Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Les Bon Addresses

Parisian women are said to have a closely-guarded list of bon addresses, the trusted suppliers of everything from the smoothest blowdry to the tastiest profiterole. With just two years in Paris, I haven't developed a full complement of resources. But I can boast of a few noteworthy finds which, unlike the natives, I'm happy to share.

Parisians may be willing to travel across town for a box of macarons. But come breakfast, excellence must be found in a smaller catchment zone. For those within a 15-minute walk of Bastille or the Place du Vosges, the best pastries can be found at Au Levain du Marais. The croissant is textbook-perfect, the chausson aux pommes (a triangle of puff-pastry encasing a not-too-sweet apple compote) a messy delight.

Finishing a meal with a sip of Armagnac always makes me feel terribly sophisticated. And buying it from Ryst Dupeyron, where the shelves are lined with wax-sealed bottles dating back to World War I and the monetary transaction is conducted ever-so-discreetly, just adds to the feeling of glamour. Prices are not nearly as ruinous as the setting might suggest, with a 70 cl bottle of the Napoleon blend (aged for a minimum of 6 years) costing just 36EU.

There's no better way to understand the city's relationship with food than to visit one of its 75 markets. And few better combine quality, variety and atmosphere than my local, the Marche d'Aligre. At the entrance is a raucous strip of fruit and vegetable stands, where the vendors try to outshout one another in a mix of French and Arabic. The square holds a more serene (and expensive) market, in which dowagers line up to buy well-aged cheese or meat for a pot au feu. Surrounding it all are pavement cafes, including a particularly popular wine (and in season) oyster bar, Le Baron Bouge.

For years, the artisanal truffles and sweets made by Jacques Genin were only available to restaurants and hotels. But now, the likes of passion fruit caramels and chocolates flavoured with pu er tea are on offer to anyone able to find his elegant, minimalist shop, located in a nondescript strip of clothing wholesalers in the northern Marais. The adjoining cafe serves an unctuous hot chocolate and provides mignardaise with every hot drink.

Au Levain du Marais
28, blvd. Beaumarchais 75011
M; Th-Su

Ryst Dupeyron
79, rue du Bac 75007

Marche d'Aligre
place du Aligre 75012
(Both parts of the market are open from breakfast until lunch; the covered market reopens around 4 pm.)

La Chocolaterie
133, rue du Turenne 75003

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