly city like Paris. I just recently did a 7 day trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas where I did three meals a day - it can be done, but towards the end the only thing I wanted was a salad.......pretty much been my diet for the month since. :-)

                For me, the experience is as important as the food - as such, when I travel I tend to do a lunch that is appetizer/main/dessert followed by large dinners.....but in Paris I'm seeing myself doing big tastings at lunch and cafe/bistro style dinners. As much as it would be kind of awesome to do Savoy and Gagnaire in a single day I probably won't because one experience could mute the other.

                It is all very dependent on the person, I wager - I can eat, no doubt there - but I really want each experience to stand out.


                1. re: tap water
                  Just ask for "une carafe d'eau" (or Chateau Robinet)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: boredough

                    "Chateau Robinet"

                    You mean Château La Pompe.

                  2. Michel Bras is unique; he marches to his own beat. I wouldn't worry about him being too similar to any of your fine dining places in Paris.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: PBSF

                      Thanks! Good to know that we've made a good choice then. Now.. if only I can find the best way to get there cos I've heard that that part of France is not totally developed in terms of transport so getting there might be a bit of a hassle.

                      1. re: syzal

                        No problem with a car, otherwise, probably have to train to Rodez then an expensive taxi. Make sure you book a room for the night.

                        1. re: PBSF

                          WOW...my head is going to explode (not to mention my belly!). I have been researching restaurants for about 3 weeks now...like 2 plus hours a day. I too will be there in April 6-20th (with wine escapes...!). I will be running the Paris Marathon...so that will burn up enough calories for say...1/2 day! I am so overwhelmed with choices. Bless you my fellow chowhounders!

                          1. re: PBSF

                            If you don't mind me asking, how expensive are we talking about here?

                            1. re: syzal

                              185€ for the menu that includes the signature gargouillou.


                              1. re: syzal

                                If you are asking about taxi from Rodez to Bras, I don't know since we drove. The distance is about 40km and you'll probably have to pay for his return. And figure two times that since you need to get back to Rodez from Bras. Someone at Bras might be able to tell you if you call them.
                                We were there 3 years ago and the long tasting menu was 175E.

                                1. re: PBSF

                                  thanks very much! I'll prob contact someone from Bras cos I'm most concerned about the transport.

                                  1. re: syzal

                                    It's a super long train ride between Paris and Rodez. We took the train to Clermont Ferrand and drove the remaining three hours. The best way to get there is to rent a car. Our meal (in Sept 2010) was unforgettable -- the son Sebastian has taken over now, but he continues to honor the region of Aveyron with local products, including wild herbs. There are pictures of our meal on my blog... it was spectacular. http://annmah.net/2010/09/10/michel-b...

                        2. A few of your selections, like Flottes and Allard, I would classify as "OK, if you are in the neighborhood". Otherfwise, nothing special. I would opt for a fish specialist or two. And maybe add a high-end Cafe as well.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Oakglen

                            I'm guessing OP has chosen Allard based on A. Lobrano's article in a recent Saveur. I was surprised to see him waxing poetic about a place I thought was only okay, but then again, he was recalling his first visit at age 14 (clearly some years ago) when, perhaps, Allard had REALLY great food, or at least, it tasted great to a 14-year-old's palate.

                            I'd recommend at least one fish-centric place, as well, and if OP likes raw seafood, l'Ecume, the oyster bar, is a unique experience that would fit well on an evening after a hearty lunch. ;)

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              thanks very much for your suggestions! The thought of having seafood didn't really cross my mind but I will definitely look into it!

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Allard is one of the last real old-fashioned bistros left in Saint Germain des Pres and is definitely worth a meal whether you're 14 years old or 90 (and why would a 14 year old's palate be less alert than that of an adult?).

                                1. re: andaba

                                  I agree with ChefJune that Allard is at best ok. (And a 14 year old's palate is usually less experienced than that of an adult. When I was 14, I had not tasted all the herbs and aromates that I have today, from Turkey, Spain, Malaysia, Golden Triangle, etc.)

                            2. I am facing problems with making reservations over the phone at some of these restaurants. They never seem to pick up! Can somebody advise if there is a "good" time to call these restaurants up?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: syzal

                                I usually try to call around 6:30 p.m., I figure they're probably there getting set up but not busy yet.

                                1. re: LiaM

                                  Good reasoning. I also usually call right before service starts, which means noon or 7pm Paris time.

                              2. Great thread. I was last in Paris for the Millenium and spent two glorious weeks (and $10K) on food. Back then, I was young, crazy and passionate about all things edible. For sure, the oysters in Dec/Jan are truly delectable. I'm not sure about April though. The best meal of my life was on Dec 24, 1999 at Taillevent, around $800 and worth every cent. Flash forward to the here and now, and I am looking forward to taking my wife to Paris in mid-April- her first time. She'll be 7 months pregnant with our third, and my plan is to enjoy Paris at a leisurely pace befitting a queen. My free advice: take your time, don't rush, one big meal per day, snacks, relax, explore and discover.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: szfoster

                                  "For sure, the oysters in Dec/Jan are truly delectable. I'm not sure about April"

                                  Very funny.

                                  1. re: szfoster

                                    That's exactly what I'm worrying about; doing too much! I def want the great restaurants meals but I don't want to forget about the little patisseries and boulangeries. Let's hope everything goes according to plan! I can't wait for April to come!

                                    1. re: syzal

                                      Do you know about the Grande Epicerie? It's def worth a visit when you are in St. Germain. And thank you, I think you have convinced me to book one lunch at Le Cinq. I better get to sleep...au revoir

                                  2. I'm finally back from my trip and I had a blast eating my way around France!
                                    First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their help and suggestions. They really helped. So here's the rundown of my few experiences and hope it'd be helpful for those who are about to head over for a trip.

                                    This was a top favourite for my partner and I. Almost every dish hit the spot. The only one we didn't really enjoy as much (not that we didn't at all) was the dessert of strawberries, rhubard and shortbread cos the shortbread totally dissolved in the strawberry soup. Other than that, the dinner was excellent. Standouts for me were the smoked mackeral with the pickled cucumbers and the lamb which was so flavourful and tender. Very small outfit so book well in advance. Really good value for money and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Paris. The lady waitress speaks excellent English by the way.

                                    Chez L'Ami Jean
                                    We went to this place twice on consecutive nights. Was lucky to get a table on the day itself although we had to dine a little later. The rice pudding dessert is the star and the must have at the end of the meal. On the first night, we ordered the 3 course dinner (EUR42) which was great value. On the second night, we had the wagyu cote de beouf and the oven roasted foie gras. They were all cooked to perfection. Their charcuterie is excellent too and a good start to the meal. Service is friendly and one of their waiters speaks fluent English so you'd have no problems even though the whole menu is in french.

                                    Excellent. The service was very friendly and I loved the dining space. The food felt very organic as there was a common use of herbs throughout the meal up to dessert. Another place I'd recommend because it serves good food at affordable prices. You can choose between a 4 or 6 course (there is no ala carte) and we went for the 6 course meal. Also threw in the wonderful 31 month comte which was generously shaven for us to enjoy.

                                    Le Chateaubriand
                                    I have to be honest and say that I wasn't blown away so much. The experience and service was excellent but there were one or two dishes which I wasn't very used too and there weren't many standout dishes whilst they were all tasty. Having said that, it still is worth the visit as the marrying of flavours are really special at this place.

                                    Les Comptoir du Relais
                                    The food was simply delicious. We ordered mostly off the specials menu although the regular menu is extensive. I can still remember the lobster ravioli, the risotto with St Jacques and the Braised Beef Cheeks (from regular menu). The food is flavourful and hearty. Definitely worth the visit but getting a dinner reservation is near impossible since they leave the tables for the hotel guests so get there early to stand in line for lunch which starts at 12.

                                    Les Cocottes
                                    Another worthy visit. The langoustine ravioli is tasty and the chocolate tart is divine. We had a beef burgignon from the specials menu and it was probably the best I've ever tasted. I love the concept of having the food served in staub pots.

                                    Chez Dumonet
                                    Honestly, the only dish I enjoyed here was the duck confit which everyone raves about. The experience was marred by the service. The food took quite some time to arrive and it took us 3 tries to get some water at the table. I realised that no one pointed it out but their portions are HUGE! Unless you have a big appetite, share! I honestly don't remember American sized portions to be THAT big. Not a restaurant that I would revisit but if I have to, I'd only order the duck confit which thankfully comes in a normal size.

                                    Le Cinq
                                    The experience was worth the visit. Probably one of the prettiest if not the prettiest dining room I've ever been in. The service was excellent and really friendly. I don't think its the best food I've ever had but for the experience, I'd revisit in a heartbeat. We had the EUR85 lunch and there were a couple of standouts. The foie gras with pig's ears was to die for and I had a really good salted caramel dessert. Portions are rather generous by the way. A 2 star resto but yet makes you feel like you're in a 3 star resto.

                                    The drive out to Laguiole was one of the most scenic drives I've ever been on in my life. It took a 3 hour train ride from Paris to Clermont Ferrand and another close to 2 hour drive to get us to Bras. The whole experience started the moment we got on our way. We stayed a night at their hotel and the room was beautiful; looking out to a great view. Not to mention that the minibar provides free drinks (the limonade specially made for Bras is excellent). Dinner was really good although there was probably one or two dishes that I didn't fancy much. His food uses quite a bit of raw vegetables. The cheese trolley is to die for and we had so much to eat by the end of the night. The next morning, we woke up to a delicious French breakfast with fresh bread, Bras's milk jam (which I brought home), saucisson, yoghurt etc. We even got a little tour of the kitchen at the end of breakfast and saw Sebastian Bras in his office working at the computer. The experience was so great that my partner and I were reluctant to leave.

                                    Pierre Gagnaire
                                    Gagnaire's food is known to be a bit more whimsical but I thought it was an interesting experience. There were so many items to one course and there were so many small intricate items at the table. The food was solid although there were one or two dishes which were a bit bland for me. Service was professional although it isn't as personal and friendly as Le Cinq and Bras. Lunch is a good deal at EUR105 if you just want the experience of a 3 star restaurant in Paris.

                                    L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile
                                    I've tried L'Atelier in Hong Kong and had good memories of the food there. L'Atelier in Paris definitely did not disappoint. The flavours were bold and the food was really rich and tasty. I was blown away by a couple of dishes from the degustation menu such as a deep fried egg which was served with cream, smoked salmon and topped with a generous amount of caviar. The creamy and rich egg yolk added so much richness to the dish. Another one that I remember clearly was the langoustine with morrelles. We celebrated a birthday for one of our friends that night and the excellent food and friendly service made our last night in Paris extra special. I have to say though that the bread basket is much more exciting with its variety in the Hong Kong branch.

                                    So these are the note worthy places I visited. There were a couple of touristy joints which no one should visit (imagine being ripped off by paying EUR11 for a glass of lemonade). For sweets, check out the usual Pierre Herme and Laduree. I love Sadaharu Aoki for his tea flavoured macarons and La Patisserie des Reves does delicious and pretty cakes too.

                                    Another thing I've discovered is Bordier's butter. His butter is served in many fine dining restaurants and comes in different flavours. I visited the store when I was in Saint Malo, Brittany and you could never imagine how a small nondescript store could produce such amazing butter. My favourites are the demi sel and seaweed. If you don't get to try it at restaurants, just drop by the gourmet section at Galeries Lafayette, buy a block, some baguette and saucisson and breakfast is settled!

                                    So that's it from me. Thanks for reading if you're still here. :)

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: syzal

                                      Wow you did well. Hit all my fave spots.
                                      Am thinking of starting a ritual for visiting hounds. Those who hit 5 "right spots" in 5 days earn the privilege to be hazed by local hounds, who push them in the Concorde fountain or something...
                                      Uhockey, Mangeur, DCM, JDear, Porthos are all due for a fountain dip, some several times over.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Oooh, I hope I can make the list! I must choose between L'Atelier JR and Le Cinq for one dinner. And I have no room for error since my stay will only be for 5 days combined....

                                        1. re: baloney

                                          Bring swimming suit or drip-dry underwear.

                                      2. re: syzal

                                        Thank you. So many questions asked here, but not as many reports afterwards. I alway appreciate these reports.

                                        1. re: Watson

                                          Thanks for reporting back. Many of my favorites hit and another report confirming that we must choose Gagnaire our next time in Paris. I better be careful though! I might be due for a push into the fountain!

                                          1. re: plafield

                                            You must, must be on the push list.
                                            I like this gourmand baptism idea more and more.

                                            1. re: Parigi

                                              Excellent report. Thanks for getting back to us all. Makes me recall my March trip and enjoy it all over again!