La Cave de Don Doudine, 75018

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(c) Martin Parr

There’s been a huge hullaballoo around the opening of la Brasserie Barbes this week. Apparently, we’re supposed to be up in arms about how the area around Barbes-Rochechouart station is being reclaimed by hipsters.

Apparently, (if you take notice of what people who previously only ever dared to go as far as Tati say) it’s scandalous how a bar designed to appeal to everyone is actually an exclusive club reserved only to those stupid enough to want to spend 5 euros on a coffee or upwards of 8 euros on a beer.

— I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the New York Times article in 2013 about How Hipsters Ruined Paris? (But fortunately there were counter-articles, such as this one on Paris by Mouth.) — 

If only the people who write the articles and who speak on television – dare I mention the famous words “no-go-zone“?? – actually LIVED here? Yes, here, in this neighbourhood. The ghetto. Yes. Here.

If they did, they’d realise that the 18th is one of the most culturally interesting arrondissements. It can change from the picturesque Amélie Poulain scenes of the Café des Deux Moulins, to the old Pigalle hostess bars by just crossing a boulevard. Equally, you can walk from the Islamic Cultural Centre to the Ganesh Hindu Temple in just a couple of minutes. Yes, there are places (such as around Château Rouge métro station) where you don’t want to linger (but it is safe to walk through)… and there is certainly also room for a high-end café/ restaurant/bar, even in a place like Barbes.

Gosh, this is Water. Off a Duck’s back.

Actually, I watch this general expulsion of hot air and find it really quite amusing. Those who live here know that there have long been seriously good places in this neighbourhood: Table d’Eugene, for example, on rue Eugene Sue, which finally won its first much-deserved Michelin star last year. Supercoin, for its craft beers. Café Lomi, for its craft coffee. Bob’s Bake Shop for its bagels and 2 euro unlimited coffee.

Another such example is La Cave de Don Doudine. A shoe-box-sized cave catering to the local community rather than passing tourists; a grandfatherly figure supplying his neighbour with good booze.

You find craft beers (from the neighbouring Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or, naturally!) As well as some natural wines (e.g. Drappier Brut Nature, Christian Binner and the Domaine des Poithiers to give you just a taste.) There are top-range whiskies from LMDW such as Nikka From the Barrel, Great King Street from Compass Box, Calva from Christian Drouin… all rubbing shoulders with artisanal ice-cream-maker La Tropicale.

Generally only open in the afternoon until early evening, it’s worth remembering that they’re open both morning and afternoon on Saturdays. This area of the Goutte d’Or.

P.S. They’re also the masterminds behind the local wine bar and restaurant Le Tout-Monde which opened in Jan 2014 and is located at number 4 rue Affre, 75018.

If you really want to be avant-garde, head there to drink your craft beer and I can guarantee, it will cost less than eight euros!


Essential Information

Address: 16 rue Myrha, 75018
Telephone: 01 42 54 98 50
Website: Facebook
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday 16h-21h; Saturday from 10h30-13 and 16h-21h; also Sunday mornings 10h30-13h.

Café Pépone, 75018

I have walked past the Café Pépone on rue des Abbesses hundreds of times without ever giving it even a moment’s thought. The pre-prepared sandwiches, giant Nutella pots and stale macarons did not get my tastebuds at all excited. That was, until I saw a great big Pozzetto sign and a newly refurbished seating area!

It’s only been a couple of weeks that the Café Pépone have been selling gelato from Italian specialists Pozzetto but it’s a great development for an area which had previously been rather lacking in artisanal ice cream.

Try the fior di latte and chocolate gianduja flavours.

It will set you back 3 euros 60 for the petit pot. A sweet treat that now that the summer is nearly upon us, your stomach will surely thank you for.

Certainly, the best option for ice cream in Montmartre!


Essential Information

Address: 10 rue Lepic, 75018
Telephone: 01 42 55 60 15
Website: Google+
Opening Hours: from 11am until 11pm every day
Reservations: not taken.

Bob’s Bake Shop, 75018

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The area between La Chapelle and Marx Dormoy, up in the north of Paris’ 18th arrondissement is a funny place. As well as being right between an Indian community (at La Chapelle) and a mini Chinese community (on rue de Torcy) it is also sandwiched between two sets of train tracks. Ten years ago, it was not a place you would have felt comfortable after dark but nowadays, just like in many other places in Paris (think Pigalle, Batignolles and Belleville) it has seen a rapid gentrification.

Nowhere is this more evident than the Halle Pajol complex on the esplanade Nathalie Serraute. It first started, in late 2013, with the bar Les Petites Gouttes. Bob’s Bake Shop opened up shortly afterwards and it is now complete with a Youth Hostel, library and awesome co-working space. The esplanade is fantastic in the summer as everyone spills out onto the terrasse to soak up the sun.

Bob’s Bake Shop plays, for me, a key part in the energy of this new quartierMarc Grossman has been living in Paris since 1999; he opened Bob’s Juice Bar in 2006 and it was an instant success. Subsequently, opening Bob’s Bake Shop in 2014 provided him with a large kitchen from which Bob’s Food Etc can make enough bagels, bialys and pies to supply all of Paris! Talk about building an empire!

Back to the Bake Shop, Marc once said “we’re not a coffee place. The focus is on bagels and we need to keep doing that right. With coffee. We’re not here to do tricks.”

Large enough to seat 30-40 people (plus ample outside seating if the weather is clement) this is a relaxing place to meet up with friends. Music playlist is US-orientated – think: Stevie Wonder, Barry White and Motown classics.

All the bagels are hand-rolled. As of February 2015, a basic bagel with cream cheese would set you back 3 euros 50; a PB&J bagel: 4 euros or the (somewhat healthier option!) avocado bagel: also 4 euros.

More substantial sandwiches (e.g. hummus and grilled carrots, kalamata feta and grilled veg, tomato relish and cheddar cost 7 euros. Smoked salmon and cream cheese for 8.)

Clearly this is a great option if you are looking for a vegetarian food in Paris which fits even a tight budget.

The Bake Shop is open from every day (seven days a week!) from 8am til 4pm. Can I just casually drop in how AMAZING this is!! Thank you, les anglo-saxons, for realising that some people need coffee before 10am!

If you’re looking for a coffee shop where you can sit, undisturbed, and work for a couple of hours, this is a local favourite. There is reliable free wi-fi, plenty of space and unlimited Belleville Brûlerie filter coffee for just 2 euros.
N.B. Just a mention: the bagels aren’t ready until around 10am – so (at least at the time of writing) you can’t pop in before work to grab a bagel for lunch. Breakfast options include granola and fromage blanc (3,50), fruit salad (2,50), or something Chia-seedy that I walked away from immediately! 😛

 


Essential Information

Address: 12 esplanade Nathalie Sarraute, 75018
Telephone: 09 84 46 25 26
Website: Bob’s Food Etc.Facebook
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 8am til 4pm.
Reservations: not taken. 


La Maison Thai, 75018

Tucked away on an off-street behind the rue de l’Olive is a real no-frills, authentic Thai place. La Maison Thai.

It would be a rather unremarkable shopfront were it not for the queue out the door during the lunch rush. It’s one of these places that I like to keep under my cap – as do the other regulars it would seem – because it’s genuine and cheap!

Today, having just got back from a long weekend in Brussels, I didn’t feel like cooking and yet I wanted something spicy. Avoid the masses and get there either around midday when the restaurant opens or at 1.45pm, as I did this afternoon.

It’s a cramped space but don’t let that bother you. There are 8 wooden chairs unceremoniously scattered around a handful of tables. If you’re lucky enough to be able to bag one, you’ll be treated to unlimited free tea. Most people take away and, on this occasion, I too retreated back to my desk and continued tackling the pile of emails that had accumulated during my absence.

For just 4.50 euros, you get two dishes and a generous helping of rice. There is no menu – it’s whatever takes your fancy. Everything has been pre-packaged and can be quickly heated up in the microwave, even if you’re taking to-go. There is a full range of chicken, fish and vegetables… some spicy, very spicy and some not at all… I usually go for the Hor Mok (steamed fish with coconut milk curry) which is unfortunately not in the lunch deal, but is well worth the extra euro. This time, though, I plumped for a spicy red curry chicken with courgettes, and a chicken-coconut-and-pumpkin dish.

For fresh, tasty, genuine – and did I mention it’s CHEAP – Thai food in Paris, this is surely the best in the arrondissement.


 Essential Information

Address: 2-4 rue de l’Evangile, 75018

Telephone: n/a

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday noon til 6pm. Occasionally open on Saturdays for lunch too but it seems rather irregular. 

Reservations: not taken. 

If you can’t get in or it happens to be closed on that particular day, try any of the Chinese restaurants on the rue de Torcy. Hauky’s normally pretty good.

Au Duc de la Chapelle, 75018

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The expression “I was lead to believe…” most commonly translates into French as “j’ai cru comprendre que…” It’s curious because in English we say that ‘you’re lead to believe’ whereas in French ‘you believe to understand.’ It would appear that the English mindset is already offsetting the blame onto someone else, whereas the French are using the emotional to justify the rational… gosh, I clearly have too much time on my hands!

However, if you were to follow what everyone says, you certainly wouldn’t expect to see a master boulanger working out of this far-flung spot in the 18th arrondissement.

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Between Porte de la Chapelle and Marx Dormoy, there’s little of note besides the Piscine Hebert, the Marché de l’Olive, a very sizeable Chinese community and the man to whom I pay my taxes on the rue de Boucry. However, there’s also Anis Bouabsa, an accomplished baker who, in 2004, turned heads by becoming the youngest MOF for boulangerie.

Then, after coming third in 2007, he sent shockwaves through the baking community by winning the prize for the Best Baguette de Tradition in Paris in 2008. With this competition comes the much-coveted contract of supplying the French President with his bread for a year. As you can imagine, his baguettes really are very good – the perfect balance of crust to soft dough for my taste – but his croissants also deserve a special mention.

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It is not worth crossing all of Paris to come here – for there is hardly a dearth of really excellent bread in the city centre – but it is a rare pearl and, without a doubt, the best boulangerie in this neighbourhood.


Essential Information

Address: 32 rue Tristan Tzara, 75018
Telephone: 01 40 38 18 98
WebsiteAu Duc de La Chapelle
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday from 5.30am til 8pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

La Recyclerie, 75018

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In a most unsuspecting part of the 18th arrondissement you will find one of the new hipster hang-outs in the capital.

It’s a large space (previously the Gare Ornano) at the Porte de Clignancourt which has been transformed into a multi-functional “concept” space by the team also behind the Comptoir Général and Glazart.

We arrive shortly after 1pm on a Sunday for the brunch and it’s packed to the rafters, inside and out. After a quick wander round the second-hand clothes sale on the terrasse, next to the disused train tracks (known as the Petite Ceinture) we are lucky enough to able to bag a table.

I place the bag of spinach leaves that I’d just bought at the market to keep the table while we wait in the queue to order. (Hipster, moi… well yes, but you’re not really surprised are you?)

At the weekend, you’ll find a set brunch menu. It’s one of the best deals in Paris right now. For the very reasonable price of 20 euros (18 for vegetarians or 10 for children) you’ll get a croissant, coffee, grapefruit juice, salad, cheese, ham, eggs, quinoa, chicken, bacon, potatoes, fruit salad, chocolate brownie… all dolloped unceremoniously onto your tray.

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Yes, rather like being back at school, you’re obliged to take a tray. You go to the various food stations (“cold brunch”, “hot brunch” and “tartine“) and once you’ve made it to the front of the queue, you receive the corresponding stamp on your receipt.

It’s tasty and the portions are generous. That being said, I get the feeling that the organisation could have been better. On this particular day (is it like this normally?) they were struggling with the number of people.

Despite that, we had a great time and initiatives as forward-thinking and environmentally-minded as this have my full support. I’ll definitely be back to participate in one of their ateliers during the week, to buy some En Vrac wine and to enjoy the terrasse again once the sun comes out.

— Just as an aside, I couldn’t help thinking that if they really wanted to up their game, they’d offer a “Boozy Brunch” with either a beer or a Bloody Mary. —

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Hipster Central.

 

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And finally, watch this space – these guys have some cool new projects underfoot!

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Essential Information

Address: 83 boulevard Ornano, 75018
Telephone: 01 42 57 58 49
Website: La Recyclerie, Facebook
Opening Hours: open every day from midday to midnight.
Reservations: not accepted. 
Suggested footwear: think functional over fancy. 


La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or, 75018

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Fans of craft beers and local produce should definitely pay a visit to this little brasserie tucked away in the Goutte d’Or, the heart of the 18th arrondissement.

Done with brewing in his home-kitchen for friends, Thierry Roche opened up a bricks and mortar place in 2012. At the time, it was the only beer brewery in central Paris.

Although it may not be immediately apparent, the location actually couldn’t be more fitting. You see, the area is known as la Goutte d’Or (or “Drop of Gold” in English) and the name originates from the distinctly rich coloured wine that used to be made right here until the end of the 19th century. (See here for more on that.) The fact that there is once again a booze producer in the quartier making a golden nectar seems a rather appropriate turn full circle.

Situated so close to Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, it was a convenient spot for workers coming from the countryside as they looked for work in the big city about two hundred years ago. As time went by, those first immigrants were replaced by foreign settlers and thus the Goutte d’Or became the lively and vivacious area that it is today. Once one of Paris’s grittiest neighbourhoods, it has been (quite considerably) cleaned up in recent years. Despite that, it remains true to its roots – a hotpot of African culture (both Maghreb and sub-Saharan.) On any given street corner within this stretch between La Chapelle and Marcadet-Poissoniers, you can find plantain, yam, exotic spices, beautiful fabric – and most likely some illegal substances if you know who to ask…

The beers made in this micro-brewery reflect this diverse exotic backdrop. A couple of months ago (this blog post has been fermenting for a little while and I must apologise for that) I popped by to check it out and get my hands on a drop of gold.

My Tasting Notes (February 2014)

La Môme (50cl, 5%)

Made for the eponymous restaurant just a couple of metres from the brewery on the rue Stephenson, the beer has a beautiful golden colour and a heavy mousse. There is a funky yeasty nose. The mouth is startlingly dry (would love to know what variety(/ies) of hops were used for this beer) and a little flat. There is a pronounced bitter after-taste. I can imagine that this beer pairs very well with a spicy tajine – La Môme’s signature dish.

A little bit of trivia: in French, une môme can refer to a girl, a kid or even a small bird. La môme was Edith Piaf’s nickname.

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Myrha (50cl, 5%)

A blonde flavoured with dates, reflecting the north African influences found along the rue Myrha. It’s very moussey and the dried fruit notes come through clearly.  Somewhat sweet, obviously non filtered, the yeast sediment is very present. To be drank chilled on a hot summer’s day.

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Chateau Rouge (50cl, 6.5%)

Chateau Rouge is the name of the fairly grotty metro station between Barbes-Rochechouart and Marcadet-Poissoniers. Cloudy. The spices (this beer is brewed with some hibicus and chili) add an interesting edge. Sweet caramel and notes of pain d’épices. Round. Tails off just a little too early for me, leaving the characteristic bitter aftertaste.

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3ter (50cl, 8.5%)

Made in collaboration with the Cafe Lomi (also in the 18th) it uses three strains of yeast, three different malted barley and three varieties of Arabica coffee. It is technically a Belgian-style blonde, but this just goes to show that labels can be deceptive.

One of the favourites from the tasting – you really do get a full nose of coffee. A really interesting beer, it is rich and with a bitter finish; plenty of dark chocolate and torrefied espresso characters. In contrast to the others, which I found rather lacking in substance, this beer really packs a punch. Might be rather like Marmite but I love it.

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Charbonnière (50cl, 7.5%)

Another puncher – a smoked amber ale, named after the rue Charbonnière. Whereas some of the earlier beers had a generous mousse – this had barely any. There are plenty of smoked toasted notes, on the nose as well as the mouth. It’s heavy. Works well with food such as a saucisse de morteau or a burger. Interesting.


Essential Information

Address: 28 Rue de la Goutte d’Or, 75018
Telephone: 09 80 64 23 51 
WebsiteBrasserie de la Goutte d’OrFacebook
Opening Hours: Thursday, Friday from 5pm-7pm and Saturday from 2pm-7pm for tastings, visits and purchases 
Suggested footwear: shabby sports shoes, it’s the Goutte d’Or remember… 

 

The History of Wine in Paris

Picture yourself in 18th century Paris. The streets are narrow, smelly and just as ridden with vagabonds, ragamuffins and the more-than-just-occasional four-legged rodent as they are today.

Now imagine that the Eiffel Tower has not yet been constructed, nor has the Montparnasse Tower. Haussmann has not been born and thus the entirety of the city ressembled what we refer to as the Latin Quarter today. There is a large hill in the background so far to the north that it is considered the countryside. The 42,000 hectares surrounding this mediaeval town are planted with vines. The vineyards stretch to as far as the eye can see. This was the most important viticultural area in France.

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By the end of the nineteenth century, there were no fewer than 4450 wine merchants operating in the Paris area and around 11,000 “débits de boissons” (drinking holes.) The reason why cabarets, bars, and other establishments of ill-repute (i.e. the Moulin Rouge) flourished in the area of Montmartre to such an extent was because alcohol tax was not payable outside the city gates and the city limits did not yet stretch that far.

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Le Clos de Montmartre, the vineyard situated on the hill behind the Sacré-Coeur, can trace its history back to Roman times. Records suggest that wine was being produced in the area even as far back as that. In the sixteenth century, we have more records and the inhabitants of the area now known as Montmartre were mainly labourers. There were around fifteen fully operative windmills at this time – however, you may not have realised that they were not being used for grinding grains into flour, but for pressing wine.

This was all about to change. The arrival of the railways brought about an invasion of wine from the south (from warmer climates, where the wine was marginally more drinkable) to this northen town. Bit by bit, Montmartre was urbanised, criminalised and turned into an infamous hedonist’s playground, with its numerous cabarets and taverns of various forms of iniquity. Wine was still being consumed, but the drink of choice had moved on to absinthe.

By the start of the 20th century, not a single vine was left.

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It was only in the 1930s that the “Vieux Montmartre” group, vociferally led by Mr Francisque Poulbot (more commonly remembered nowadays for his illustrations, above) pushed the Montmartre Council to replant the vines. The first harvest finally took place in 1934.

The principal grape varieties are Gamay and Pinot Noir and what is most remarkable is that the vineyard, just as before, is entirely north-facing. The wine itself is not particularly note-worthy, it’s rather more what it stands for and its scarcity that makes it popular.

The 80th Fete des Vendanges (“Harvest Celebration”) took place in 2012. Almost 2000 bottles were sold and the proceeds were then ploughed back into the welfare projects in the 18th arondissement.

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Little Pieces of Trivia

There is actually second wine producing vineyard in Paris – “La Vigne de Paris Bagatelle” – a private vineyard in the 16th arrondissement.

The Goutte d’Or is so called as a reference to the golden colour of the white wine that this area produced. In mediaeval times, the City of Paris would traditionally give the King a gift of this golden wine.

Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir (1877) based around the theme of alcoholism and poverty in the late 19th century was set in the Goutte d’Or.

Find out more about other tiny vineyards in Paris here.

La Cave 27, 75018

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Inattendu. Insolite. Izakaya.

The first two words would be how the French would describe this izakaya. Quirky and completely unexpected.

The Japanese word izakaya originally comes from i meaning ‘to stay’ and sakaya a ‘saké shop’ and therefore loosely, it means a saké shop where you can hang out. That’s a pretty accurate description for the Cave 27.

With a floor space of no more than 12m², it is smaller than your average Parisian studio. It certainly feels like one too. There is just one table in the middle of the room. Stools pop out from nowhere to accommodate diners. Stepping over the threshold is like stepping into someone’s living room.

The host in this ‘apartment’ is Takemoto, an eccentric long grey-haired, flamenco-lover, who can greet you in English, French, Spanish, Arabic or Japanese.

Accordingly, there is an eccentric and international selection of alcohols on offer: French and Spanish wine (for between 11 and 15€ a bottle) and a few beers, as well as plenty of saké, shochu and Japanese whisky (I think I spotted a Nikka Miyagikyo Non-Age behind the bar.)

You can either perch at the bar or find a spot around the table. I still dont know how we managed to fit 8 people in there on Monday night. It looks like there’s only space for three. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, there is live music. Only le bon Dieu knows how they all fit.

As for food, you choose between small ‘tapas’ dishes or in an enormous saucepan in the middle of the table. The 2 dishes of tapas and a half-pitcher of saké for 6€ is a steal. If you fancy something a little more substantial, it’ll set you back 8€ per person for the steaming bowl of broth. Even with several rounds of food and drinks, you’ll get change back from a twenty euro note.

It really is the one of the most astounding places I’ve come across in Paris. Once you’ve got over the initial discomfort of being in this tiny room, the lowered boundaries mean that you end up making conversation with the other diners (something that never normally happens in Paris.) Food is shared, bottles ordered for the table, and new friends are made.

 


Essential Information

Address: 27 rue Lamarck, 75018
Contact Details: Email takemotomotoichi at yahoo.fr  
Opening Hours: from 12 noon – 14.30 and from 17h until midnight. Even on Mondays.
Reservations: not necessary.
Suggested footwear: don’t quote me on this but you could practically come here in your slippers!


Burnt Food

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It has long baffled me how something so popular in one country can remain relatively unknown in another, even though it is only a short jump across a bit of water away. Supper clubs. In London, they’re everywhere. They offer new perspectives to the somewhat stuffy restaurant scene. They can offer insights into new cuisines and inroads for new friendships – especially valuable if you’ve just moved to Paris or are a single traveller. Well, now it’s time for the hunter to become the hunted. I’m putting my neck on the line.

The idea is that every month, six total strangers arrive at Burnt Cream HQ for supper. The name of these events is “Burnt Food” … because I like to keep expectations low. I’ve been doing this on a regular and completely open basis since October 2012. You can come by yourself or with a friend. At first, it was largely friends or acquaintances of mine, but the word has spread and I’ve now hosted an eclectic mix of Canadians, French, Brits, Italians, Americans, Japanese, Australians… some live in Paris and others are just passing through. The only thing that’s sure is that it’s going to be a fun evening, interesting conversation and you’re not going to leave hungry.

The menu is dictated according to whatever is available at the market that morning. Come, enjoy a great evening, meet some interesting people and let your tastebuds take over.