Perfect Paris

On my recent trip to Paris, for a change, I flew in to France’s capital rather than taking the Eurostar. After so many visits I find it amazing that there are still so many things I want to explore and experience in Paris. A brilliant burger bar, a new design hotel and a personalised perfume service were all part of my itinerary but I also discovered a few wonders whilst wandering…

TO SLEEP

Le Citizen Hotel – a tiny boutique design hotel located by the canal. Young, hip and affordable.

Hotel de Nell – a quietly elegant and very luxurious 5 star design hotel in the 9th arrondissement.

TO EAT

Beef Club – visiting late on a Friday night, this popular local hangout was full to the brim and we were sad to learn of the lack of burgers. Nonetheless we enjoyed a delicious steak before sloping downstairs for a well mixed cocktail in the Ballroom Bar, another of the illustrious ECC venues.

Patisserie Christian Colonniat – here you will find perfect pain au chocolats with flaky buttery pastry that melts in your mouth. Best of all… It is hidden away from the hordes of tourists.

Big Fernand – Perhaps the best burger in Paris, this shabby restaurant is identified from the long queues down the street. We tried Le Bartholome, an irresistible combination of raclette cheese, crispy bacon, caramelised onions and chives accompanying a genius juicy beef patty. I’ve heard Big Fernand are soon to be opening in London, I cannot wait.

Ferdi – a very traditional and cosy restaurant serving classic French dishes and a particularly good and simple cheeseburger using the finest thick ground meat. Served with wonderfully thin fries.

Le Bal Cafe – particularly popular for weekend brunch, this cafe and art gallery attracts a cool crowd of creative creatures.

TO DRINK

Ten Belles – just a few feet from Le Citizen Hotel, this charming little coffee shop squeezes customers in for delicious coffee and homemade cakes.

Lockwood – good in the day for a strong coffee or at night for an even stronger cocktail. Lockwood is a new ‘vintage’ venue that already has a great vibe.

Candelaria – My favourite new cocktail bar and dance establishment. Escape through the tacos kitchen to find a happy dancing den where trendy girls and boys drink clever concoctions. I loved the Dino sour with pear liqueur, lemon, egg white and floral-infused honey.

TO SHOP

Nose – this perfume emporium offers a full analysis and personalised service to find you the perfect scent. I bought Le Fin du Monde by Etat Libre D’Orange.

Coincidence – a little concept store with lots of character. Here you will find Scandi inspired clothing and quirky accessories.

A.P.C. – the typically French brand, APC offers chic but relaxed garments for modern thinkers. Classic colours, modern design.

TO SEE

Rodin Museum – indoor and outdoor gallery filled with Rodin’s robust and sensual sculptures. Sadly the famous and romantic Kiss was on loan when we visited, though the other works are just as magnificent.

Cartier at Le Grand Palais – showcasing the finest jewels from Cartier, this is a glittering exhibition including jewellery worn by stars such as Grace Kelly.

TO DO

Wikipearls at Wikibar – the experimental and innovative frozen balls of flavour are interesting but certainly not enjoyable. We tried Lobster and Coconut Milk, Beetroot and Foie Gras, Coriander and Pumpkin, and Roquefort and Walnut. Weird but not wonderful.

Le Comptoir Generale – this ghetto museum-cafe-bar is hidden away behind the main canal street. Filled with memorabilia and strange artefacts, it is a fascinating place to explore.

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.

parisinfo.com

La Bauhinia, Shangri-La Paris

Shangri-La is a charismatic hotel brand. Since the Shard acquired the new London branch, many more Brits have become aware of this company’s power and esteem. During my last trip to Paris I was priviledged to visit Shangri-La Paris to dine at the Asian style restaurant in the hotel, La Bauhinia.

Wandering through this opulent palace, my feet squeaking on the polished floor, I felt relieved that at least I had my little Chanel bag on my shoulder, my most luxurious possession that increases my suitability for an establishment like this. La Bauhinia is one of three restaurants at the hotel, the other two are both Michelin-awarded offering Chinese and French cuisine. Located in the heart of the building, its name is inspired by the bauhinia flower and is a reminder of the hotel’s Asian heritage. A luxurious glass ‘cupola’ structure designed by renowned architect Maurice Gras dazzles at night with a grand chandelier illuminating the space.

Both French and Asian dishes are given equal importance on the menu, though I felt more swayed by the Thai dishes. First though, top notch pink champagne and crostini whet our appetites prior to the main meal. To start we shared a delectable plate of Mangalica ham with minced pear and spiced pear chutney. The salty but delicate meat contrasted with the aromatic sweet fruit. It was polished off in minutes.

For main course we decided to sample two classic Thai dishes: Shrimp Pad Thai and Lamb Green Curry. The Pad Thai consisted of sautéed rice noodles, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, tamarind juice, daikon radish, white cabbage, peanuts, garlic and lime. Everything was perfectly cooked though I found it a little too sweet. Lamb shoulder stewed in a Thai green curry and coconut basmati rice was amazingly spicy and creamy, with tender chunks of meat and the lovely addition of fresh peas and cherry tomatoes that added pleasantly to the look and taste. The knowledgeable waiter brought complementing glasses of wine, we particularly enjoyed the French white Meursault Les Criots.

For dessert we shared the Orange in Many Ways, it was absolutely sensational, too pretty to eat. Orange segments, orange mousse, orange crumble, Grand Marnier ice cream made for a tangy and fruity sundae of deliciousness. It was the ideal palate cleansing sweet treat.

If you can’t afford a night’s stay in the stunning Shangri-La, a special meal at La Bauhinia is a great alternative: delicious food and wonderful surroundings in the heart of Paris.

More information about La Bauhinia here.

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.

parisinfo.com

Le Citizen, Paris

Gone are the days when Paris was all about romance. Minimalist design is sweeping through the city fast and hotels are following suit. Paris now has many stylish and efficient options to cater for the cool couture kids who prefer less fuss more functionality.

I first visited the up-and-coming area of Canal Saint Martin a few years ago to gorge on grub at the popular pizza joint, Pink Flamingo, but I have never been fortunate enough to stay in this part of town before. The nonchalant and carefree 10th arrondissement now boasts many characterful independent coffee shops, juice bars, boutiques and restaurants – a great place to explore if you are bored of the familiarity of the famous sites. It is an area often seen in Parisian arthouse films, the charm is waiting to be discovered rather than being shoved in your face with a red rose in its mouth. To me it felt like real Paris.

The discreet Le Citizen Hotel is disguised among the many doors along the canal, only a small sign indicates its presence. We arrived late in the evening and were greeted and directed up to our room, number 1 on the first floor. It was a tiny room, dominated by the big double bed, with  intriguing little nooks and crannies to explore; there was a small wardrobe space for storing clothes, a little selection of snacks for midnight feasting and a kettle for hot drink emergencies!

The room was clean and slick, and felt basic yet deluxe simultaneously, the materials were comforting and aesthetically pleasing but with no space wasted on unnecessary features. Round the corner we discovered our blue tiled mini bathroom, which felt a little like a aeroplane toilet, albeit one that has been beautifully designed with lovely Omnisens toiletries. For fresh air and daylight the windows opened out to views of the neighbourhood, the canal and people on the street.

There are fun features too, an ipad loaned to each occupied room filled with trendy suggestions for the surrounding area and offering wifi for internet browsing. In our room we soon found a little hidden den, concealed by a curtain… lined in soft cushions, the perfect place to sit and read the copy of ‘Paris my Sweet’ provided for one’s enjoyment.

Downstairs there is a communal area for hanging out, reading, chatting and eating. It is all very zen with structural arrangements holding a small library of art and culture books. We relished a basic but tasty breakfast here, just-squeezed orange juice and bouncy fresh croissants. Those wishing to go out and find their own morning meal might enjoy these recommendations: Ten Belles for coffee, Holy Belly for brunch and Tholoniat Patissier for the best pain au chocolat you will ever eat.

Le Citizen is reasonably priced, brilliantly located and creatively designed. I felt a little cramped in room number 1 but loved the concept and character of the place, and the free-spirited neighbourhood totally won me over.

More information and book here: www.lecitizenhotel.com

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.

parisinfo.com