Everything you need to know about eating in Paris

PLUS a recipe for cheesy aligot mash + French offal in Australia

A Bite-Sized Summary:

  • Sincerely, Sofia: what I really think about Paris

  • Eatinerary: a less obvious 48 hours in Paris (mostly eating)

  • Recipe: the perfect aligot recipe for cheesy, stretchy mash

  • Guide: go to town in Belleville, Paris’ tastiest neighbourhood

  • Essential: 3 charming Paris bistros with soul

  • Hot List: 5 food tidbits to inspire, desire and acquire

  • Revisit: access past newsletters here

Salut! I have an iPhone full of photos, notes and maps of Paris after travelling there last year. It’s been a delight to revisit it all while writing this comprehensive eating guide, not to mention good timing — everyone seems to be en route to Europe or gearing up for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

But allow me to voice an unpopular opinion: Paris ain’t my favourite food city. In fact I had more disappointing meals over a week there than I have eaten in a long time, largely off the back of dining at recommended “hot new restaurants”. I endured overcooked and under-seasoned dishes, lazy “brasserie” meals that took advantage of eager tourists, faulty kombucha-wine poured by disengaged staff — you get my drift.

I felt the melancholic dejection of cumulative wasted meals. But it didn’t last long; I doubled down on the classics and looked beyond French cuisine. The result was what I had originally hoped for: enough heartfelt food to last a holiday. Consider my trial and error your gain! I hope you bookmark this French Dispatch for future travels and current inspiration; cook the aligot for people you adore; and find something on the French Hot List to read, watch and indulge in. Bon appétit!

Sincerely, Sofia x

EATINERARY: A Less Obvious 48h in Paris

If you are searching for a guide to Paris that includes the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, you’re in the wrong place. This two-day itinerary will show you the real Paris, from classic French bistros and a multicultural neighbourhood food crawl; to abandoned railway walks, street art and lesser-known points of interest.

RECIPE: Aligot (Cheesy, Stretchy Mash)

Introducing aligot, the Rolls-Royce of mashed potato. And honestly, that analogy doesn’t do it justice. Aligot hails from the Aubrac region of Auvergne in south-central France and is the ultimate comfort food during these cooler months — actually, it’s the perfect comfort food, period. Here’s an easy recipe with some invaluable tips. You’ll never look at mash the same way again.

GUIDE: Belleville, Paris’ Tastiest ‘Hood

If we judge Paris’ culinary worth on flavour and diversity instead of Michelin Stars, then Belleville is its most appetising neighbourhood. The quartier’s cuisines spread from Africa to Asia, while in amongst it all, bourgeois-bohèmes (known colloquially as “bobos”) swirl natural wine at the bar of gentrification. Here’s where to eat in Belleville, just 15 minutes from central Paris via Metro.

ESSENTIAL: 3 Classic Paris Bistros
(that won’t disappoint)

There’s an undeniable hunger to dine at traditional French restaurants when visiting Paris. We crave well-preserved bistros that ladle someone else’s tradition upon us, steeping us in a warm glow that feels like we haven’t just dined in Paris, but experienced it. Paradoxically, this shared desire can lead to a loss of authenticity when classic restaurants become “places tourists go”. Here are three restaurants that won’t let you down.

HOT LIST: tidbits to inspire, desire & acquire

I’m obsessed with… Parisian plates. If you can’t make it to a French bistro, be the French bistro. Start at the table with Paris-inspired plates. You can take the classic route with an extremely affordable red-rimmed retro set of 12 from a hospitality supplier; a simple but modern collection of green-rimmed “Bon Appetit” plates from In The Roundhouse, or a more cutesy Paris collection that hits all the red, white and blue cliches from No. 22 Home.

I’m craving… French offal dishes. And no, that doesn’t include chicken liver parfait. Some of the best food I ate in Paris was lovingly-prepared offal, and though it’s tricky to find in Australia, it does exist. When you order 48 hours ahead at Hubert in Sydney, you can indulge in pied de cochon, stuffed pig's trotter with chicken mousse and sweetbreads that serves four to six people. Lighter options in the city include Loulou's veal tongue croquettes and specials at Chez Crix (above the Cricketers Arms Hotel), such as beef tongue brined in master stock with Jerusalem artichoke and ginger. In Melbourne, Bistro Thierry and France-Soir have cervelles d'agneau (crumbed lamb's brains) on their menus, while the latter goes one step further with tripe cooked in tomato and riesling until tender. Bistro Gitan also has has chicken liver piccata with pappardelle.

I’m pre-ordering… The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl. According to Nigella Lawson, “No one writes about food like Ruth Reichl... I consider her essential nourishment.” Ruth spent 20 years as a food critic, mainly at the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. She was also editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and has written cookbooks, memoirs and novels. This is her most recent about a woman called Stella who is left with a one-way plane ticket to Paris when her estranged mother dies. It’s an adventure through food, art and fashion in 1980s Paris, and a celebration of what can happen when you take a chance. Released in Australia at the end of July.

I’m watching… The Taste of Things (2023). This French film, which is currently in Australian cinemas, is one of the better food movies I’ve seen for some time. It features lengthy cooking scenes that border ASMR in their effect, thanks to heightened sounds and a total absence of music. This is decadent, sensual food porn at its finest. It doesn’t matter that the romantic story is a little slow; this one is all about a love of – and dedication to – cooking and cuisine. Make sure you have a dinner booking at French restaurant afterwards, otherwise you’ll be looking up spots last minute during the film like me!

I’m coveting… French scratch-and-sniff postage stamps. If anyone reads this before a visit to France, don't send me a postcard from your travels, pick me up some of these special-edition stamps instead! Around 600,000 scratch-and-sniff baguette stamps have been issued by La Poste. They have a "bakery scent" and cost €1.96... in other words, almost twice as much as an actual baguette.

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