Ruffians Recommends - Paris
As most of you are probably aware by now, most of our Notebook entries are concentrated on the capitals of England and Scotland. Of course, there’s good reason for this - they’re both wonderful cities and both homes to Ruffians.
However, in preparation for next year’s Olympics, this time around we thought we’d take you across The Channel to an equally iconic capital city which offers an abundance of equally great spots to eat, drink and sight see. Sadly, we cannot endorse Parisian haircuts to the same level.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Paris for the olympics (or sooner of course) then these are our top recommendations.
Where To Stay
As is the case with many major cities, the lion’s share of Paris’ big money attractions are in the epicentre. Unsurprisingly, this means that most people visiting head here. Perhaps even less surprising is the fact that these are often the areas where the hotels offer the least bang for your buck and the atmosphere can feel a little flat.
Because Paris is actually a pretty compact city, there are some great areas slightly further out which still offer a quick route in via the Metro - or by foot if you’re looking to up your step count - but offer more of a vibe and a more authentic slice of life here.
South Pigalle in the 9th Arrondissement is achingly hip, a former seedy red light district now gentrified and full of cool cats. Head up the hill to the beautiful Monmartre and the famous Sacre Coeur to take in some of the best views of the city, or downwards to the throng of buzzing bars and superb independent eateries.
The unimaginatively named La Pigalle is the most well known hotel in the neighbourhood and was the original cool address to stay around here, it’s a bit like The Hoxton is to Shoreditch. The rooms are carefully curated, with artwork by French artists and toiletries from Le Labo in the bijou but perfectly formed bathrooms.
The new kid on the block is HOY (House Of Yoga) which somehow manages to champion wellfulness (on site yoga classes, a healthy and fully vegetarian menu, complimentary charcoal water) without being too preachy. You can totally stay here and take advantage of the beautifully appointed and calm rooms, with rainwater showers and luxury organic toiletries, without being a yogi. There’s a great pizzeria opposite too if you’re not in the mood for biodynamic avocado on flax bread.
Where To Eat
Widely regarded as the original home of haute cuisine, you won’t struggle for good food in Paris. There are literally thousands of good spots to pick up some confit duck leg or steak and frites, however, we’ve tried to find a few alternative options for you.
Clamato - 11th
In the 11th Arrondissement, a foodie heaven, one of the biggest draws is Septime, a super refined French bistro offering tasting menus and wine pairings of the highest order. So in demand is a table here that they release their bookings at 10.00 a.m. daily, on the dot, for three weeks in advance.
If, like us, you lack the time keeping skills and energy for such systems then head down the road to their sister restaurant Clamato. On offer here is a more relaxed, seafood focussed faire with daily deliveries from the best French fisheries and Maldon oysters a plenty. Delicious.
Pink Mamma - 9th
If you’re familiar with Gloria - the incredibly popular, gloriously gaudy, flower heavy trattoria in London - then you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for at Pink Mamma, as this is one of several of the same group’s Paris outposts.
You can’t miss it as; predictably; it’s big and pink. Get here early as the queues often stretch around the block but you will be rewarded for your patience with bold interiors and a simple, tasty Italian menu made with the freshest ingredients.
Rarely has a restaurant been so Instagram-able, from the sweeping four storey staircase with every inch of wall adorned with an array of eclectic art, to the subterranean top floor conservatory.
Where To Have Coffee
Paris’ venture into the speciality coffee scene was a bit slower on the uptake than London but thankfully now it’s in full swing, with numerous top quality caffeine merchants to choose from serving beans from independent roasteries across the city.
Kott Café - 11th
Blink and you could miss this charming minimal coffee shop close to the famous Bataclan, but you’d regret it you did.
The baristas here know their stuff, and will happily share their knowledge when recommending the many options of beans and brew methods on offer here. When we visited they had six options on drip filter and three on espresso, and were super friendly and un-rushed in telling us all about them.
Grab one of the few seats and take the time to enjoy the beverage and surroundings. There’s a no laptop policy here, but to be honest that only adds to the relaxed atmosphere.
Back in Black - Bastille
One street back from prime shopping street Boulevard Beaumarchais you can find the excellent Back in Black coffee shop.
It’s owned and run by KB Coffee Roasters, one of the biggest names in the burgeoning Paris coffee market with multiple sites in prime spots across the city, so you know the beans are top notch.
The edgy industrial interior is complemented by a long coffee bar where skilled baristas work their magic on a variety of cutting edge equipment below a large glazed roof light. There are even a couple of coffee taps (beer taps but for coffee), the first time we’ve come across this.
There’s also a kitchen serving a variety of brunch options to complete this slick operation which would look as at home in Melbourne as Paris.
Where To Shop
There’s no disputing it, Parisians are a fashionable bunch, so it’s a gimme that there are a fair share of outlets from which to snag some quality gear.
Merci - Le Marais
If you only visit one shop in Paris, please let this be it. This breathtaking concept store is accessed via a traditional courtyard complete with a verdant plant display and vintage Fiat 500.
As you step inside you expect to see a compact boutique, but instead you are greeted by a vast warehouse-style space with vaulted ceilings, exposed celing beams and three loft style floors of sublime swag.
There are homewares, furniture, toiletries, a haberdashery and a superb range of clothing, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s also a Mexican restaurant, a sunken patio garden and, yep, a used book café.
Whether it’s a new shirt for you, a fragrance for your better half or some books for your coffee table, if it’s cool you’ll find it here.
The department store is dead, long live the department store!
Where To Stroll
A native Parisian client of Ruffians once told us that his top recommendation on what to do in Paris was to “just walk about”, and we’d have to agree with him. There are so many amazing spots to amble around from parks and monuments to riversides and shops.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont - 19th
This absolute gem of a park can be found in an attractive area to the northeast of the city, easily accessed by either the Botzaris or Laumière metro stations.
Flanked by stunning period apartment blocks, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont has been the focal point of this part of Paris since its creation in 1867 by order of Napoleon III.
At first glance it appears to predate this period by a good few centuries, with high rugged islands, rocky waterfalls and caves that look like they’ve been naturally and slowly shaped by nature. In fact, they’ve been meticulously constructed from limestone and gypsum from the mine that stood on this spot before the parks creation. Artificial stalactites have even been added to give a grotto-like aesthetic.
The crowning glory is a scaled down replica of the ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy. Access to this is via a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, who apparently created something else of note in the city.
Bassin de la Villette - 19th
Once you’ve finished perusing the park then it’s only a short stroll to the edge of the canal. Of course, Canal St. Martin has been a regular haunt for artists and alike for ages but this particular part has changed a lot in more recent times.
Shiny new buildings intermingle with the old and there’s a buzzy atmosphere as locals head here to jog, fish, eat, drink and even swim in the designated pool area within the canal.
Once you’ve wandered about and taken in the vibe, why not take a short break from the vino and head to Paname, a tap room from the brewery of the same name. There are sixteen of their delicious tipples on draught so you can take your pick, grab a spot on the split level patio overlooking the canal and watch the world go by.