Forget pretentious service, expensive menus and formal dining rooms. Nowadays, lively social neo-bistrots are where it’s at. For affordable top quality food and wine, a bit of chef spotting and a fun buzzy vibe – look no further than these top neo-bistrots in Paris.
Aux Deux Amis
David Loyola’s friendly no-frills neighbourhood dive on rue Oberkampf may have a retro sports bar décor, but it is wildly popular with locals and food industry from around the world. They pack in like sardines for the creative home cooking at lunch (prix fixe) and tapas nights (a la carte). Behind the bar, David proudly yells over the music, “My mother makes the best tortilla in the world!” Value plates such as her tortilla, oysters, charcuterie, cheese, tartare drizzled with anchovy mayo, or roasted potatoes dressed with fresh olive oil and black lava salt flakes are delicious.
Insider tip: The all-natural wine list is sourced directly from the wine makers probably standing next to you – already on their third bottle.
45 rue Oberkampf, Right Bank, 11th arr. +33158303813 Tuesday – Saturday; lunch 12-2pm; apero & tapas dinner 7pm.
Don’t laugh at the name, this historic property once fed the clowns who worked the circus next door – obvious from the vintage hand-painted glass tiles depicting circus scenes of days gone by. Sven Chartier and Ewen Lemoigne’s place is the hottest address in town right now, and the darling of the food and wine industry. They come to drink bottles of natural wine with Chef Sota’s brilliant a la carte sharing plates. So brilliant in fact, that he’s made eating brains cool, and true to “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, most chefs have copied the duck foie gras pithiviers for their own menu. Insider tip: Avoid Sunday nights. Industry people are there to socialise on their night off and they’re not leaving any time soon.
114, rue Amelot, Right Bank, 11th arr. +33143558785. Wednesday – Sunday.
When Gregory Marchand opened the miniscule Frenchie on an alley in the once unsavoury garment district, little did he know that he would redefine how and where we eat in Paris. Despite Frenchie’s huge international success since and polished loft decor, it has thankfully retained its friendly neighbourhood vibe. The seasonal set menu features farm-to-table dishes such as fig and duck foie gras drizzled with Xeres sherry vinegar, and short horn beef with cepes mushrooms and crispy green salt marsh beans. The wine list features international small batch producers.
Insider tip: Ask for the two bar seats to watch the chefs in action.
5 rue du Nil, Right Bank, 2nd arr . +33140399619. Dinner Monday-Friday; lunch Thursday and Friday.
Don’t expect fussy service at Bertrand Grebaut andTheo Pourriat’s modern Septime just because it is in one of the coolest neighbourhoods, is one of the hardest reservations to score in the world, has a Michelin star and is number 35 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Whew. In fact, it is so popular because it is exactly the opposite. Service is professional and friendly – not pretentious – and the urban farmhouse setting is comfortable. Set menus could include earthy cepe mushrooms with oyster or sorrel in a hot foie gras bouillon, Pan-seared squid drizzled in peppery oil, Slow-cooked beef dressed with Pontoise cabbage and anchovy cream, and Fromage blanc ice cream pumpkin puree. The wine list is a huge draw in addition, made up who’s who of small wine producers who may be sitting next to you.
Insider tip: Not for picky eaters.
80, rue Charonne, Right Bank, 11th arr. +33143673829. Monday dinner; lunch and dinner Tuesday – Friday.
Chef-owner-sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha’s pretty little corner bistrot on a quiet street may have feminine touches like “wedding cake” molding and delicate hand-painted ceilings, but the food critic, wine grower and chef customers provide a rock and roll mood. Expect a warm welcome and exciting French-Asian comfort food that takes its culinary cues from their cumulative backgrounds in Manila, Hong Kong, Thailand and France. Think fried wonton ravioli, Roasted cauliflower dressed in sesame cream, Suckling pig and crackling with clams, Thai basil, ginger and red chillies. The wines are of course all-natural. Insider Tip: solo diners can reserve seats at the bar.
32, rue St Maur, Right Bank, 11th arr . +33155285182. Monday dinner, lunch and dinner Tuesday – Friday.