I find it quite hard to be a righteous eater in Paris. Raph has a habit of skipping down to the patisserie while I’m still rubbing my eyes and returning to the apartment, triumphant and breathless, with a warm paper swaddling of freshly baked, butter-laden delicacies. On day one Raph’s selection comprised of croissants fresh from the oven, dense pains au chocolat and shimmering pains au raisin (may I note that there were four of us sharing the apartment). While the boys tucked in gleefully, I scoffed less gleefully and more guiltily – silly really I should have just enjoyed it. After this intense carb hit and three cups of coffee we brisked down Rue de Belleville from our beautiful apartment in the 20th to canal st martin in the 10th to meet Eliza for a cold orangina and a crossword in the sun. Thoughts inevitably turned back to food and a pique nique in parc des buttes chaumont seemed perfect for a lazy, sunny May Day – so on to the supermarché where we all grabbed a basket and let loose. I love the decadence of French supermarkets, even the small ones have a minimum of 50 cheeses, 3 types of baguette, a sweet for every tooth – it’s very hard to be restrained. I rarely buy pre-prepared salads in England but I’m particularly keen on these spicy moroccan carrots you can buy ready-made in France – the carrots are sweet and perfectly al denté and the balance of spices is spot on. I insisted on buying a bag of roquette to add some much-needed greenery to proceedings. However, the comté and charcuterie proved far more popular.
As we were all feeling the sharp pinch of the exchange rate we cooked up a few storms at ours rather than eating out every night. On the first night, though, our wallets were still plump, so after beers by the canal we cycled in convoy with Ori’s scooter to Chez Janette. I love this place but on this occasion the chef was on holiday with the rest of Paris. A tiny dish of unseasoned and overcooked broccoli, topped with two slices of camembert barely melted in a tepid oven tried to pass itself off as an €8 ‘Vegetable Gratin’. The tender, juicy steak that followed almost made up for it. Don’t let this put you off, though – they were having an off night but this place is still a favourite. You can get a table anytime, or order a plate of cheese to eat at the bar if you like, or you can forget the food altogether and join the jubilant smokers outside to quaff carafes into the early hours. On the last night we descended on humble Parisian haunt Café de L’industrie in the Bastille – a huge bustling and somehow cosy restaurant with casual friendly waitresses and simple, cheap, delicious French food. My starter of smoked Herring with new potatoes was perfect – I think the potatoes were dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice and finely chopped dill but perhaps there was another component because I mopped the plate to within an inch of its life.
As everyone knows, Paris is a foodie’s paradise and there are hundreds of great restaurants but I am often more excited by what you can buy from the local shops and take home for lunch. The salad ingredients available at every greengrocers put us to shame: huge heads of crisp red and green lettuce – not an iceberg in sight, giant bunches of radishes and bulbous spring onions, baskets of bright ripe avocados and anything else you could want. Apart from the roquette, I would never consider buying bagged salad in France – there’s no need. I’ve come back feeling inspired to seek out better produce and with an insatiable craving for croissants.