In this world, the 11th arrondissement of Paris is among my favourite corners. Although I keep going back several times a year, there is always something new to discover, as well as old gastronomic loves that make me happy time and time again. If you love to enjoy affordable food and exciting wines in relaxed ambiances, I’m sure you will find some favourites from the places I have listed here…
Cosy and cheerful wine bistro Au Passage is located on a dull-looking back alley where you would never expect to find such a pearl of a restaurant. But that’s the best thing in Paris: discovering fascinating tiny gems here and there.
I love Au Passage especially for its petits plats. Fish and meat are of always excellent quality and prepared with love (try pigeon or sardines, for example). And what’s best; their delicious and simple, delightfully priced food is accompanied by exceptionally hearty service. A big chapeau to that supernice bald guy whose name I have unfortunately forgotten.
While living in Paris last summer, I visited Au Passage every week. Its unpretentious atmosphere, antiquated surfaces and well-chosen background music always create a homey feeling. So homey that you never feel alone when nibbling this and that at the bar desk. As the place is very popular, book a table a few days before to make sure to fit in.
So if you are up to vivid atmosphere and beautifully worn-out surroundings, I bet you will fall in love with Au Passage. At least I have never eaten a tasteless or sloppily displayed dish here. And after the dinner there is nothing better than stepping across Boulevard Beaumarchais and taking a night walk on the streets of beautiful Marais district as a digestive.
1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien. Mon-Sat 19–01:30. Metro: Richard Lenoir (line 5) / Filles du Calvaire (line 8).
Even though I visit Paris 4 to 5 times a year and always try something new, there are certain places from where wild horses couldn’t keep me away. In the halfway of pulsating Rue de Charonne (one of the best streets for evening socialising) Clamato is one of them. Ever since my first Sunday lunch in July 2014, I have been a big fan of these superbly fresh, colourful and exciting seafood dishes.
Being a part of the Septime restaurant family, Clamato is hugely popular, but I have always fitted in by arriving early (of course it’s easier for just one person than a group of four). This address is perfect for a relaxed, not-too-heavy dinner, although my favourite time is Sunday when Clamato serves you nonstop from the noon onwards. So go a few minutes before the noon and enjoy the beautiful light of the space while letting the young and good-looking staff take good care of you.
Also tuna tataki with strawberries and red bell pepper is one of my favourite choices. Or if you favour something heavier, order a traditional newspaper-wrapped fish’n’chips portion… and finish with a real classic: tartelette with walnut syrup and thick, creamy chantilly sauce.
80 Rue de Charonne. Wed-Fri 19–23, Sat & Sun 12–23. Metro: Ledru-Rollin (line 8) / Charonne (line 9).
Let’s be honest: in Paris pizza is never the first thing in your mind. But sometimes there are days when charcuterie or sturdy salad is not enough. Days when you want something hearty, fluffy and easy to eat. Before I found Louie Louie (opened in November 2015), I had never ordered a whole pizza in Paris. But this charming place behind the bright blue facade on Rue de Charonne immediately won my heart…
The pizzas come mostly in classic flavours, but Louie Louie also makes an effort in creating new combinations. I especially loved albacore tuna with gremolata (that classic Italian mix of lemon zest, garlic and parsley), red onions and red peppers.
The best thing is that Louie Louie is not an ordinary ‘classic’ pizzeria where you eat well but digest your pizza with just something in your glass. No, their short wine list is intriguing. Last time I ended up trying an old-vine organic orange wine from Emilie Denavolo with the pizza described above… and the combination just rocked.
Another great thing is that Louie Louie is open seven days a week – also in August when many good Parisian restaurants close for holidays.
When the weather is summery, these delicious pizzas can also be taken away. Yet I still prefer to enjoy them inside; in comfortably noisy, warmly lit and minimalistically decorated Louie Louie.
78 Rue de Charonne. Every day 12–14:30 and 19–23:30. Metro: Ledru-Rollin (line 8) / Charonne (line 9).
SEPTIME LA CAVE
Another member of the Septime family, lilliputian Septime La Cave is a must-go if you are looking for delicious natural wines (approx. 150 various labels available) and packed feeling among the locals. This candle-lit wine bar & wine shop behind a robust wooden facade is a great meeting point with friends, as well as a place to admire stylish, relaxed parisiens and parisiennes.
Septime La Cave is so tiny that you often end up standing. I don’t mind; it gives you a better general view of what’s going on. The plates are small but tasty, so better grab some friends along and go through the whole menu. Also natural wine lovers tend to look content here since Septime La Cave has a lot to offer, especially for fans of recently passed away orange wine pioneer Stanko Radikon.
I love this place most on ice-cold winter evenings when it’s packed with people, great music and warmth. On summer nights it easily gets sauna hot inside. Sometimes I feel it’s a pity that Septime La Cave closes already at 11pm. Be smart and bear this in mind – not only once have I arrived too late.
3 Rue Basfroi. Every day from 16 to 23. Metro: Ledru-Rollin (line 8) / Charonne (line 9).
At the southern tip of the 11ème, on short and peaceful Rue Paul Bert, a wine-loving foodie has a lot to choose from. Arousing attention with changing young chefs, innovative cuisine and environment-conscious attitude, Le 6 Paul Bert is a place my chef friends talk about, whereas La Cave du Paul Bert is a renowned natural wine boutique of fabulous selection, serving small plates to go with your apéro.
But for a genuine Parisian bistro experience, I definitely suggest you pop into Le Bistrot Paul Bert. This restaurant serves delightful food while making you drool over its amazingly comprehensive wine list.
The service is lovely in a traditional way, very much attentive to detail. Even though tourists have also found this place, to me Paul Bert seems to be favoured by many locals. This is a place where you can find a whole clan including chic grandparents eating together.
Last time it was mid-August so we opted for light, savoury summer dishes. But this is truly a place where you should go if you feel like eating a massive classic boeuf of the best kind.
About wine then? Whether it’s a nice vigneron champagne you are looking for or a true grande marque vintage (such as Salon, Dom Pérignon or Bollinger’s R.D. or VVF), at Paul Bert you find all of them. Their prices are slightly higher than in other Parisian wine spots I favour, but next time I definitely want to opt for a looooong dinner at Paul Bert with some Vouette-Sorbée, Franck Pascal or Vincent Laval.
And yes: Paul Bert’s red & white wine list is a stunner! Just because of my crazy infatuation for champagne, in this blog I mostly concentrate making remarks on that.
18 Rue Paul Bert. Tue-Sat 12–14 and 19:30–23. Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny (line 8) / Rue des Boulets (line 9).
LE PETIT KELLER
One of my latest Paris discoveries is located on a tiny cross street between Charonne and Roquette. As I step into Le Petit Keller on a cold and windy late October morning, Billie Holiday’s adorably moaning voice welcomes me – and I feel like home the moment I lay my bag on one of the wooden chairs. It is still early, but the texture of café au lait and the simple toast with piquant rhubarb jam convince me so that I decide to come back for a lunch.
The atmosphere is ravishing. An elderly lady wearing lilac is sipping her morning coffee at the bar desk while reading to her old dog. And the contrast between twinpeaksy squared floor and bright green tables delights the eye – let alone the background music that seems to be among the best in Paris.
As I return to Le Petit Keller later in the afternoon, the place is completely different. Buzzing with people. Loyal to my habits, I start with saucisson (which is excellent here) and simple Oriental eggs (see the opening picture of this post).
I feel slightly sorry for myself that there is no company with me, since Le Petit Keller has quite many lovely natural wines, such as several Cornelissens, on their list. But on the other hand: it leaves more thirst for the next time, right?
Oh yes, and before I forget… that morning jam! I ask about it, and it turns out they buy it from a nice epicerie & fruit shop next door. So after my lunch I pop in to take a closer look. Unfortunately the rhubarb thing is momentarily sold out, but I purchase other fascinating-sounding jams to take home and some superfresh fruit to eat in the park nearby. Perfect little spot for buying delicatessen souvenirs!
13 Rue Keller. Thu-Fri 8:30–22:30 (breakfast service 8:30–10:30 / lunch 12:15–15 / dinner 20–22:30) , Sat 10–23. Metro: Bastille (line 1) / Ledru-Rollin (line 8) / Voltaire (line 9).
The 11th arrondissement is so full of great wine places that I shall leave the rest for part II (and perhaps III). But to conclude this part, I would like to present a relatively new small cave where I found myself several times last summer. As an entrepreneur I love stories about women who set up their own business. Especially when it’s about wine. Mireille Langlois‘s Delicatessen Cave is one of them.
Local people come in to buy wine for dinner, some stay for a glass. It is lovely to cuddle on those silvery chairs and observe people on the street. And if you like oysters, pop in on Saturday or Sunday when Delicatessen Cave organises oyster tastings!
136 Rue Amelot. Tue-Fri 11–13 and 17–21, Sat 12–21, Sun 12–20. Metro: Oberkampf (lines 5 and 9) / Filles du Calvaire (line 8).