ice cream cone

Compagnie des Glaces, 75005

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As soon as the sun comes out in Paris, I scrabble for alternatives to Amorino. Fortunately, last week, I found a new place which is worth sharing with you: La Compagnie des Glaces.

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Strictly speaking, it’s a franchise and they currently have twelve outposts all over France – stretching from Honfleur in the north, to Pornic in the west, Antibes in the south and Strasbourg in the east. If you want to get your lips around these ice creams in Paris, you have to head down to the bottom end of rue Mouffetard, in the 5th.

(N.B. There used to be a shop on rue de Rivoli, but it closed sometime in 2013-4.)

The ice creams and sorbets for “La Compagnie” all come from the mothership “Glaces des Alpes.” It’s a kitchen headed up by Stephane Vindret, a 45 year old man hailing from Annecy, who was recognised as a Maître Artison Glacier in 2010. Far from being made in an industrialised factory, I am told that the ice creams are still made in a small artisanal workshop.

At 3 euros for a single flavour, it’s more expensive than I’m used to paying in Italy… but this is Paris and this is the price we pay. The boule that I received actually turned out to be a very generous portion, especially compared to Berthillon.

There are twenty-odd different flavours to try but based on what I have tasted so far, I’m going to enjoy working my way through the whole range. Because Stephane Vindret has been trying to replicate traditional recipes, the ice creams – but particularly the sorbets – have a much higher fruit content than you commonly find, even amongst artisanal glaciers. Fruity and refreshing. Yum!

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Essential Information

Address: 138 rue Mouffetard, 75005

Telephone: 09 54 64 13 03

Website: Compagnie des Glaces

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, from midday til 7pm.

Paris’ Second – and Long-Forgotten – River

If you have spent any time at all in Paris, you must have crossed at least one of the bridges over the river Seine at some point. Every tourist has strolled across the Pont Neuf taking in the hue of the city’s beautiful stone buildings at sunset. Incidentally, despite being called the “New Bridge” it is today the oldest bridge still standing, because it was the first to be made out of stone.

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However, very few people know of Paris’ second river: La Bièvre.

It dissected the Left Bank of the city, flowing in from Stade Charléty, past La Buttes aux Cailles and through what is now known as the Latin Quarter until it eventually joined la Seine near Gare de l’Austerlitz.

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It was a natural waterway which stretched for 33 kilometres (approximately 21 miles) and provided a livelihood for the communities which sprung up on its banks.

Namely, Les Gobelins tapestry works (for centuries, the official suppliers of fabrics to the French royal family) which would not have survived without a good source of water.

Neither would a whole host of dyers, mills and leather tanneries have chosen this area to set up business had it not have been for the Bièvre.

-> Incidentally there were so many watermills that the river was straightened to accomodate them all. Many street names in this area still bear the mention “moulin”! <- 

The market-sellers on rue Mouffetard received their deliveries by boat.

These businesses also enjoyed the tax credits that came from being located just outside the mediaeval city limits. (See here about the history of wine in Montmartre.)

When reflecting on the rise of industrialisation and urbanisation in Paris, there’s no denying that the river Bièvre was key.

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Unfortunately, what was the river’s strength also became its downfall. Because of all this industrial activity, it became so horribly polluted that in the late 1870s Baron Haussmann, that radical rebuilder under Napoleon III, decided to put an end to its days. The stinking river was transmitting disease and illness to those downstream. It had become too much of a health risk.

Bit by bit, the river was culverted (the technical term for “built over”) and nowadays the regenerated city of Paris leaves next to no trace of what still flows underneath. The only signs that a pair of sharp-eyes might spot are a couple of medallions dotted in the pavement.

The photo above was taken on rue Censier, a road which was itself only created after the river was sacrificed. For those who are particularly interested, the road was inaugurated in 1913.

The Bièvre still flows but now it does so under our feet, as part of Paris’ sewage system.

Which Is The Oldest Street in Paris?

The oldest street in Paris is the rue Saint Jacques, in the 5th arrondissement.

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Leading from the Île de la Cité, where Paris was founded, the rue Saint Jacques passes through the Sorbonne University, the Pantheon, Port Royal and finally reaches Denfert-Rochereau.

Over two and a half kilometres (= one and a half miles) long, this route has been trodden since at least the 1st century BC.

In Roman times, it was known as the Via Superior.

In the Middle Ages, it was one of the way-points for pilgrims on the Camino di Santiago (or in French, the Saint Jacques de Compostelle.) They would meet at the Tour Saint Jacques (right next to the rue de Rivoli) and then make their way down the rue Saint Jacques.

Now, still just as steep as ever, it is predominantly populated by students, tourists and Starbucks.

Bocamexa, 75005

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One of my great discoveries recently has been the Mexican restaurant “Bocamexa” at the bottom end of rue Mouffetard. I had walked past several times, always appreciating the delicious smells coming from the kitchen, when finally I rally myself and a friend to go and check it out.

In short, it was wonderful! The restaurant itself is no frills, but the space is bright and colourful. The menu consists of solidly Mexican dishes (there’s no fancy fusion here!) Burritos, tacos or quesadillas – that are composed in front of your very eyes. It’s fast food… but it’s also fresh and tasty.

The really great thing is the fact that they keep serving all day (known as “service continu” in French) seven days a week. You can grab a bite at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon and no-one is going to raise an eyebrow.

We grabbed a burrito each (they were enormous AND spicy – perfect!) and sat outside on rue Mouffetard to enjoy a few rays of sunshine and pretend we were no longer in Paris. Average cost of a burrito – ten euros.

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P.S. The restaurant is part of a wider Mexican-French alliance. Check out the website below to find out about the cultural events that they organise.

P.P.S. The Señor Boca food truck is also part of the Bocamexa family.


Essential Information

Address: 127 rue Mouffetard, 75005
Telephone: 01 73 77 28 22
Website: BocamexaFacebook
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 11am til 10pm. 
Reservations: not taken. 

Strada Café Monge, 75005

The Strada Café, whom you might have heard of in the Marais (94 rue du Temple, 75003), opened up in a new location by Cardinal Lemoine métro station in November 2014.

I love the fact that it is open from 8am on weekdays – finally someone has understood that people need coffee before going to work! – and this coffee shop is marginally larger than some of the other craft coffee spots in Paris, making it a good place to suggest as a meeting place for friends.

Their beans are mainly sourced from L’Arbre a Café but there are some other niche roasters (e.g. White Label Coffee, based in the Netherlands) available to take away.

What I don’t like so much – and I’m aware that I may be going rather against the trend – are the prices.

I know that craft coffee is an artisanal, agricultural product that demands a certain price. 2 euros for a really good espresso seems fair (but, nevertheless, I prefer paying 1 euro 50 for an espresso to-go at Dose, just around the corner on rue Mouffetard.)

My bugbear is the price of a café crème or cappuccino. How are the Italians able to offer an espresso at 1 euro and a cappuccino at 1 euro 20 even in tourist capitals like Florence, while the minimum for a cappuccino in Paris is 4 euros?

Who can afford a flat white at 5 euros (which is how much you’ll pay at the Strada Café on Sept 4 2015) on a regular basis? Hell, for that price, you could have a large of wine – although probably not at 9.30am – but I know which one I would prefer.

Craft coffee is no longer a novelty in Paris. Coutume were the pioneers in 2010, Café Lomi have been roasting away in the 18th since September 2012 and Belleville since 2013. The market is therefore a decent three years old. How are they still getting away with daylight robbery in exchange for a splash of warm milk?

I believe that the Strada Café on rue Monge merits its inclusion on the blog for the reasons first listed above… but honestly, the day that someone starts offering a cappuccino at say 2 euro 50 or 3 euros, then I’ll get excited!!


Essential Information

Address: 24 rue Monge, 75005
Telephone: 09 72 45 12 87
Website: Strada CafeFacebook
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday from 8am til 6.30pm. Saturday-Sunday 10am til 6.30pm.

Mococha, 75005

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Since 2009, Marie-Helene Gantois has been selecting very best from very best chocolatiers in France and selling them in her independant shop on the bustling market street rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement.

The three featured chocolatiers are Fabrice Gillotte (MOF 1990, who won this prestiguous title when he was just 26 years old), Jacques Bellanger (MOF 1982) and Johann Dubois (a young, self-taught chocolatier from Brittany.)

Besides the permanent collections, Marie invites guest chocolatiers to participate in temporary partnernships for short three-month periods.

In 2014, my favourites were the Seattle-based Chef Michael D Poole and Ecuadorian brand Pacari – the only biodynamic cocao producer in the world! So far in 2015, Marie has hosted Belgian bean-to-bar extraordinaire Benoit Nihant and chocolates made from cocoa plantations in the Mekong delta of Vietnam! I personally love this address because when you step through the doorway, you are never sure what you’re going to discover, but it’s bound to be mind-blowing!!

Let me nudge you gentle in the direction of the Fondant Baulois – a delicious combination of chocolate, butter, more butter and salt which becomes a melt-in-your-mouth cake – that will surely be the cause of my early-onset diabetes.

But, really, the best-kept secret…? Marie’s hot chocolate in the winter and ice cream from La Tropicale in the summer!! Trust me. 😉

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Essential Information

Address: 89 rue Mouffetard, 75005
Telephone: 01 47 07 13 66
Website: MocochaFacebook
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 11am til 8pm.

Golosino, 75005

 

The rue Mouffetard is known for many things… but to find a good Italian pizza joint along this cute, narrow cobbled street n’est pas évident. It was only because of a tip-off from Thomas at DOSE, the neighbourhood coffee shop, that I even gave a second glance to the Square Vermenouze, situated just off the main shopping strip.

Golosino is a very casual eatery. When I arrived (a little early, but I was starving!) the server and the chef were deep in concentration over a game of chess at the pass.

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The restaurant is just one open-plan room. The kitchen (read: pizza oven) is towards the back wall. On the right is the chalkboard, the service station and the till. Then, against the wall on the left is a counter with between 8 to 10 bar stools where you can perch whilst waiting for or eating your pizza. On this particular day, reggae music playing. The decor is cute. There are touches of Italy everywhere. It is 100% legit.

The speciality here is pizza but if you feel like something else. there are also pre-prepared pasta dishes available to take away. To satisfy a sweet tooth, I spotted some tiramisu and various other assorted Sicilian specialities such as cannoli.

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A few minutes later, an enormous pizza is put in front of me. I had gone for the pizza Golosino, with artichoke and cured ham. It smelt amazing. It looked amazing. And did I mention the size? I started to worry if my eyes hadn’t been more ambitious than my stomach on this occasion. Actually, the pizza was so good that, in the end, I had no problems finishing it in one sitting. The base was just a touch under-cooked – but I like it like that.

Pizzas at Golosino start at 8€ and most are priced around 10.50€. There’s no obligation to order anything else – there are large carafes of tap water on the counter for you to help yourself to – so the whole meal works out very cheap. It would be great for any single travellers who want to fill their stomachs for not very much moolah. No bones about it, this is definitely a great little address to have up your sleeve in case you’re caught short for pizza.

And just quickly, I wanted to share with you this little sign I spotted next to the kitchen:

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“Beware of the Boss – he’s crazy!”

 

 

 


Essential Information

Address: 4 square Vermenouze, 75005
Telephone: 01 45 35 93 80
Website: GolosinoFacebook
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday lunch and dinner. Saturday evening 18h-22h30. Closed Sunday. 

DOSE Dealer de Café, 75005

One of my favourite spots on the rue Mouffetard, this coffee shop caters to students who don’t want to be cooped up in a library, to the young, hip and trendy who want speciality roasted coffee beans, and to passers-by as well with it’s To Go window.

Rather surprisingly if you know anything about the independant coffee shop scene in Paris, it’s two young French guys who are at the helm.

They have nailed the magic formula:

Good Coffee + Friendly Service + Free Reliable Wifi  = a great local coffee shop.

Prices are very reasonable (1,50 for an espresso to go) and there’s a loyalty card, if you think you’re going to be coming back.

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P.S. Thomas, one of the founders, used to work for the Maison des Trois Thés, so the tea selection (in the Bonne Mamon jam pots) is remarkable.


Essential Information

Address: 73 rue Mouffetard, 75005
Telephone: 01 43 36 65 03
Website: DOSEFacebook
Opening Hours: Monday-Sunday from 9am til 7pm.


La Mosquée de Paris, 75005

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Escapism. It really is a wonderful thing to clear the mind. To sit quietly by yourself, in a place outside your comfort zone (by that I mean, not your local coffee shop.. y’know, the one with the free-wifi, where you sit in that same spot by the window…)

Time turns to a standstill. You are acutely aware of your surroundings. Psychologists would call it becoming mindful. More present. Going to the Mosque is not something you often find me doing, nor recommending that others necessarily make a point of doing, but from time to time, it’s just the ticket.

The Mosque – roughly speaking – is comprised of three parts: the prayer rooms, the extensive scholarly library and then the restaurant, tea room and hammam, which are open to the public. I haven’t been to the hammam yet (still one of these things that I haven’t checked off my to-do list) but my friend and fellow British expat Nikki Bayley has:

One of my favourite spas in the world is La Mosquée in Paris, it’s… a series of beautiful marble-tiled rooms, each hotter than the next, where you steam and soak, take an icy-cold plunge and then steam and soak some more. It’s a traditional cultural ritual and I found it surprisingly reassuring to be in a room of (mostly half-naked) women of all ages, shapes and sizes. However, it can be a baffling experience; there are no instructions. You get handed slips of paper which you exchange for a ‘gommage‘ (a body scrub) or massage but there’s no real system of how or when that happens. And although, yes, … I was a tad alarmed by the brutal scrubbing I got from an elderly Arab lady (which I genuinely feared would leave me nipple-less), I really enjoyed my afternoon there.

(See Nikki’s full blog post on her blog The Maple Life here.)

I’m sure it would not come as a surprise to learn that the aspect qui me parle le plus (that’s most appealing to me) is the tea room.

You sit outside in a courtyard, under a gazebo-style awning. There’s a fountain in the middle. Trees. Birds. (N.B. Just for peace of mind, try and bag a table that is not directly underneath one of the branches!) The tables are a beautiful deep sapphire blue that photos simply do not do justice.

A smartly-dressed waiter circulates with a tray of mint teas. Catch his eye. Each thimble will set you back 2 euros, which you pay there and then. Each thimble will also give you easily twice your recommended daily allowance of sugar!

If that’s not enough, there are a selection of North African pastries to choose from – baklava, m’hanncha etc – most of which are priced at 2 euros too.

Even after just half an hour here, you’ll have completely forgotten the hustle and bustle of “regular” Paris just outside.


Essential Information

Address: 39 rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, 75005

Telephone: 01 43 31 368 20

WebsiteLa Mosquée

Opening Hours: (tea room) 9am until 11pm every day.


 

P.S. The hammam is strictly women-only and is open all day, every day, apart from Tuesday.

 

Androuet, 75005

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There has been a market on the rue Mouffetard since the 1380s. It’s a long story (one for when you’re sitting comfortably) but it all started when some excommunicated priests from Notre Dame cathedral were settled on the banks of the river Bièvre, on the outskirts of the fledgling city of mediaeval Paris.

Although the Androuet story doesn’t go back quite that far, it has quand-même been the leading name for cheese in France for over a hundred years. (Since 1909, to be precise.)

They have a truly fantastic selection of cheeses (250-300 in total) each of which has been affiné (ripened) by master cheesemongers. When you first enter this tiny shop, the enormity of the selection can be overwhelming but you should try to tap into the Guillaume or Aurelia’s knowledge and follow their advice.

If you’re lucky enough to be staying or living in this area, keep going back every couple of days and getting a new cheese each time. The process of systematically trying new cheeses – and you’ll realise that their selection changes every week or so with the seasons – will surely help approfondir vos connaissances (improve your knowledge.)

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P.S. If you feel you would like a guiding hand about where to start, check out my friend Jennifer’s blog Chez Loulou.

P.P.S. And if you reeeeeally want to learn about French cheese, there really is nothing better than the Paris by Mouth Cheese Workshops.

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Essential Information

Address: 134, rue Mouffetard 75005
Telephone: 01 45 87 85 05
Website:  Androuet, Facebook
Opening Hours: Open Tuesday-Friday with lunch break until 4pm. Saturday non-stop and Sunday morning. Closed Sunday afternoon and Monday.