My trip to Paris last week came at a time when I was suffering from writer’s block. I’m never short of a few words, but I felt like I was just going through the process of stringing words together to describe my recipes – recipes that had been devised for other purposes, a brand, a cooking class, a season.
Trying the blank piece of paper technique is all very well, but what I really needed was inspiration.
I was in Paris for a short trip to visit my friend Amanda who is studying hard at le Cordon Bleu. When I emerged from Gare du Nord into the hustle, bustle, and distinctive architecture of Gay Paris, exciting, descriptive words came burbling up, and the urge to write immediately hit.
Whilst Amanda tackled French pâtisserie at school, I took the opportunity of wandering the streets of Paris seeking out gluten free pâtisserie and other baked delights. Since Paris is one of the best places in the world for pâtisserie, surely it’s the best place in the world for gluten free pâtisserie?? Was a gluten free Paris trip even possible?
Here are some of my recommendations;
The specialist bakery
16 & 49 Passage des Panoramas, 75002, Paris
A restaurant and bakery on separate but facing premises. Both are located in a small arcade –reminiscent of the Victorian arcades of Cardiff (!) that I have long adored. The bakery is tiny and takeaway only, although they do have a couple of seats outside, where I feasted on my quiche and berry tart. The quiche was sensationally normal – was it really gluten free? – and the sweet potato and noix (hazelnuts) filling complimented the eggy base. It could have possibly done with more feta. The tartlet was almost too beautiful to cut into, but rest assured, I did. The biscuit base was a little over done, but it held the stunningly delicious crème pâtisserie and berries, so I overlooked that. This was certainly not health food. It’s pâtisserie – duh! I’ll have to go back and try ALL the food.
I have been wondering if there is scope for a gluten free French pâtisserie to open in London. It seems people interested in natural foods, with the skills of French pastry training aren’t in abundance. I’ve been in touch with Henrietta Inman, an ex- pâtisserie chef turned natural baker, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next! Her wesbite is a great source of inspiration.
The relaxed lunch option
47 rue Laborde 75008
I marched to the far west of central Paris to find this little gem, having a glorious morning wandering in an out of all department stores like Galleries Lafayette and Printemps along the way. My only hesitation in recommending this café is that on my visit (a Monday lunchtime) it was lacking atmosphere. The cute French café across the road bustled with warmth and lunchtime trade, whilst I sat enjoying my buckwheat crepe, and carrot and fennel juice in the company of only two other people. Since I didn’t have room for all the delicious looking GF pâtisserie on offer, maybe I’d have been better off just looking for a standard crêperie – of which there are plenty. If you’re seeking a buckwheat crêpe in Paris, make sure you note down the French word for buckwheat – sarrasin. It will stand you in good stead.
The Top Restaurant
L’Atelier Joel Robuchon
5, rue de Montalembert – 75007 Paris
Possibly one of the best meals of my life. Unsurprising for a total financial blow out Michelin starred restaurant experience, this meal cost me almost as much as my Eurostar ticket. But since I didn’t need any touristy souvenirs from this trip, had a desire to learn as much about Parisian cuisine as was possible, and was in desperate need for inspiration, I decided I was totally OK with this exuberance.
Perhaps when eating at a fine restaurant it’s how they treat you rather than the price of the meal makes it so special. The staff treated Amanda and me like princesses, helped guide us through the French menu, and made no qualms about making minor adaptations to suit my gluten free preferences.
And the food? Sensational. I opted for Le Saint Pierre – grillé, coques et salsifis confit sur une mousseline de citron doux à l’amande douce (John Dory) for main and god knows what that chocolate pudding was called but, oh!, it was good.
The cosy café I wish I’d found earlier
Café Pinson 10e
58 rue du faubourg poissonnière Paris 10e (also at PINSON 3e 6 rue du forez)
On my final wander back to Gare du Nord, feeling the 3° cold, and desperately requiring some warmth and a big hot chocolate hug, I stumbled upon Café Pinson.
On atmosphere alone, this place won my heart. Any café that immediately inspires me want to run a similar restaurant and has me lusting over the décor for my very own living room before I’ve even read the menu has my vote. So many healthy eateries are cold and sterile, which always makes my heart sigh. This cold afternoon I found solace in a Matcha Latte – pricey at 5.5€. The menu looked interestingly healthful and the plates within eyeshot were full of colour and intrigue. Next time in Paris I’ll be back for a full meal!
Another place recommended to me was Helmut Newcake, but it was closed on the Monday I found it. Many places in Paris are closed on Sunday and Monday (my trip covered Sunday to Tuesday), something I’m not quite used to from 24-7 London. I’ll just have to save them all for my next visit.
Have you visited Paris before, would you add any other recommendations to my list?