Where To Find Oysters in Paris

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This blog post comes to you today from the corner of my bed. I’ve just spent a very uncomfortable night curled up on precisely one sixth of the normally available bed space.

Three rooms of Burnt Cream HQ are being repainted this weekend, which means that everything has had to find a new home. I was sharing my bed with the coats from the hallway, cushions from the sofa and a couple of picture frames that were sticking into my lower back. I had naively thought that the other adjoining rooms would avoid the fate of suffocation by paint dust because the decorator would just close the door…. but it turns out that said door met its match because it is currently sitting in the naughty corner of the other room, wondering where its hinges went.

All this is making me work on a new dimension of French lexicon. The most useful word has been the verb écailler, which I knew before in the context of “écailler le poisson” (“to scale the fish”) but it loosely means to take off and can be applied to all manner of things. In particular, this past weekend I’ve found myself having to say “l’humidité écaillait la peinture” (“the damp was causing the paintwork to come off”) quite a lot. In its reflexive form s’écailler it means to flake or peel off. I’ve heard it being used to refer to chapped lips or dry skin, which is also pretty useful to know around this time of year…

The main reason, however, why you should know this verb is because it also means to shuck an oyster – écailler une huitre. And an écailleur is therefore somebody who opens the oysters. Yes, the French even have a word for that.

Here are my top five recommendations for eating oysters in Paris this season:

Huiterie Regis

3 rue Montfaucon, 75006

Sleek and chic, by the Saint Germain market. Only 14 covers, no reservations. Prices start around 18 euros for a dozen but can go to 60 euros for a dozen Belons. Very nice wines. Menu limited almost entirely to bivalves. Also do take away.

Le Mary Celeste

1 rue Commines, 75003

Oysters are not just for the rich and snooty, the Mary Celeste attracts a young (and largely English speaking) clientele. Perch at the bar, sup a cocktail or some Brooklyn beer and knock back the oysters. Varied menu of small dishes. Cocktails, wine and craft beer. Very on-trend right now. (Psst! Try Clamato too.)

L’Écume Saint Honore

6 rue du Marche Saint Honore, 75001

A fishmonger-come-restaurant. A little kitsch but you’ll have a memorable experience. Well positionned between the Louvre, Vendome and the chichi shopping streets. Can quickly do some damage to the wallet.

Le Baron Rouge

1 rue Theophile Roussel, 75012

Rather chaotic and crazy, but at the Baron Rouge, the wine just keeps flowing. Convivial atmosphere. Reasonably priced oysters to be eaten on the hoof. Le Baron Rouge is the most talked-about, but you’ll probably find a similar kind of wine bar with a pop-up oyster seller in most arrondissements at this time of the year. A very good neighbourhood option.

L’Ecailler du Bistrot

22 rue Paul Bert, 75011

Traditional French seafood restaurant. Old school, but in the positive sense. Great natural wine list. Treat yourself to a slap-up meal. Reserve a couple of days before to be sure of getting a table.

Alternatively, you’ll see loads of sellers popping up on the pavements of Paris during the winter months. It will typically set you back between 10 and 15 euros for a dozen so it’s a more affordable option than going to any of the above or getting a seafood platter in a traditional turn-of-the-century brasserie (such as those around Montparnasse, for example.) Pop a bottle of bone dry Sancerre or more rounded Muscadet-Sevre-et-Maine (the traditional accompaniment) in the fridge but you can also try with Champagne or any other kind of dry bubbles. I had a really good Vouvray Brut NM from the Domaine Champalou yesterday at La Derniere Goutte which would be perfect.

Oh, and don’t forget, you should also try to écailler those oysters yourself!

Cuistance, 75001

RESTAURANT NOW CLOSED!

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Cuistance is a new, contemporary restaurant in the 1st arrondissement, a refreshing chance, and somewhere that I reckon would be a great place to go on a date.

Head Chef Henri-Serge Manga has served his time in Michelin-starred restaurants (e.g. Heston Blumenthal’s 3* Fat Duck, in Bray, UK) and it shows. Beautiful dishes come out of that kitchen – dancing a fine line between Asian and European cuisine.

The lights are dim, the service is relaxed, the concept of sharing lots of little plates is great for breaking barriers / getting close / comfort zone.

There’s a beautiful juxtaposition between the old-fashioned Chesterfield, the white tiled walls of a diner and the French-bistro chairs.

The wine list is interesting and reasonably priced, but depending on how hungry you are and how carried away you get when ordering, the final bill might hurt your wallet a little… Count on between 10 and 15 euros for starter-sized dishes, of which you’ll probably need four or five for two people.


Essential Information

Address14 rue Sauval, 75001
Telephone: 01 40 41 08 08
Website: CuistanceFacebook
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday and Monday. Chauffeur service in the evenings.
Reservations: definitely recommended – several days in advance.  
Suggested footwear: go big or go home, with some statement heels. 

 
N.B. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was invited to check out this restaurant.

Willi’s Wine Bar, 75001

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Willie’s Wine Bar is a Parigot institution.

Homely haunt of British expats in the city of lights since 1980, it’s has become a true classic. Classic French cuisine, classic French service… the only thing that’s not classic is the lengthy wine list.

Mark Williamson founded his bar-restaurant over thirty years ago and you maybe inclined to assume that the name was somehow chosen because of his surname… however, he will be quick to correct you, explaining that Willi was actually his Swinging Basset Hound in the late 70s/early 80s.

I digress.

One Saturday not so long ago, around midday, I happened to be wandering around the 1st arrondissement. True to form – as befits my rather epicurean lifestyle – I was a little tiddly having unwisely decided to replace breakfast with several gin and tonics… (a little discretion on this point if the subject ever comes up in my mother’s presence would be much appreciated!) My partner-in-crime had forgotten that Verjus don’t do their fried chicken sandwiches on weekends so I stepped in and decided to lead him just around the corner to Willi’s.

We had asparagus, foie gras, a deliciously tender Charolais steak and the terrine de chocolat. The food was well cooked, well seasoned, and washed down with some of the best wines France has to offer. Our meal, considering that we’d chosen the 36€ menu, quickly came to 50€pp but as a little piece of advice: the mid-week lunch menu, if you sit at the zinc, is exceptionnally good value and definitely to be recommended.

One for the little black book.

 


Essential Information

Address: 13, rue des Petits-Champs, 75001
Telephone: 01 42 61 05 09
WebsiteWilli’s Wine Bar
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays. 
Reservations: advisable. 
Suggested footwear: kitten heels would be perfect. 

 

The Beef Club, 75001

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With almost 13,000 restaurants in Paris, it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that it can be rather difficult to know which one to pick…

Most visitors have either done their homework in advance (reading blogs such as this one!) or they just happen across one that is in their neighbourhood. Before I knew Paris well, I stumbled across restaurants that now I consider so touristy that I can’t even believe that I once stepped foot into nowadays. It’s true, I confess, I’ve become a total food snob. In fact, I recently realised that I only go to restaurants, that I have heard of before, that people have recommended, or ideally, where I know the owner, manager or barman. Admittedly, this rather limits the fun in trying somewhere completely unknown, but it does considerably lower the risk of being disappointed.

Tout ça pour dire…  I’m finally getting to the point of this post…

Belonging to the Experimental Cocktail Group, The Beef Club is one of my favourite restaurants and if anyone ever asks me where to go for a good steak whilst in Paris, this is sure to be on the tip of my hungry tongue.

It’s not complicated fussy cooking. It’s good, honest, simple stuff that they do exceptionnally well. The meat comes from Yorkshire farmer, Tim Wilson, in the UK and is then matured for another 30 days in the basement kitchens of the Beef Club, following the advice of expert French butcher, Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec. I think there may still be the traces of some drool on the floor from when I was given my tour of the kitchens! Huge chunks of animal hanging up, all at different stages of aging – it really is something very special.

Everything at the Beef Club, from the wine list and the service, to the side dishes and the meat itself, was faultless. In fact, the only negative I have of this dining experience was the fact that we rather over-ordered and consequently somewhat struggled to finish the main course. Pudding was absolutely hors de question! (and that rarely ever happens where I’m concerned!!)

With your entry level cut of meat starting at 25€, the fillet at around 35-40€ and the côte de boeuf for two people at 90€, it’s also a little above my every day budget by the time you add on the wine and the extras, but it’s definitely worth it once in a while. Side dishes range from chips, spinach, salad, mac’n’cheese and you also have your pick of sauces to choose from.

Start your evening with a cocktail downstairs at the Ballroom, take your place at the table, get ready for a menu-long seduction but make sure your bed is not far away because you’re going to sleep like a baby afterwards!

P.S. If steak is not your thing, try the Fish Club right next door for ceviche and pisco sours. (UPDATE 2015: Fish Club now closed!!)


Essential Information

Address: 58 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, 75001
Telephone: 09 54 37 13 65
WebsiteThe Beef ClubFacebook
Opening Hours: All week from 7.45pm. Brunch on Sundays. 
Reservations: recommended – a couple of days in advance.  
Suggested footwear: knee-length brown suede boots

Le Garde Robe, 75017

“No One Knows You” by John McNulty and the Dimestore

Something a little folk-y seems to sum up this wine bar pretty well. It’s got a casual vibe but you get the feeling that they’d remember you if you go back next week and that it could quickly becoming your regular.

“No one knows you like I know you. No one knows you like I know you.” That refrain over and over again. That twangy guitar, rather reminiscent of the Eagles, continuously interjecting.

Let it be known that the Garde Robe specialises in natural wine – and the choice is limited to funky or funkier. If you’re not sure what you’d like, the bar staff are normally happy to serve you a small tasting portion to help you make up your mind.

Prop yourself up at the bar or settle yourself down at a table, either way, you won’t realise how fast the time is going. The menu is not extensive (think platters of cheeses, meats and country gratins) but then you can be sure that whatever you choose will be good old delicious warming food and it won’t break the bank.

Wines by the glass start at a very reasonable 3 euros during Happy Hour (from 18h30, I believe, but worth phoning in advance to check) but are generally capped at 5 or 6 euros even at full price.

Lunch or dinner, you can be sure the food will be fresh and tasty, the wines quirky and interesting and the service refreshingly friendly. And don’t forget to say hello if you see me propping up the bar!

Two locations in Paris – the “Rue de l’Arbre Sec” bar is marginally more touristy.

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Essential Information

Address4 Rue Bridaine, 75017 
Telephone01 44 90 05 04
Opening Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday. Open Saturday evening. Closed Saturday lunch and all-day Sunday.
 
Address: 41 Rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001
Telephone01 49 26 90 60
Opening Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
 
Reservations: advisable but not essential. 
Suggested footwear: something comfortable, no-one’s judging.