Paris with an 8 Year old in Tow ~ It can be done (especially when you get to cheat at least once!) ~ very long, read at your peril!
We recently spend 11 nights in Paris with our 8 year old grandson (May 9-20, 2012). Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I pride myself on my restaurant list for Paris. I'm always on CH, Paris by Mouth, John Talbott, Not Drinking Poison in Paris, etc trying to find the best Paris has to offer. We've dined at Spring, Frenchies, CLJ, Au Passage, Baratin, Les Papilles, Nomiya, Grande Cascade, etc, etc, etc.
So it was a challenge for me to plan a trip with an 8 year old this spring, knowing that we couldn't (or wouldn't) go to these types of places this time. Although Sebastian is very well behaved and mature for his age (symptoms of an only child, lol), I was very conscious of not wanting to either subject him to too many overly long, complex meals or impose an 8 year old on someone who has waited 6 months to dine at a special place.
So I compromised ~ for my sake, Seb's sake, and the Paris fine dining public's sake, lol. We ended up having many picnic lunches with wonderful baguette sandwiches from great little neighbourhood bakeries (and I realized how happy I was with these lunches ~ cheap and delicious, lol). We ate dinner in the apartment several times from the awesome takeout options available to us in our little corner of the 11th, near Voltaire metro station (unfortunately, I met up with DCM too late in our trip to benefit from all his great recommendations, but next time!)
That being said, we still had some meals that may be of interest to some CHers, at leas those who may be in the same position as us in the future ~ trying to eat well and still keep the kids happy, lol
2 of these were found on Paris by Mouth on their recommended list for dining with kids:
West Country Girl ~ a tiny place less than 10 minutes from our apartment in the 11th. We tried to get in for lunch on our first day and were turned away for not having reservations. Seb remembered that I wanted to go there and kept asking about it, prompting me to make dinner reservations later in our trip.
This is a kicky, hip little place that serves mostly home made breton crepes as main meals. We did have oysters and saucisson to start and each ordered (and devoured) our own crepes ~ Seb had a kid friendly ham and cheese, I had mushroom and chèvre and Den had boudin noire with stewed apple. They were all freshly made in the tiny kitchen right behind our table (Seb enjoyed watching our chef making them as ordered) and they were crisp, light and delicious. Seb and I both had the salted butter caramel dessert crepes and Den had lemon and sugar. With a beer and 2 glasses of cider, dinner was 58 euros. I have to admit that my reviews this time have as much to do with how the restaurants treated Seb as with the food, and these guys were very cool with having Seb there, even encouraging him to take pictures of the chef as she cooked. Our reservation was for 7:30pm, pretty early by Parisian standards so we were the only ones there for a little while, but the place was almost full when we left a little over an hour later. We are not their typical clients (Den and I are a lot older, Seb a little younger, lol) but they treated us with respect and ensured we were comfortable and welcomed throughout our meal. I would go back just with Den, just for the cool classic rock and that dessert crepe.
Jeanne A ~ another little place in the 11th, this time close to Republique ~ about 15 minutes from our place. We reserved the same day for dinner at 7:30pm. This is an Epicerie a Manger ~ you can get takeout, buy some upscale groceries or get a prix fixe (2 courses for 23 euros, 3 for 27). We got a fairly spacious table and again, we are warmly welcomed even though we are not the typical clientele. There wasn't too much that appealed to kids on the nightly menu, but the servers nicely let us order just the saucisson for Seb as an entree and then a plate of potatoes Dauphinoise as his main (hey, he was on vacation!). Den had bulots with herbed mayonnaise to start and then a ravioli of beef cheeks served with salad, roasted veggies and potatoes. I had a timbale of legume a la Grecque and a melt in your mouth gigot d'agneau served with the same potatoes that Seb had, as well as a little side salad. Delicious home made desserts and 4 glasses of a very nice Cote de Rhone completed our dinner and added up to a reasonable 92 euros. This was my favourite meal of the week with Seb (of course, my lunch at CLJ was the best meal of the trip, but we're still on meals with the 8 year old, lol)
We also ate at Chez Clement (the one by Bastille) on my birthday ~ not the most original or best meal, but again, the welcome accorded to Seb was first class and that was the aim of this trip. I reserved on La Fourchette and a beautiful table in the glass enclosed terrace was waiting for us when we arrived. I started with oysters, which were large, briny, fresh and delicious and Den had spinach ravioli. He had a very tender duck confit and I had a very ordinary salmon filet. Seb devoured his ham and cheese pasta as well as his chocolate crepe and our lie flottant and creme brûlée. With 2 glasses of champagne and a bottle of muscadet, dinner came to 110 euros, lasted over 2 hours and gave a little boy a taste of fine dining in a nice, friendly atmosphere. Really all we were asking for that evening.
Man, this is getting long, especially for a report that's not about innovative or spectacular food (again, except for our lunch at CLJ ~ ah, how I tease, lol)
Ok, just a few more ~ we found a nice little Portuguese bistro on avenue Longchamps near the Trocadero. I had an OK cheese and charcuterie platter and Seb had a croque madame, but Den was wowed by his grilled octopus with potatoes,onion, garlic and peppers in olive oil. We ate twice at Pizza Momo since what kid doesn't want pizza, even in Paris! We've eaten at this little place on rue Rivoli near the St Paul Cathedral a few times over the last 4 years ~ it's not fancy or special, but the pizza made in their ancient wood burning oven is pretty good and they do a brisk business in take out from the nearby locals. We also ate lunch at Tour 58 in the Eiffel Tower ~ again, the welcome accorded to Seb went a long way in making this meal special, even if the food didn't. We had a great table overlooking the Trocadero and service was friendly, warm and still professional.
Last, but certainly not least, my feast with fellow CHers at Chez L'Ami Jean while Den treated Seb to a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Sister Europe has already covered our meal in wonderful detail, so I won't bore you with my second rate version, but M Jego wowed me yet again with his inventiveness, boldness and attention to detail. I still don't know how he can manage to serve so many different options (a la carte, prix fixe, special du chef at different price points, lunch specials ~ the mind boggles at how he can get so inventive on a moment's notice and still keep it together for all the other meals in the house. A true genius is all I can say!) Of course, the company would make any meal a success (thanks Parigi for making this happen and letting me hang with the cool kids) and having a prime seat overlooking the kitchen and watching the chef in action, cooking, plating and yelling (all part of the experience and the fun) just took this lunch over the top for me. Sister Europe said it best during the meal when she commented that for her, this was the best Paris had to offer ~ not stuffy, precocious 3 star dining, but fresh, well sourced ingredients prepared in a daring way and served in a fun, happy place. I wouldn't have missed this meal for the world!
Yikes, this is way too long! If anyone is still reading and hasn't nodded off, here's a link to my blog for even more boring details and pictures:
I hope to be back in Paris in January, solo and back to my long list of must dining places. But this trip, with a little boy who walked, rode metros and buses,searched for Space Invaders, and even took his grandma for a waltz on the Trocadero, was one of the best I've had.
Brings back very happy memories of when we took our son to Paris at age 8 (he's now 25). It was too long ago to remember exactly where we ate, but do remember many picnic lunches of baguettes, cheese, saucissons, etc, including one on the train en route to Giverny (he was on a mission to see all of the Monet sites covered in Linea in Monet's Garden, one of his favorite books at the time). For dinners, we typically gravitated to bistros as he was always happy eating roast chicken or steak frites.
Only 2 food-related "issues" that I recall: (a) it drove him crazy when we spoke French with the waitstaff, as he could not understand the conversation; and (b) in a bistro in the 1st, where the entire menu was on the chalkboard, he selected a fish main course, not realizing that it would be served whole, rather than filleted. When the waiter set the plate in front of him, with the fishes eyes staring up at him, his eyes began to brim with tears. I quickly offered to swap my veal dish with him, and all was resolved (except that I wasn't too crazy about the fish either).
So glad I scolded you for not posting...this is great and I know it will help other lovers of food AND kids navigate their way through Paris! You gave a wonderful gift to your grandson that he will remember forever. Brava girl!! :)
Ditto on everything you wrote about Chez L'ami Jean. So happy to have shared it with you and the other hounds. Will be glad to help you hone your list for January. Who knows, maybe I'll join you!
I always eat well chez l'Ami Jean, but with you and the others, I had extra fun. I did lose my hearing on the right (kitchen-ward) ear.
And you gave Seb no less than a fairy tale memory.
If I may provide a little footnote to this great report: Parisjo and her husband are very hands-on epicures . Usually for their trip they do their resto research 6 months in advance, in the least, and have all the reservations lined up before they leave, including a cooking lesson once from Daniel Rose himself.
When she says she compromised, compromise it was. They picnicked a lot more, and ate when the little boy was hungry.
No dragging him to a destination for a destination meal that lasts 2 hours.
But count on her to have already started her epicurean propaganda with the 8-year old.
Jo: you must tell fellow hounds about the cooking lesson for children, with Guy Friggin Martin !
Thanks Nancy. I'm so not in the same league with the masters on this board (you, DCM, Souphie, Sophie, Mangeur, JT in the old days, etc, etc, etc) but I do like my food and I am obsessive about my research (maybe a tad too much, since these boards seem to make up a good part of my day, lol)
Before we left, I wanted to try to find a cooking class for the 3 of us. Knowing Seb, he wouldn't have been comfortable if we couldn't at least be in the room with him. I looked at many options (including Cookin' with Class, Cake ~ a PBM recommendation, and Cordon Bleu and Ritz Escoffier) and decided on Atelier Guy Martin in the 8th. Their children's' classes include the adults and we all prepared our meal together.
This class (and the whole school, I believe) is geared to locals and we were the only tourists there. We prepared three courses ~ a carrot, orange and curry soup, ratatouille and crepes with chantilly creme and strawberries. The kids learned proper techniques for chopping, stirring, whipping, and presentation. It was a very hands on class and everyone got a chance to help in the preparation. The chef was very good with the kids, but very matter of fact and they were expected to follow along. The course was only in French, but Sebastian understood most of it and we translated as we went along.
We got to eat our crepes together at a communal table and everyone was given containers of the soup and ratatouille to bring home, as well as copies of the recipes.
I would recommend this class for anyone who wants a basic cooking class for kids, as long as you can understand French. I thought it was good value at 30 euros per person ~ the class lasted almost 2 hours. There are lots of different classes to choose from on their website:
It's very easy to book online.
We had a fun afternoon, Seb got to interact with some cute little French girls, and we got to eat crepes with fresh Chantilly creme ~ win/win for everyone!