In Paris, the brasserie isn’t just somewhere to grab a bite, it’s a veritable institution: a place to talk philosophy with friends, enjoy a tryst with a lover or sit and observe the ebb and flow of urban life. The best are bustling, with sharp service, traditional salons, great stories of patrons past and present, plus a solid menu of French classics. Within the selection in our guide you’ll find theatre, history, fabulous interiors, Michelin-starred cooking and some animal parts you may never have tried before.
Not just quintessentially Parisian with its wood panelling and red-velvet seats, but the only bistro in town with a Michelin star. Founded in 1912, Benoit was a family business until it was sold to superstar chef Alain Ducasse in 2005. This is classic French cooking brought into the 21st century, and the place to come if you’re bold enough to try calf’s head or cockscomb.
The restaurant that never shuts – literally: it’s open 24/7. A place of pilgrimage for carnivores, this mirrored salon by Les Halles is a great place to indulge in huge racks of ribs and succulent steaks, though the extensive oyster menu and lobster straight from the tank are also a draw. As the name suggests, pigs’ trotters, snouts and tails are a speciality.
The exquisite Art Nouveau interior steals the show with its decorative sea-green plasterwork, painted panels, mahogany bar, floral tiled floor and glorious stained-glass ceiling. No wonder it was the place of choice for Edith Piaf and her lover. In contrast to this extravagance, the menu prides itself on affordability, with all mains, such as the house bouillon, under €15.
Alsace dishes dominate at Paris’s oldest brasserie (opened in 1864), an elegant Belle Époque affair not far from La Bastille. Some go for the heaps of tangy sauerkraut, or Alsatian flammekueche. Others for the seafood platters – the display of crustaceans and oysters by the entrance will have you salivating well before you’ve reached your table.
How better to pass the time while waiting for your Eurostar than at Terminus Nord, just opposite its namesake? All the usual suspects are here: onion soup, steak-frites, crêpes Suzette… The interior and menu may look old school, but there’s a lightness and freshness to the presentation that lends a more contemporary vibe. Grab a seat outside on the terrace to chill.
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