Ok. Maybe I should rephrase that. One of the best meals I had in Paris was in fact eaten at a Greek restaurant in a terribly touristy area.
France has just beat Nigeria in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, hence the craziness in the image above. We had snuck out our small packed bar just before the game was officially over. Parisians chanted French rhyming songs, something to do with “caca” and we knew the race was on to find a nearby restaurant or else risk going hungry for the night.
We ducked beneath a blue awning sitting street side to people watch the excitable fans meander to and fro in the streets of Paris. Particularly the streets of the Marais not too far from the Pompidou. I didn’t expect to get a good meal being in such a touristy area but only enough sustenance to last me until we got back to our rented apartment where a bowl of fresh apricots awaited us.
The blue awning proclaimed the name of the restaurant in bold Trajan font, “Les Cyclades Brasserie”. To my surprise it was a Greek restaurant and the outside dinning was filling up fast with both locals and tourists alike. No reservations from what I saw. Little did I know it would be the best meal I had in Paris.
I was learning what it meant to settle into Paris. I found that it was mostly relaxing at a café with a carafe of French wine sighing away the afternoon post-gallery visits. This suited me fine. I needed those moments of relaxation after ushering 6 people around France only one of which spoke a bit of French. As you can imagine I was translator, guide, and rectifier of any problems.
A 3 Euro carafe of wine our platter of food arrived for my fiancé and I. This evening was deemed to be our own, in fact the day turned out to be away from the other 4 people who joined us on our journey.
I was oddly happy to see no charcuterie before me. No cheese or French baguette. No terrine of this and that. No duck or escargots. Despite loving France I needed a break from the rich food. And it turned out to be a small trip to Greece for a few hours while indulging in the French tradition of being a Flaneur all at once.
I dipped my pita bread into the mystery pink pastel yogurt spread feeling my body relish the simple pleasure of variety. Meaty tomato sauced lima beans, the soft grape leaf wrapped dolmades, creamy hummus, tangy tzatziki, and the cut of pickled antipasto to play against the richness of the dips of which there were three to choose – all mysteries to me but that was ok. It was new, delicious and made the wine bloom.
A sighing fool playing into the cliché of “ahh to be in Paris” I was interrupted by two familiar faces wandering by in the crowd. My parents! In all the Greek joints in all of Paris! A coincidence we waved them over to laugh at the odds then on their way they went to find their own piece of Paris. It turns out theirs was a tiny shop near their own apartment that sold foie gras, cheese and terrines to be eaten in their kitchenette.
I returned to the Greek menu ordering another 9 ounces of wine to round out my evening right…with a bit of a buzz and a hearty meat meal of lamb and salad (why the fries I will never know). I could have sat there for many more hours and many more glasses of wine but alas we had an early morning. We were off to heart of the Champagne region, Reims – a place I had yet to go but despite that I was the keeper of the train tickets and tour times so off I went to bed to further renew my feet and dedication.
Wandering home I realized that Paris was at once not at all what I expected but also what I had. I expected the delicious rich food but I did not expect that I would tire of it! I did not expect to find an outstanding meal at a Greek restaurant in a place most Parisians tell you to avoid when it comes to food. But sometimes a great meal is a state of mind.
Look delicious. I remember eating a great Chinese meal in Marseille. Suppose it would be like going to New York and only wanting American food.
I have always been crazy for food and I enjoy all sorts of food.. No matter how much oily or gluten it has 😀 .. Got to try some Greek food. I have never tried
I really enjoyed the street food more than anything. And this little Greek restaurant too. I don’t like the “rich” foods in Paris, not enough to spend the money on it! But authentic Greek food is the best!
Our most authentic meal in Paris was at a place called Chez Mamman in an out of the way neighbourhood where locals eat. We had chicken served in individual le Creuset pots and whatever else we had was all out of this world delicious in it’s simplicity. By the way, we came to the resto at 7:00 and they looked at us like barbarian. Who eat supper at that hour? They sent us off and we came back at 8:00 and still were the only ones there until 9:30 when it started to fill up.
Thanks for the post. A fun read. You are brave…
that’s so crazy that it happened to also be in a touristy area!! we have never been to paris, but i always imagined i’d be eating tons of bread and cheese.
I certainly did my share of eating bread and cheese Esther but you eventually need a break if you’re there for longer than 4 or 5 days.
All the Parisians I asked about eating in areas near the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame said that it is so tough to find good eats. The biggest red flag to look out for…make sure there are no flags hanging of various countries like USA or Mexico and if the menu is offered with pictures in more than 2 languages skip the place!
After a few days in Paris, I am always looking for a non-French meal. Doesn’t mean I don’t love French food, but there is a lot of really great ethnic food there as well. The best gyro I’ve ever had was in Morges, Switzerland!
I felt that way in Venice – like if I had to eat another piece of bad pizza I was going to die. 🙂
It’s still hard to wrap my head around this, but I only had one really good restaurant meal in Paris and I don’t even remember the name of the place. I do remember where it was (Rue Clerc) and what I ate (1/4 roast chicken with salad and frites).
The best food I had was at the cooking classes I went to (especially at the Ritz!), the meals I assembled in my rented apartment, and the street food I happened upon (falafel, crepes, ice cream, Parisian hot dogs baked in baguettes and smothered in melted gruyere).
Hi Laura! I too found it tough to find good food in Venice. We lucked out when we found a local spot that made delicious gnocchi. Cicchetti was so good as well with the simplest of prosciutto sandwiches. But in Paris too I found the simpler the better. I agree – a baguette with butter and cheese was by far the most satisfying.