A food-lovers' guide to Paris's 11th arrondissement and beyond

Le Bon Georges is one of the new wave bistros in Paris.
Le Bon Georges is one of the new wave bistros in Paris. Photo: Sofia Levin

 We like to think that Melbourne and Sydney are major players on the world stage, up there with New York, London, Tokyo and Paris.

But Paris has something we do not: tradition. From those deep-seated roots, a new crop of chefs has sprouted; they're reviving and reinventing classic bistros and imparting their heritage upon French dishes.

And of all the neighbourhoods in the world's food capital, it's the 11th arrondissement, with its diverse and edgy mix of bars and restaurants, bakeries and markets that best captures France's next wave. Here's our guide to the district's eating and drinking highlights.

Add Le Baratin to your list of must-try bistros.
Add Le Baratin to your list of must-try bistros. Photo: Sofia Levin

What's hot

If you have only one night in Paris, heck, if you do only one thing in Paris, eat the duck and foie gras pithivier at Clown Bar. The pastry is flaky, a layer of duck mince profoundly satisfying and a hint of yuzu in date puree surprising. There is Japanese flair on the rotating menu – you might see foie gras with smoked eel, or langoustine "sashimi" chopped tartare-style with cherry, anchovy and pine nuts. Next to the Cirque d'Hiver, Clown Bar has been popular since it opened in 2014. Put the bistro at the top of your list, then book in advance. Septime also needs a reservation – exactly three weeks before you plan to dine. If, like me, you miss out, the bookingless-bistro offshoot next door, Clamato, provides consolation in the form of seafood and natural wine. Also in the 11th Arrondissement is Le Servan, run by Filipino-French sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha. Tatiana,  in the kitchen, has worked at L'Arpege and L'Astrance and her command of technique is clear in butter-poached veal brain that will charm even the most offal-adverse. Asian herbs and chilli pop in dishes like steamed mussels and crisp boudin noir wontons.

To marche, to marche

Make Marche Bastille your priority if your schedule permits only one open-air market. On Thursdays and Sundays from 7am until mid-afternoon, hundreds of stores selling seasonal produce and ready-to-eat food line Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Stern white-haired ladies prod glistening seafood before committing to buy while locals line up beside tourists for hot crepes and rotisserie chooks with fat-drenched potatoes. Rue Montorgueil is a couple of kilometres away on foot, past Le Centre Pompidou. Part of Les Halles – known for its covered market, demolished in 1971 – shops and cafes flank the atmospheric pedestrian street. Stop at La Maison Stohrer, one of Paris' oldest patisseries from 1730, for world-famous baba au rhum and tarts dotted with tiny summer strawberries. For cheese, make a beeline for La Fermette (samples available) then grab some wine from Nysa, a chain that matches bottles to occasion and protein. At the bottom of Rue Montorgueil is Rue Montmartre, where you can stock up on kitchenware at A. Simon and pastry supplies at MORA.

Wine bars

Around the corner from Rue Montorgueil is Frenchie Bar a Vins, an offshoot of Frenchie restaurant just opposite. It's perfect for a pop in, especially when you can't get a reservation at Frenchie, but arrive early (or late). Run by Englishman Gregory Marchand – nicknamed "Frenchie" by Jamie Oliver while working at Fifteen in the UK – you might see English cheese on the menu alongside creative pasta dishes and share plates such as burrata with apricot, pesto and oats. For exciting natural wines, La Buvette is a tiny, well-priced wine bar. Here, you're likely to sit at a table blocking the doorway or stand leaning against shelves, but it's all part of the fun. Buy a bottle and pay corkage or sit with a glass and cold snack – perhaps a terrine silky with fat or seasonal vegetables doused in olive oil.

Du Pain et des Idees bakery dates back to the late 1800s.
Du Pain et des Idees bakery dates back to the late 1800s. Photo: Sofia Levin

Bistros

Please eat the sweetbreads at Le Baratin. They're swimming in butter and perfectly cooked, the texture somewhere between chicken and firm tofu. The fellow in charge greets guests in the customary French manner – with a frown – but floor staff chirpily explain the chalkboard menu. If not sweetbreads, then perhaps roast lamb shoulder and raspberry clafoutis to finish. For an institution, try Bistrot Paul Bert. It looks just like the 1920s bistro you imagined you'd visit in Paris, from charming English-speaking staff through to steak frites and souffle. Compare Paul Bert with a new-wave bistro, like Le Bon Georges, perched on a street corner in the middle of the 9th arrondissement. It looks and feels like a classic bistro, but ingredients are sourced from small, sustainable French producers. The specialite de la maison is Polmard beef, a rare free-range breed also responsible for the world's most expensive steak. Sit on the rattan sidewalk chairs and order from the Sunday market menu.

Bakeries and sweet treats

You smell Du Pain et des Idees before you see it: bread just moments out of the oven; warm, buttery pastry brushed with sugar. This picture-postcard bakery dates to the late 1800s, but the current iteration has been a favourite since 2002. If you're grocery shopping, buy the house specialty: a rectangular, wood-fired loaf called pain des amis, or snack on viennoiseries (pastries), before calling into Jacques Genin for caramels and chocolates displayed like precious jewels. For instant gratification, Une Glace a Paris in the Marais has some of the city's best ice-cream. Flavours like buckwheat, nougat and almond; crunchy Parisian caramel and pear and leatherwood honey are made daily from fresh cream and premium ingredients by a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), a title awarded to those at the top of an artisanal trade.

Splurge

If you want to boost credit card points on a memorable meal, head to three Michelin-starred L'Arpege. Not only has it held its stars for two decades, at No.12 it's also the highest ranking Parisian restaurant on the World's 50 Best Restaurant 2017. Chef's Table fans will know Alain Passard, who famously removed meat from the menu in 2001 and retained his stars. Meat has since returned, and while diners are treated to familiar favourites such as the "hot-cold egg", fruit and vegetables from Passard's biodynamic farm remain dish heroes – whether a glossy tomato gazpacho with mustard ice-cream or the patented bouquet de roses apple tart. Magnifique.

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A. Simon, 48 Rue Montmartre, Paris

Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, Paris

Clamato, 80 Rue de Charonne, Paris

Clamato offers seafood and natural wine.
Clamato offers seafood and natural wine. Photo: Sofia Levin

Clown Bar, 114 Rue Amelot, Paris

Du Pain et des Idees, 34 Rue Yves Toudic, Paris

Frenchie Bar a Vins, 6 Rue du Nil, Paris

Jacques Genin, 133 Rue de Turenne and 27 Rue de Varenne, Paris

L'Arpege, 84 Rue de Varenne, Paris

La Buvette, 67 Rue Saint-Maur, Paris

La Fermette, 86 Rue Montorgueil, Paris

La Maison Stohrer, 51 Rue Montorgueil, Paris

Le Bon Georges, 45 Rue Saint-Georges, Paris

Le Baratin, 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve, Paris

Le Servan, 32 Rue Saint-Maur, Paris

Marche Bastille, 8 Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Paris

MORA, 13 Rue Montmartre, Paris

Nysa, 94 Rue Montorgueil, Paris (check website for other locations)

Septime, 80 Rue de Charonne, Paris

Une Glace a Paris, 15 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, Paris