Escargots, steak tartare, soupe à l’oignon, choucroute, coq au vin, pâté en croûte, cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon … Have I got your attention? These mouth-watering dishes are on the menus of many Parisian brasseries and bistrots and might be the reason why visitors fall in love with the French capital at first bite.
Most of our apartments are located in Paris’s most prestigious and beautiful areas: the Marais, the 2nd Arrondissement, and the Latin Quarter. Let me tell you a bit about the history of these neighbourhoods and the types of food you can find there.
Close-up on: Le Marais
It is home to the oldest covered market in the city, the Marché des Enfants Rouges, where fresh produce and different national cuisines abound. Interestingly, the French word ‘marais’ means swamp, and this is exactly what the area was well before it became one of Paris’s most beautiful neighbourhoods.
The first inhabitants were Templars and they arrived at this former pasture land in the 9th century. A Templar’s tomb was even found during engineering works for the Parisian metro at the beginning of the 20th century! Fleeing high taxes, others came to join the Templars in the 14th century, giving the neighbourhood an economic boost. By 1605, the Marais became a Royal Quarter, when Henry IV constructed the Place des Vosges (formerly called the Royal Square). From then on, and until the end of the 17th century, rich families built ‘hôtels particuliers’, mansions, and even churches.
The Jewish community appeared as soon as the 13th century. Today, many people come to the famous Rue des Rosiers, the emblematic street of the Jewish Quarter, to taste the best falafels in Paris.
Last time I was in the Marais, I fell upon a true gem called Miznon, in a street parallel to the Rue des Rosiers. Their traditional pita bread is imported from Jerusalem and re-heated on site. They also offer wonderfully steamed, then baked, vegetables that will make you reconsider your view on cauliflower. I ended up asking for the recipe! The Marais is one of the only neighbourhoods where the shops are open on Sundays (the French take this resting day very seriously), so it can get crowded on the weekends.
Walking along the Rue des Rosiers, pay attention to the shop signs and names: you will often see “Boulangerie” written on top of a clothes shop, in an effort to preserve the history of the place. Quite a surprising contrast!
Close-up on: The 2nd Arrondissement
The 2nd Arrondissement is organised around the old Parisian stock exchange (the Bourse) and is home to La Place des Victoires, one of the five royal squares of the city. It was once surrounded by three medieval walls. Due to the limited space available, there was no more room for new constructions by the end of the 18th century. Since then, if you are looking to construct a new building, you need to knock one down first.
This arrondissement is also where you can find most of the Parisian “galleries marchandes”, the impressive 19th century commercial arcades. Back in the day, entrepreneurs built the first of these paved pedestrian passageways as Paris lacked decent streets and sidewalks, a hindrance for to their business.
The area is full of theatres and close to the Opera Garnier, which famously inspired Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. What’s more, you can find the shortest inhabited street of Paris in the 2nd arrondissement: it is only 5.75m long. Technically a couple of steps, the Rue des Degrés links the Rue de Cléry and the Rue Beauregard.
The area also features 12 Rue Chabanais which, until 1946, stood as the most famous brothel of Paris. Many politicians and royals from all over Europe would often visit… The place was extremely luxurious and even had Toulouse-Lautrec paintings on its walls!
The Montorgueil Market, located at the centre of the quarter, is full of traditional products. Its village atmosphere makes you travel back in time and space. You can find local butchers, fishmongers, breadmakers, and all kinds of other foods here.
It is also the home of the ‘Baba au Rhum’, the rum baba, first sold in the oldest patisserie of Paris, founded in 1725. Go visit La Patisserie Stohrer in the Montorgueil Market to get a taste of this delicious cake. The shop is actually classified as a historical, grade I listed building.
You can also book a table at Gérard Depardieu’s restaurant, La Fontaine Gaillon, one of many good eateries of the area. Why not taste his wine and tell us what you think?
Close-up on: The Latin Quarter
Until 1789, Latin was the language of teaching in this quarter, hence its name. The neighbourhood is still the home of many universities today, including France’s prestigious La Sorbonne (founded in 1253). The Sorbonne still has many beautiful, specialised libraries. Due to its high number of students, the quarter was also the hub of the events of May 1968.
In 52 BC, the Romans settled in the area, and certain vestiges of their time can be visited today, such as the roman baths. You can also see go visit the Pantheon, the Arabic World Museum and many more places of high culture.
La Tour d’Argent, founded in 1582, is one of Paris’ historical restaurants. Head to this institution and taste their specialty: a pressed duck made from the same recipe the chefs used back in 1890. The restaurant raise the ducks on their own farm. Those who order the duck receive a postcard with the bird’s serial number. President Franklin D. Roosevelt received #112 and 151, and Charlie Chaplin #253 and 652! They have now served over a million.
The Tour d’Argent’s well-guarded wine cellar contains more than 450,000 bottles, evaluated at 25 million euros in 2009. The wine list contains 15,000 of them, and is 400 pages long.
The restaurant is also mentioned in many works of art. In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway explains that you could rent a room at La Tour d’Argent, and lodgers received a discount on the meals. Marcel Proust also mentions the restaurant in his famous work À la recherche du temps perdu. And, last but not least, La Tour d’Argent also inspired scenes in Ratatouille, the 2007 Pixar movie.