The Hippest Hood in Paris
Since Amélie skimmed a stone across Canal Saint Martin in the 2001 hit movie, this former working class ‘hood in Paris’s 10th arrondissement has seen its warehouses transformed into thumping music venues and its grimy cafés remodelled as hipster haunts. night, revelers hit the atmospherically-lit bars and by day, couples stroll the industrial contours of this ancient waterway under a canopy of plane trees. We asked Paris resident Hannah Westley for the lowdown on the area’s hottest spots.
Le Comptoir Général
This brilliantly conceived lounge bar/restaurant is one of the canal’s hottest spots and if you turn up on a Friday or Saturday night you can expect a long wait in an impatient line. But hang in there: this self-styled ‘ghetto museum’ has more than an eyeful of surprises on offer. Created as a tribute to marginalized communities (in particular African cultures), decor is colonial-inspired shabby chic across two spacious rooms, with an adjoining green space. Upstairs is a book and vintage clothing store. By day, the bar screens movies, hosts concerts, events and story-telling sessions for kids; by night it's a stylish hangout for ‘bobos’ (Paris’s bohemian bourgeois) who come to eat, drink and revel.
Du Pain et des Idées
This beautifully restored bakery dates to 1870 and the premise’s current owner, celebrated boulanger and winner of Paris' Best Baker title, Christophe Vasseur, is conscious of keeping traditional values alive. Opened in 2002, the boulangerie is renowned for the excellence of its stone-baked signature bread, le pain des amis, and the inventiveness of its patisserie, from the rosewater or matcha green tea croissants to the cocoa, walnut and cranberry loaf.
Chef Philippe Damas (Philou) has won a passionate following for the simplicity, freshness and fineness of his cuisine. It's the neighborhood's best example of ‘bistronomie’: a trend that marries the conviviality of the traditional French bistro with authentic and refined dishes. The dining room is centered on a horseshoe-shaped bar, bright red banquettes contrast with the blackboard walls chalked up with the day’s offerings, while the lighting, Ingo Maurer’s hanging sheets of poetry, serves to sharpen the focus on the food: from pigeon roti, rognon de veau and onglet de boeuf to a variety of fish dishes. The heated terrace fears not the winter chill, nor does the excellent wine list, which is both organic and affordable.
Le Point Ephémère
Bar, cinema, gallery space, restaurant and concert venue, the Point Ephémère is the arty boho hangout for summer afternoons on a sprawling terrace with your toes in the water. Hipsters flock here for its excellent concert program, evenings of theatre and dance and an animated bar that serves unpretentious food. The artists’ studios, dance and music rehearsal rooms make this one-time warehouse a creative hub.
Le Brunch de l’Echappée
The Zen-like nature of this loft restaurant reflects the chilled-out well-being of its clients, many of whom are regulars of the establishment’s spa, hamam and massage parlor on the ground floor. Sunday brunches complement this wholesome spirit with a line-up of zesty fresh juices (orange and carrot), dishes that favor organic veg, inventive salads and savoury tarts. And for those who still need to sin a little, there’s a tempting selection of voluptuous cakes.
Jours de Fête
From the cavernous to the coziest canal hangout, this tiny restaurant (just 30 covers), is one of the neighborhood’s best-kept secrets. From its handcrafted facade to its inspired and eclectic decor (red walls, piano bar, curio cabinet and floor-to-ceiling vinyl records) the freshness of its decoration is reflected in the daily menu. With a list of mouth-watering tapas (salade de poulpe, gambas sautées à l’ail) and choice Spanish hams, the plats du jour are traditionally French. Chef Antoine Chardin favors the rich creamy dishes of his native Normandy with a contemporary lightness of touch, using fresh seasonal ingredients.
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