How to eat your way through Paris without breaking the bank
If money is no issue and fine dining is right up your alley, take your pick of all the Michelin-starred restaurants Paris has to offer. As much of a foodie as I am, I can also count on one hand the number of Michelin-starred restaurants I've been to in my four years in Paris. With a bit of research, it's not difficult to eat well on a budget with the vibrant food scene here. Pro tip: Most restaurants in Paris, the sought-after ones included, offer lunch menus that are priced so attractively it's worth planning your schedule around them.
Don't let the chic corner bistro location and the Asian elements in its menu mislead you into thinking Le Servan is a fusion restaurant jumping on the Instagram-hungry bandwagon. It is anything but. Opened by the French-Filipino Levha sisters, Le Servan boasts traditional French cuisine with polished Southeast Asian flavours and a much-welcomed spicy touch. Swiss-trained Katia manages the bistro's front-of-house while Tatiana helms the kitchen after cutting her teeth at Parisian institutions L'Arpège and L'Astrance, which shares between them six Michelin stars. The €27 three-course lunch menu is a bargain for the carefully-sourced quality produce, French techniques and surprisingly-creative ingredient pairings. I'd highly recommend going with a few friends so you can order the zakouskis to share, especially the spicy cockles (or mussels — depending on what's available that day) with basil. Closed on weekends.
32, rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris
Walking down rue de la Roquette, you'll find Chez Aline when you see the retro shopfront with the neon-lit golden horse head (and a small queue snaking out its door at lunch hour). The horse head isn't just a decorative touch as Chez Aline is housed in a former horse meat boucherie. Even the name is a playful twist on the old "chevaline" signage. You can't get any more French than a baguette sandwich at lunch and Delphine Zampetti probably does the best crusty old-fashioned baguette sandwich in town at this weekday lunch-only spot. My favourite? The smoked herring and fennel sandwich (€8.50) with one or two sides of salad. The hand-written menu on the wall can be a challenge to decipher even for those who read French so do feel free to take the easy way out and ask for recommendations when it's your turn. If the weather is good, definitely get your sandwich to go and have a leisurely lunch at Place des Vosges, which is a 15-minute walk away.
85, rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris
52 Faubourg Saint Denis has no phone number, takes no reservations and doesn't do lunch specials. Neither are there hearty portions of canard confit or steak-frites. Yet we keep coming back again and again for their modern interpretations of French cuisine at affordable prices (three courses for under €40 without wine), which says a lot as my partner is allergic to all things bourgeois-bohème. Opened in 2014, the third neo-bistro by Charles Compagnon after L'Office and Le Richer is a hidden gem in an authentic but rapidly-gentrifying working-class neighbourhood of kebab shops and grocers. What's not to love: Dainty A+ plating, a succinct menu that changes regularly, no stuffy service and dessert that is never cloyingly sweet. Go early. Kitchens open at 7pm and you should have no problem securing a table before 8pm. You are welcome.
52, rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010 Paris
I'm going to have to admit that I've never stepped foot inside Yves Camdeborde's much-acclaimed Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain. What started as a reasonably-priced wine bar for customers to while away time as they wait for a table became a destination itself, evident in the fact that Camdeborde has since opened L'Avant Comptoir de la Mer next door (for seafood fans) and L'Avant Comptoir du Marché (still pork-focused but more spacious) a few minutes' walk away. Think winning combination of unpretentious Basque-Bearnais small plates, natural wines and the Japanese tachinomiya standing-only formula. Behind the PVC strip curtains, diners huddle in spirited conversation under the menu — a sea of flash cards hung from the ceiling. Must-orders at the respective Avant Comptoirs: Sautéed pig ears, fish ceviche, sautéed squid tagliatelle and a shot of warm pig's blood if you are feeling adventurous. Open all day so, if you can, go outside of peak hours. Oh, and don't forget to help yourself to the communal butter or pork lard, a delight on their rustic crusty bread.
L'Avant Comptoir de la Terre, 5, carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006 Paris
About Wee Ling Soh
After six years in the world of tax consulting, Wee Ling is currently on a career break, dabbling in freelance writing and parenting her half-French firstborn. In her free time, she obsesses over a minimalist wardrobe, the dismal state of street food in Paris and also runs les objets communs, an online shop curating a modest selection of well-designed everyday objects with a history from France.
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