Quiet streets, locals carrying grocery bags with fruit and veg from the local market sticking out, peace and quiet. That’s what a Sunday in the neighbourhood of St. Germain-des-Prés looks like.
They were one of the first to take enjoying coffee in Paris to a new level, offering great roasted beans, which, with the help of the right latte art, would be turned into fabulous cappuccinos, cortados and lattes. Which, with the slow trickle of cold water through them, would make a fantastic cold brew (available in bottles for takeaway). And they knew how to make a great V60 or siphon coffee. And that’s not all – they also showed how to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a slightly different way, for example, making a meal out of avocado cream served on toast with asparagus, peas, broccoli, a poached egg and feta cheese. How to use a countryside chicken fillet for a crunchy schnitzel, served with baked watermelon and a light salad. How to turn pancakes into an adventure, by making them big and round and pouring chestnut honey over them, then sprinkling them with thyme and blueberries and serving them with a fluffy mascarpone cream. And at the same time never forgetting what the locals love as well – croissants, excellent sandwiches and pastries (their pâte à choux with vanilla custard was just fantastic!). Coutume Café combines so many good things that even if you visit them often you’ll never grow bored. There’s always space in your belly for a quinoa salad with buttermilk dressing, a burrata with herbs and tangerines or something seasonal, a mango and coconut salad or anything else that takes over the baton in summer. And then the biscuits, brownies, flapjacks and all the rest. You don’t want to leave, but when you do, you wish to plan your next visit already.
Address: 47 Rue de Babylone, 7ar, Paris
One of the most famous breads in Paris and the whole of France is made here by already the third generation of bakers. It was right here on Rue du Cherche-Midi that they opened the first bakery in 1932, and it’s still the most famous to keep churning out breads, pastries and the renowned Poilâne sablé biscuits – the classic from Normandy, the native region of the owners, where all you need to make a good biscuit is excellent butter, sugar and flour. Their assortment of breads is not big, but consistently good, just as their croissants, chausson aux pommes and pain au chocolat. Classic, but so perfect that you don’t really need anything more. Looking for a meal? Pop into the related Cuisine de Bar in the same building.
Address: 8 Rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris
They’re famous for their Paris-Brest pastry and éclairs. I can’t comment on the latter just yet (though I’m sure they’re perfect), but their Paris-Brest is something you just must try. A generous amount of relatively dense cream filling between two layers of pâte à choux. And, as if it’s not enough, there’s a crunchy sweet and juicy nut praline in the middle, making the whole thing so marvellous that it’s just impossible to stop eating a second and a third helping. This is a must-try classic – although there are plenty of variations around, some of them are nothing special, but this is one of the standouts.
Address: 14 Boulevard Saint-Michel, Paris
Every Parisian and basically everyone in France knows what a Gâteau Opéra is – layers of coffee buttercream, almond sponge, coffee syrup and ganache, arranged into a perfectly square cake, where each bit is so straight that it seems like it was cut with a ruler. But not many know that it’s Dalloyau in Paris that is the culprit of the existence of this renowned cake, today made by the fanciest pastry shops all over the world. These days the recipe is slightly modified, scaling down the amount of sugar – believe it or not, people’s lives were much, much sweeter back then – but all in all the cake is still made according to the traditional Opera cake recipe created in 1955. Apart from that, this place also has some of the greatest macarons in town. If you really have to choose just one, there’s nothing that can top the bergamot macaron (especially if you like Earl Grey tea). A classic pâtisserie, where each cake looks classic, but even if they’re “simple” (if you can even say that) from the outside, in their textures and flavours they’re so airy and juicy that it’s plain incredible how something so delicious can hide behind that appearance. If you’re up for another traditional pastry, next up after the Opera cake is Fraisier Dalloyau, a strawberry cake, but if you’re more into the pleasures of crème pâtissière and hundreds of crispy layers, there’s nothing better than the mille-feuille. The cake of the season 2016 is the juicy and fresh raspberry cake, worth every single bite, but fans of gluten-free stuff and nuts will love the delightful praline cake. So many flavours, so many textures, for so many tastes. Dalloyau has several locations, but this particular one is for those who wish to enjoy a moment with a view of Jardin du Luxembourg.
Address: 2 Place Edmond Rostand, Paris
Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki is the best possible combination of Japanese flavours and traditions and French confectionery. Grab some matcha tea croissants and macarons – they’ll come in handy after that Eiffel Tower climb or as a snack at the foot of the tower.
Address: 35 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris
Author: owner/editor of food magazine Četras sezonas, 4 cookbook author and food blogger Signe Meirane.
Photographer: all delicious photos captured by Armands Meirans.