Where are these eateries?: Paris, France
Paris was first settled around 4200BC by the Celtic Gauls known as Parisii, which possibly meant “the craftsmen”… kinda appropriate as even now, artists and intellectuals flock there. After it was conquered by the Romans in 52 BC my next favourite Paris-related fact skips through to the 1700s when the thought leadership of philosopher Voltaire (who was heavily influenced by physicist Isaac Newton during Voltaire’s exile to England) led in a roundabout way to the city’s most famous nickname “La Ville-Lumière” (City of Light).
This title stems from Paris’ fame as a centre of education and its role in idea generation during the Age of Enlightenment, a movement that spawned societal reforms, promoted science and even created encyclopedias… plus opposed church and state superpowers, intolerance and superstition in general. Fck yeah.
What to eat in Paris?: Salted Butter
Really, throughout the whole of France you could just live on baguettes and salted butter. I thought “bread and butter” would be amazing in Italy (based on my extensive experience of traditional Italian cuisine at Fasta Pasta as a child). I didn’t expect to enjoy it at all in France and was just hanging out for Italy. But after my first taste of Brittany butter on a fresh baguette i was *sold*.
Tourists are repeatedly told that in Brittany the ocean saltwater washes over the grass, and in places the grass is only watered by seaspray… so the grass the cows eat is salty and the butter doesn’t need additional salt.
You can also get seaweed butter from Brittany. It’s very delicious and comes with complementary greenery in it so we can all pretend it has a negative calorie count!
Where else to eat in Paris?: Everything at Tugalik
4 Rue Toullier 75005 Paris 0182287787
If you can only afford to eat “out” once in France, or even if you’re choosing your last meal on earth, this place comes with my highest recommendation… i tried 5 different dishes, took additional takeaway, coveted my neighbour(ing table)’s food and *still* dream about the menu (learning more French each dream).
Tugalik is touted as mostly vegetarian and entirely “biologique” which practically means organic in Aus-speak, but based on the taste sensations i’d be willing to bet the rumours that these food stuffs are talked-to when planted, have had songs sung to them during growth, have only been watered with familiar human bathwater, and were picked with love at the perfect time of their life cycle = surely all true.
Also eat at: Chez Francis, Paris, France
7, place de l’Alma – 75008
Chez Francis is a very cute traditional French restaurant with an outlook over the Eiffel tower – i’ll give this authentic Parisian brasserie an extra special mention for location and ambience, although the food didn’t stand out enough for me to remember to photograph it (which is not insulting at all, since there was a large distracting piece of scrap metal right outside the window… and every morsel I ate throughout France was so delectable, truly great meals became almost commonplace) plus i was almost too excited to eat as we were heading to see the Moulin Rouge, drive through Montmartre at night and watch a show at Crazy Horse straight after dinner (also very highly recommended!)
How to break the bank in Paris?: Le Cinq at the Four Seasons 31 Avenue George V 75008 Paris, France
I didn’t understand (or appreciate) the gravity of having dinner at Double Michelin starred “Le Cinq” [le sank] until I was half way down the red carpeted, fresh floral arched entryway, flanked by attentive but unobtrusive, strangely uniformed staff. Somehow without my notice or care, my umbrella and jacket had been whisked away to a magical invisible storage place. At some stage between goggling at the Arabian prince and princess dripping in brand names and 24 carat gold, surrounded by their own brigade of servants “from home”… and noticing that a golden gilded stand had been produced from nowhere for my handbag, i realised this place was kind of a big deal.
Everytime i’ve seen the website, the Le Cinq menu has changed but i have to say that every bite of food and sip of wine was spectacular.
Worth a splurge for a celebration or special occasion.
Where is there deliciousness down South?:
Possibly the oldest human settlement in Europe and home to some of the earliest domesticators of fire, Nice was originally named after Nike the goddess of victory by the resident Greeks in 350 BC. If you meander down the Promenade des Anglais (‘Walkway of the English’ named for holidaying aristocrats) toward the Italian border, past the Port and up the hill, you’ll reach the Cimiez suburb of Nice where you can visit Roman ruins including an arena, amphitheatre, thermal baths and a paleochristian basilica (early believers of Christ from the time after Jesus died, but before the Council of Nicaea).
“Ownership” of Nice changed hands many times throughout history, staying mostly Italian throughout the Middle Ages and even until as late as 1860. Nice usually enjoys the Mediterranean weather patterns… except when i was there this February = it was actually snowing!
Here’s my little video of the Nice promenade and snowcapped mountains:
What is delicious in Nice?: Kir and Pizza at L’F
(The F) 6 Place Charles Felix Nice 06300 France
This Italian style restaurant had the potential to be my first cheesy carb overload on holiday but it turned out that I barely touched the pizza at dinner as my body hadn’t yet adjusted to the timezone. My first ever Kir was delicious though = blackcurrant liqueur with wine, soon followed by a Kir Royal (topped with champagne instead of vino). When finally hungry around 3am I decided to indulge in leftover pizza and it was even tastier cold than hot – surely the sign of a great pizza.
I also discovered a love proclamation beneath the slices. #win
What else is good in Nice?: Penne with Zucchini Crisp (Courgettes Croquantes) at Le Nautique
20 Quai Lunel 06300 Nice
We meant to head to the best vegetarian restaurant in Nice (La Zuca Magica) but it was closed due to the unexpected snow, so we looked at the menus of a few more venues before choosing the inviting warmth of this charming ship themed restaurant. I chose a pasta as the choices were easier to translate/guess (this was only my second day in a foreign speaking country… ever). With cherry tomato and basil with crispy zucchini this dish was nom. The organic wine was amazeballs too – the best bit about locally, traditionally produced wine in this region is *not* awaking with asthma, a furry mouth or headache the next day.
Where else do I dine in Southern France?: Montpellier
Known as the Paris of the South, and with the oldest university in the world (established 1160CE) Montpellier is worth visiting just for its architecture. Many buildings in the historic centre have medieval origins, plus there are 12th century ritual Jewish baths called Mikve (one of very few in Europe). The Saint Clement Aqueduct although “only” built in the 18th century is spectacular to see too, especially at night. Was very tempted to scale it and run along the top of the aqueduct but didn’t want to get arrested.
What to try: Snails, aka Escargot
It was here that i was brave enough to try Escargot. They tasted good (perhaps even delicious) and i survived a bite or two, but my psychosomatic supersenses are too strong and i couldn’t get past the earth flavour and visions it conjured.
I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant or chef right now sorry 😦 I’ll have to get back to you on that.