France’s Sum­mer Se­crets Re­vealed

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - BY MAX WOOLDRIDGE

Paris Three-miche­lin-starred restau­rants and wine shops, to colour­ful lo­cal markets and hid­den mu­se­ums, top chef Ray­mond Blanc re­veals his favourite Parisian haunts.

“I DIDN’T DIS­COVER PARIS UN­TIL QUITE LATE. THE CITY WAS DAZ­ZLING, AL­MOST LIKE AN­OTHER WORLD, ES­PE­CIALLY TO A COUN­TRY BOY FROM A SMALL VIL­LAGE.”

“THE MAR­KET IS A RIOT OF FLOW­ERS, BOU­QUETS OF MULTI-COLOURED TULIPS, PLUMP GREEN AS­PARA­GUS SPEARS AND BULBS OF PUR­PLE ARTICHOKES. ALL OF PARISIAN LIFE IS HERE IN A PLACE LIKE THIS.”

As foodie trips go,

this takes some beat­ing. I’m walk­ing around Paris with top French chef Ray­mond Blanc.

From dimly-lit but good-value bistros and top restau­rants to prof­iteroles and cho­co­late fon­dants, the Miche­lin­starred chef is show­ing me his favourite places in Paris to shop, eat and down a glass or two of wine.

We’ve reached Le Marais, the city’s old aris­to­cratic district. We’re wan­der­ing around the Marché des En­fants Rouges, the city’s old­est food mar­ket in rue de Bre­tagne. The small mar­ket is so-named be­cause it was once an or­phan­age where all the chil­dren dressed in red.

No red-clothed young­sters roam here any­more. Nowa­days other vivid colours dom­i­nate: the mar­ket is a riot of flow­ers, in­clud­ing bou­quets of multi-coloured tulips, plump green as­para­gus spears, shards of pink rhubarb and bulbs of pur­ple artichokes.

And then there are de­light­ful sweet and spicy cook­ing smells com­ing from endless food stalls serv­ing var­ied street food, a tes­ta­ment to the city’s vi­brant multi-cul­tural in­flu­ences.

Any pause in con­ver­sa­tion, of which there are not many with Ray­mond Blanc, is filled with the renowned chef fills with his en­thu­si­asm for Paris’s markets.

Blanc says he loves to wan­der around and lose him­self in food markets like this when­ever he vis­its Paris.

“All of Parisian life is here in a place like this,” Blanc says.

He also en­thuses about Marché Prési­dent Wil­son, a fresh food mar­ket in the 16th ar­rondisse­ment.

It’s time to go shop­ping. Food shop­ping, of course. Nearby, at 93, Boule­vard Beau­mar­chais, we visit one of Blanc’s favoured food shops, an up­mar­ket gro­cery called Mai­son Plis­son, a bit like Paris’s an­swer to Whole Foods or Dean & Deluca.

It is packed with lo­cal pro­duce and the fresh­est veg­eta­bles. There’s even an en­tire room ded­i­cated to spe­cial­ist cho­co­late.

An im­pres­sive va­ri­ety of mush­rooms on dis­play sends Blanc into a child­hood reverie. Sud­denly he tells me about his early years spent in the coun­try­side for­ag­ing for hon­ey­combed morel mush­rooms.

Ray­mond Blanc was born and raised near Be­san­con, at the foot of the ragged Jura Moun­tains in the Franchecomté re­gion be­tween Burgundy and Switzer­land. He first vis­ited the French cap­i­tal when he was 16-years-old.

“I didn’t dis­cover Paris un­til quite late. I was on a trip with my par­ents,” he re­calls. “It was a big oc­ca­sion and I found it com­pletely mind-blow­ing. The

city was daz­zling, al­most like an­other world, es­pe­cially to a coun­try boy from a small vil­lage. Nowa­days I visit Paris a lot, usu­ally for a day or two at a time.”

Blanc ad­vises me, and other tourists to the city of light, not to shy away from do­ing touristy things in Paris. His favourite view of Paris, he says, is still the basilique of the Sacre Coeur on the top of Mont­martre.

But he also rec­om­mends tourists go off-the-beaten track, and in par­tic­u­lar, to a small mu­seum few tourists have heard of, or visit: the Musée Jac­que­mart-an­dré (on the Boule­vard Hauss­mann, in the 8th ar­rondisse­ment).

“It’s a hid­den gem,” Blanc en­thuses. “A small mu­seum that houses a wealthy fam­ily’s pri­vate art col­lec­tion of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­quis­ite ob­jet’s d’art. The place is just so beau­ti­ful.”

For tourists not for­tu­nate to have such an ex­pert guide such as Ray­mond Blanc, the renowned chef rec­om­mends tour guide Robert Pink (robert­pink.com). They run cus­tomized walk­ing tours around Paris’s ar­ti­san markets and food shops.

We are soon back to food. Blanc takes me to one of his favourite restau­rants, a chic bistro called Ate­lier Maître Al­bert in the 5th ar­rondisse­ment (1, rue Maître Al­bert). The restau­rant is a mix be­tween a me­dieval coun­try kitchen and a dark wine cel­lar. The chef Guy Savoy cooks ex­cel­lent value sea­sonal set menus fea­tur­ing spit-roasted meats and fab­u­lous cho­co­late fon­dants.

Blanc also rec­om­mends Pierre Gag­naire’s epony­mous three-miche­lin-starred restau­rant at the Ho­tel Balzac (6, rue Balzac) with re­fined ver­sions of many tra­di­tional rus­tic French dishes. There’s also Epi­cure, the three­miche­lin-starred main restau­rant of Le Bris­tol ho­tel

(112, rue du Faubourg Saint-hon­oré) that serves stuffed mac­a­roni with black truf­fles.

This is France, so na­turelle­ment, it’s soon time for wine. In Ga­lerie Vivi­enne, a 19th cen­tury shop­ping ar­cade, Blanc takes me to a wine shop he loves: Le Grand Filles et Fils (1, rue de la Banque).

The place is so more than just a charm­ing wine shop. It’s also a wine bar and a gro­cery with shelves of huge jars con­tain­ing tra­di­tional cho­co­late and sweets – a nos­tal­gic nod to its 1880s ori­gins when it started out as a gro­cery store.

Nowa­days it spe­cialises in fine wines from over 400 wine grow­ers they work with. The fam­ily-run busi­ness vis­its the vine­yards them­selves, se­lect­ing wines of the best ter­roir and qual­ity. An im­pres­sive cel­lar stocks wines sell­ing at €10, to bot­tles worth as much as €10,000.

And, in a sep­a­rate spe­cial room op­po­site the shop, a som­me­lier leads wine tast­ings com­ple­mented with bread and cheese. The ethos here is to help each per­son ex­plore his or her own tastes in wine.

But un­less you have very deep pock­ets, don’t ex­pect them to un­cork a €10,000 bot­tle of wine for you to try. Not even if your last name is Blanc.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.