Water canal in Petite France area, Alsace
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France Travel Guide

France receives more foreign visitors than any other country in the world. It is not hard to see why; aside from its spectacular capital city, it offers tracts of exquisite countryside, Europe’s highest mountain ...

France receives more foreign visitors than any other country in the world. It is not hard to see why; aside from its spectacular capital city, it offers tracts of exquisite countryside, Europe’s highest mountain and, of course, some of the world’s finest cuisine (even though some travelers grumble that the general standard of food is not as high as it used to be). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about France is its astonishing variety within a relatively small area. European countries tend to be either northern or southern in character, with the Alps and Pyrenees being the principal dividing lines. France is both: The coast of Pas-de-Calais is just 29 miles from Kent in southern England, while the shores of Provence are part of the warm, classical world of the Mediterranean. 

The enduring charms of France are manifest. A typical visit generally includes a stay in Paris (perhaps in a grande dame hotel as well as an intimate Left Bank alternative), followed by a jaunt down into the Loire Valley, Provence or the Riviera. But the options are nearly endless: a historical pilgrimage to the bleak coastline of Normandy; a stirring drive along the serpentine Alsace wine road; a sunny idyll in Corsica, one of the most pristine and wildly scenic islands in the Mediterranean. Barge cruises, which travel along a network of linked canals through medieval villages and rolling vineyards, are a particularly appealing and hassle-free way of exploring the French countryside. Other novel approaches to this classic destination include culinary courses, ballooning trips, grape harvest tours and biking vacations. Then again, one could also spend several weeks happily sequestered in a sleepy provincial village.


Passport (valid for at least three months beyond end of stay). Visit, and for travelers’ health information,


Northern and central France are typified by Paris. The south of France, exemplified by Marseille, has hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. In August, the Parisians all leave on vacation. The Cote d’Azur is also best avoided in August, when it is impossibly overcrowded. Visitors to Paris should check the dates of the spring and fall fashion collections, when many of the best hotels (and restaurants) are full. 

Recommended Luxury Hotels in France

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in France

This well-known Montparnasse watering hole has been slaking the thirsts of artists and intellectuals, including Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, since 1847. It’s a little touristy, to be sure, but also a great place to pop in for a drink during a wander in the neighborhood. The bar crowd tends toward gregarious locals, while the tourists favor the restaurant on the enclosed terrace. There are never enough stools at the long mahogany bar, but there’s always plenty of atmosphere, and they do know how to mix a good drink. If you’re hungry, the brasserie, which serves oysters and steak tartare, is a better bet than the restaurant.

171 boulevard du Montparnasse (6e) Paris

Regrettably, because of rising rents and changing tastes, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a simple, old-fashioned French bistro in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. However, that’s not the only reason I enjoy Au Bon Saint Pourçain, my favorite “sore-feet bistro” (it’s close to many of my favorite hotels). The warm welcome of François, the friendly, beetle-browed proprietor, is unfailing, and as soon as you’ve slipped past the heavy velvet curtains, he quickly sets you up with a glass of white Saint-Pourçain, a pleasant country wine from the Auvergne. This snug little place also attracts an interesting crowd of diners, from local book editors and politicians to the occasional fashion designer or movie star. A convivial ambience reigns as you tuck into homey French classics such as pâté de campagne, boeuf aux olives (with green olives) or steak with dauphinoise potatoes. The food is always just fine (never more), but I hope this little corner of Gaul never changes.

10 bis rue Servandoni (6e) Paris

With red-and-ivory-checked tablecloths, waiters in white aprons and a menu that runs to delicious classic French dishes such as pâté de campagne, foie gras, confit de canard and blanquette de veau, this is a textbook example of the traditional Parisian bistro, a much-loved species that is sadly becoming endangered. Excellent service. 

129 Rue Saint-Dominique 7e Paris US$70

Sadly, this storied restaurant has never been the same since the passing of Claude Terrail, the dapper owner and maître d’hôtel par excellence. Yet it still serves up one of the loveliest views in Paris (the back of Notre Dame, the Seine and its banks) and its famous roast caneton (duckling) in orange sauce. Each dish comes with a postcard with the serial number of the bird as a souvenir, and service is serious and cordial in the best old-fashioned traditions of Gallic gastronomy. To be sure, the kitchen has had some ups and downs during the last few years, but my last meal here was excellent. It’s still a grand experience to daydream over the vista and be coddled in an elegant dining room. Come for lunch to get the view at its best, and also perhaps to take advantage of the good-value prix-fixe lunch menu.

15 quai de la Tournelle (5e) Paris

Though I liked this beautiful dining room better before it was given a rather gimmicky makeover by Philippe Starck, it’s still one of the loveliest restaurants in Paris, with lavish frescoes, gorgeous mosaic floors and magnificent crystal chandeliers overhead. Chef Yannick Alléno is a real genius, too, and offers luxurious and inventive dishes such as a coddled egg in a crust of herbs with Ossetra caviar, langoustines with a shellfish coral Béarnaise sauce, partridge with juniper berries and cep mushrooms, and roasted pears with spicy caramel. Charming service, and an unusually good selection of wines by the glass in addition to a fine wine list.

228 rue de Rivoli (1e) Hotel Le Meurice Paris Very Expensive

Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, this handsome hotel bar with gold-trimmed wood paneling and antique mirrors has a pleasantly clubby atmosphere and a special vocation as Paris’ only bar specializing in Champagne. More than 50 pours are available, and it highlights three special cuvées from a different Champagne house every week.

117 rue de Lauriston (16e) Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel Paris

After cooking at Lasserre for several years, talented chef Jean-Louis Nomicos opened this strikingly modern restaurant in the 16th arrondissement, and immediately began attracting a well-heeled neighborhood crowd who appreciate his inventive contemporary cooking. Nomicos is from Marseilles, and many of the dishes he serves have a touch of the south in them, including starters like baby artichokes and squid with a bergamot spiked white-wine sauce and sea urchin royale with fennel cream. His veal sweetbreads with “lemon caviar” (grains of fresh lemon) and veal chop with sage and Parmesan are delicious, and desserts are excellent, too—try the green Chartreuse soufflé. Attentive service and a dressy but relaxed atmosphere.

16 avenue Bugeaud (16e) Paris Expensive

Located in the silk-stocking 7th arrondissement, not far from the Eiffel Tower, chef Arnaud Pitrois’ stylish contemporary bistro is a soigné address popular with well-heeled locals and travelers in the know. I’ve been coming here for a long time, and always appreciate Madame Pitrois’ welcome and her husband’s inventive but reliably light and delicious contemporary French cooking. The menu follows the seasons, but dishes such as chestnut soup with chicken gnocchi, sea bass with black truffles and arugula sauce, and mandarin orange soufflé offer a good idea of the chef’s style. Good wine list and amiable service.

16 avenue Rapp (7e) Paris

Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, the restaurant of chef Joackim Salliot is the best address for a memorable meal during a visit to Giverny. Salliot’s creativity is displayed in dishes such as grilled langoustines and squid in green tea-flavored cauliflower cream, and lamb fillet with baby leeks and pistachio oil. There is also a good-value prix-fixe lunch menu. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

1 rue du Milieu Giverny

Stylish Parisians hankering after a taste of the food they enjoyed during their Iberian holidays have made this sleek beige dining room on the banks of the Seine one of the most popular foreign restaurants in Paris. It is especially busy on Saturday and Sunday nights, when the locals come for the excellent paellas that emerge from chef Alberto Herraiz’s fogón (oven). Start with an assortment of tapas or some Spanish charcuterie before the mostly rice-based main courses. Service is friendly, and the atmosphere is relaxed but fashionable in a very Saint-Germain-des-Prés kind of way. Good Spanish wine selections.

45 quai des Grands-Augustins (6e) Paris

Overlooking the sea, this hotel dining room is a fine destination for lunch during an easygoing drive around the lovely Crozon peninsula. Order one of the good-value prix-fixe menus, or go à la carte for fish soup, langoustines with homemade mayonnaise, grilled lobster, turbot with a buckwheat crust, or pork braised with onion in cider. 

11 Quai du Fret Crozon US$75

For excellent southern French cooking, don’t miss this Marseille institution, perched on rock at the entrance to the old port of Vallon des Auffes. Chef Guillaume Sourrieu makes a superb fish soup, along with more elaborate dishes such as sea bass in caviar butter, John Dory with Swiss chard, gnocchi and black olive sauce, and chocolate soufflé with black-pepper ice cream. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Vallon des Auffes Marseille

When young chef Yves Camdeborde opened La Régalade in 1994, he completely changed the direction of French cooking by applying the haute cuisine techniques he’d learned while working in the kitchen at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel de Crillon to traditional bistro cooking. Eschewing cream-based sauces, he brightened and lightened his dishes by using jus and garnishes such as fresh herbs and tiny croutons. This made his restaurant an internationally known success, and kept it full for many years. Camdeborde sold to chef Bruno Doucet a few years back, and now runs Le Comptoir du Relais, but La Régalade continues to be one of the best bistros on the Left Bank. Meals begin with a serve-yourself terrine and continue with choices from a chalkboard menu that might include foie gras in asparagus bouillon, brandade de morue (a homey casserole of mashed potatoes and flaked salt cod), caramelized pork, or steak. Desserts are homemade, and the atmosphere is relaxed and very Parisian. Note that there is now a branch of La Régalade on the Right Bank.

49 avenue Jean Moulin (14e) Paris

After a successful stint in Tours, young chef Olivier Arlot took over an established restaurant (La Chancelière) in nearby Montbazon and transformed it into one of the finest in the Loire Valley. His prix-fixe menus follow the seasons, but dishes such as shrimp with avocado and grapefruit, cod in red wine sauce on black rice with girolles, and peaches and raspberries in a Vouvray foam show off his inventive style. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1 Place des Marronniers La Chancelière Montbazon

This wonderfully old-fashioned restaurant is one of my favorite places to dine in Paris, and I never leave town without having a meal here. The cozy dining room decorated with red velvet banquettes, smoky mirrors and 1950s French ceramics has a preserved-in-amber charm, the service is charming (most of the waiters have been here for years), and its clubby atmosphere derives from the fact that this is one of the most enduringly elegant beau-monde addresses in Paris. The food is delicious, including the famous oeufs mayonnaise (hard-boiled eggs dressed with homemade mayonnaise, a favorite of the regulars), blanquette de veau, excellent steaks and terrific chocolate mousse. Jackets advised for gents—this place is very chic in a casual and very Parisian way.

27 Quai Voltaire (7e) Paris Expensive

Young South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s stylish boudoir-like bistro is one of the most popular new restaurants in Nice. Before opening it, he studied design and worked as a food writer and as a chef on a private yacht. These diverse experiences explain the cosmopolitan style of his cooking, including dishes such as boned rack of lamb with lamb sweetbread croquettes, and a luscious dessert of Malva pudding, a South African specialty of caramelized sponge cake. 

12 Rue Lascaris Nice US$80

This glamorous restaurant with a streamlined modern décor and fine views from a hillside location is one of the most fashionable in the city. A renowned chef in Lyon, Christian Tetedoie has served delicious contemporary French dishes such as turbot with a marmalade of citrus fruits, coriander, braised fennel and ricotta gnocchi; filet of Black Angus beef larded with bacon, “soufflé” potatoes and asparagus; and a classic Poire belle Hélène, poached pears with vanilla whipped cream and a rich chocolate sauce. Closed Sunday.

Montée du Chemin Neuf Lyon US$160

A happy exception to the sorry decline of the traditional Parisian brasserie (most of them are now owned by chains), this bourgeois table in the silk-stocking 16th arrondissement attracts a chic crowd to eat excellent traditional French comfort food in a lively dining room with a 1950s décor. Start with fresh oysters, escargots, green-bean salad or fish soup, and continue with sole meuniere, Bresse chicken, or a filet mignon with frites and Béarnaise sauce. I also love the blanquette de veau (veal in cream sauce) and stuffed cabbage. Also appreciated are the non-stop serving hours during the weekend, when it can be a challenge to find a good place for a late lunch. Service is brisk to occasionally brusque, in the style of many busy brasseries. Reservations essential. 

133 avenue Victor Hugo (16e) Paris Moderate

This is one of the city’s iconic bouchons. Since some of these dishes are acquired tastes — chitterling sausage, calf’s head and tripe, for example — we suggest you come for lunch and maybe opt for dishes such as saucisson de Lyon, chicken in vinegar sauce, Saint- Marcellin cheese and tarte pralinée. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

7 Rue du Garet Lyon US$40

Just across the street from the stately columned limestone building that once housed the French stock exchange, this lively bistro with a marble-lined art-deco interior is packed with bankers, brokers and journalists at noon and pulls an arty mostly Parisian crowd at dinner. Though it’s owned by the Flo group, the quality of the cooking here is superior to what’s served in most of their other addresses, and service is better drilled, too. Start with oysters, onion soup or smoked salmon, and then try the grilled cod with truffle flavored mashed potatoes, grilled sole with spinach and béarnaise sauce, steak tartare or steaks of Charolais beef.  Note that the quiet sidewalk terrace is a very pleasant setting for a meal during the warm weather months. 


29 rue Vivienne (2e) Paris Moderate

Run by the charming Sino-Cambodian Ta family, this stylish restaurant in the heart of Paris offers excellent service and well-prepared Vietnamese cooking. There are a few Cambodian and Laotian dishes on the menu, too, including a succulent Cambodian specialty of ground pork cooked in coconut milk and served over crunchy rice, and lemongrass-flavored Laotian sausages that make a good nibble with drinks. I enjoy this place when I want a night off from French cooking, and always order the nems (deep-fried spring rolls), sautéed Vietnamese-style shrimp and ginger chicken. The wine list is surprisingly good — the Ta sons know and love their French wines — and the small, nicely appointed dining room is a pleasant setting for a relaxed, low-key meal.

38 rue du Mont Thabor (1e) Paris

With an art deco interior inspired by Normandie, one of the great trans-Atlantic ocean liners, this glamorous brasserie at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée is a favorite of fashion executives and ladies who lunch. In the evening, it attracts a well-heeled international crowd and the occasional movie star with its menu of luxurious Gallic comfort food. My favorite meal here is the salad of mache with artichoke hearts and sliced mushrooms, and rotisseried chicken with wild mushroom lasagna. It also offers a nice king crab salad, and the steaks are excellent. Suave maître d’hôtel Werner Küchler possesses an encyclopedic social knowledge of Paris, and runs this chic dining room with the precision of an orchestra conductor.

25 avenue Montaigne (8e) Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris Paris Expensive

A short walk from Le Brittany hotel, this contemporary brasserie has a seaside setting, cordial service and an appealing menu of good, simple French dishes prepared with first-rate local produce. These include excellent oysters, dressed-crab-and-artichoke terrine, and yellow pollack with buckwheat stuffing, baby vegetables and beurre blanc sauce. 

37 Rue de l'Amiral Courbet Roscoff US$45

Located next to the Grand Palais exhibition gallery adjacent to the Champs-Elysées, this handsome restaurant has a décor inspired by an artist’s atelier. It is run by chef Eric Frechon of the three-star Epicure, and he’s created a stylish, cosmopolitan menu that changes with the seasons and is ideal for casual dining. Start with creamy burrata cheese topped with Parma ham and pine nuts or smoked salmon with tzatziki, and then try the pan-roasted John Dory served on a carpaccio of tomatoes and garnished with lardo di Colonnata, or beautifully cooked veal sweetbreads in a crust of Comté cheese and a light sauce made with vin jaune. The “giant” baba au rhum with vanilla-scented whipped cream for dessert is worth throwing calorie counting to the winds, and service here is prompt and charming. They also have a wonderful covered balcony terrace for warm-weather dining.

Avenue Winston Churchill (8e) Grand Palais Paris Moderate

Self-taught chef Hervé Bourdon has developed a remarkable network of local suppliers, and he respects the quality of their produce by cooking it simply and precisely. This excellent seafood restaurant is where we celebrated the end of our cure with a superb meal of mackerel sashimi on cauliflower purée, and sea bass with artichokes and ginger.

11 Quai Saint-Ivy Portivy Saint-Pierre-Quiberon

The wood-paneled walls and tartan carpeting of this popular bar near the Louvre attest to the fact that the Normandy Hotel has long been popular with British travelers. The bar, however, pulls a decidedly Parisian crowd of bankers, journalists and businesspeople who appreciate the good service, spacious surroundings and well-mixed drinks. Ideal for a fortifying Bloody Mary before a visit to the Louvre, it also has a good selection of wines by the glass and serves a light food menu.

256 rue Saint-Honoré (1e) The Normandy Hotel Paris

Located in a former fisherman’s cottage in Cagnes-sur- Mer just west of Nice, chef Jacques Maximin’s pretty, relaxed bistro serves some of the best and most reasonably priced seafood in the south of France. The menu changes according to the catch of the day, but dishes such as crayfish and artichoke salad, fritto misto of squid and anchovies, and John Dory for two à la Niçoise (cooked with tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, butter and tiny black olives) show why he has long reigned as one of the great chefs of France. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

96 Boulevard de la Plage Cagnes-sur-Mer US$70

Just across the street from the western wing of the Louvre, Le Fumoir is a great all-purpose address: a combination bar, café and restaurant. Inside, you’ll find bare wooden floors and a handsome mahogany bar imported from a Chicago speakeasy, and there are sidewalk tables when the weather is decent. The staff is young, alert and friendly, and the drink list is reasonably priced and expertly mixed. There are also complimentary newspapers, a good assortment of wines by the glass, and a generously served brunch on Sundays.

6 rue de l'Amiral de Coligny (1e) Paris

Not far from the Arc de Triomphe, this chic seafood restaurant has one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Paris. Be sure to sit on the ground floor so you can enjoy the mosaics, frosted-glass windows and long counter. Quiet, low-lit and romantic, this place attracts a well-dressed international clientele. Start with some caviar, oysters, crab claws or maybe the lobster salad, and then consider the smoked Irish salmon with tomatoes and basil, or the roasted wild turbot with wild mushrooms. Prunier has kid-glove service and an excellent wine list, and it also serves at the counter in front of the shellfish stand in the main dining room.

16 avenue Victor Hugo (16e) Paris

With a nice outdoor terrace, this popular wine bar serves a variety of appealing choices by the glass (its Loire Valley selection is especially good). There is also a light menu of cheese and charcuterie plates, and the open sandwiches that the French call tartines made with bread from the famous Poilâne bakery nearby. Very popular and very Parisian, this spot is ideal for a light lunch or a drink before dinner.

80 rue des Saints-Pères (7e) Paris

This is a lively spot with tightly spaced tables, but as soon as your first course arrives, you’ll understand why it’s worth putting up with the raucous atmosphere of this popular Left Bank bistro. Chef Stéphane Jego’s food is delicious, and includes dishes such as baby scallops in their shells with tiny croutons and flat parsley, or fricassee of guinea hen cooked with thyme, rosemary and girolles mushrooms. Closed Sundays.

27 rue Malar (7e) Paris US$60

Owned by British designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran, this sleek, modern brasserie in a glass-roofed space attracts a stylish Left Bank crowd with an appealing menu of contemporary French comfort food. I always start with the smoked Scottish salmon with potato crêpes or the escargots in garlic butter, and then continue to the cod with eggplant and preserved lemons or the roasted shoulder of lamb. Mrs. Harper is a fan of the shrimp Caesar salad and also enjoys the people-watching.

62 rue Mazarine (6e) Paris Moderate

Here, high ceilings and a beautiful 19th-century bar create a potently Parisian atmosphere. The modern French cooking, innovative without straying into the realm of the odd, makes this exactly the kind of place you’re happy to settle into for a relaxed meal and a good bottle of wine. Starters such as smoked Norwegian salmon and duck foie gras with figs are usually available, and main courses run to guinea fowl with wild mushrooms, and entrecôte with sautéed potatoes and cauliflower au gratin. An excellent wine list, along with a jazz pianist on occasion, help the well-dressed crowd of corporate types and visitors unwind. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

8 Rue Volney 2e Paris US$65

Located in an unspoiled medieval village, Bruno Cirino’s wonderful restaurant has elegant dining rooms spilling out onto a sunny terrace. The Mediterranean cuisine is essentially French, but draws on Italian, Spanish and Greek culinary traditions. Cirino peruses the local markets and fills his menu with dishes that reflect what is best in season, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Typical dishes could be grilled St. Pierre fish with stewed potatoes and olive oil, and roasted boneless squab with a black-olive reduction and Bandol wine. Closed Monday and Tuesday September-June.

20 Rue du Comté de Cessole La Turbie (five miles north of Monaco) Prix-fixe Menu, US$85; Tasting Menu, US$150

This vintage wine shop in a chic corner of the 17th arrondissement feels almost like a film set: lacy curtains in the front window, a big zinc bar, mosaic tiles, and cornices overhead. It can be a trifle stuffy, but I enjoy the atmosphere and the seriousness of the well-heeled crowd here. The pours by the glass change weekly, but you can also purchase a bottle from the shop as long as you’re willing to swallow the €16 corkage fee (worth doing, in my opinion, as the list is impressive). The menu features well-made French comfort food such as foie gras, duckling with green peppercorns, rabbit in mustard sauce, a superb cheese tray and a fine crème brûlée.

30 bis avenue Niel (17e) Paris

The most famous literary café on the Left Bank has been a gathering place for writers, artists and glamorous eccentrics since it opened in 1887. Today, there are at least as many tourists in the crowd as there are creative types, but the Flore continues to be a bastion of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés intelligentsia and popular with fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Sonia Rykiel. The locals tend to sit inside the pretty art deco salon or, if they’re doing business, to head upstairs for extra discretion. Yes, it’s very expensive, but the price of a coffee is your ticket to one of the greatest shows in Paris. It remains the very definition of a great (many think the greatest) Paris café.

172 boulevard Saint-Germain (6e) Paris

After a Sunday afternoon stroll around the Marais, I inevitably end up at this popular bistro featuring a simple décor, casual but correct service and an excellent chalkboard menu of seasonal French comfort-food dishes. It can be a bit noisy (the crowd is young, and the room is rather bare), but it is a bona fide neighborhood restaurant.  I enjoy dishes like the smoked garlic soup, smoked salmon or homemade country pâté to start, followed by a fine steak tartare, grilled Bigorre pork or maybe some game in season.  Note that this place is very popular, so bookings are always necessary. 

49 rue de Turenne (3e) Paris Moderate

When I’m in Paris during the ‘r’ months, this snug, friendly little place in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of my very favorite spots for an oyster lunch. The only thing they serve aside from freshly shucked oysters from the Marennes-Oléron are side orders of boiled shrimp, fresh sea urchins and clams, but their bivalves are superb and there’s a nice little wine list of mostly Loire Valley whites.  Though seating is elbow-to-elbow, this white-painted shopfront pulls a stylish local crowd and is a lot of fun.

3 rue Montfaucon (6e) Paris

Anyone who is curious about avant-garde French haute cuisine should not miss Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant. His astonishingly elaborate dishes change according to market and season, but have included langoustine tartare with green mango, gooseberry mustard syrup, black radish and potato purée; and rack of lamb poached in oregano bouillon with a crust of fresh herbs accompanied by shrimp cooked in prune brandy. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Hotel Balzac 6 Rue Balzac (8e) Paris US$175

The sister restaurant to the very popular Bistrot Paul Bert next door serves up an excellent and reasonably priced catch of the day menu to an arty crowd of locals. Since the properietor is Gwenaëlle Cadoret, the daughter of a famous oyster grower from Riec-sur-Belon in Brittany, it’s no surprise that the bivalves here are first-rate, as are the langoustines roasted in seaweed butter and the sole meunière. With a nautically themed (but not kitschy) décor of wood paneling, mosaics and model boats, this place is just about as close to a Breton seafood shack as you’re likely to find in Paris. Finish up with the apple compote with salted-caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, and note that the Muscadets are a great buy on the good wine list.

22 rue Paul Bert (11e) Paris

Set in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Milan designer Giorgio Armani’s in-store restaurant serves excellent Italian cooking in a setting as sleek as his clothing. Gray walls and pumpkin-colored banquettes lend this place a decidedly modern Italian look, and a well-dressed local crowd of book editors, fashion designers and shoppers appreciates the good service and cuisine. Dishes include tuna tartare to start, followed by a superb white truffle risotto or Sardinian pasta with clams, shrimp and baby squid. In the fall, I come here just for the whole cep mushrooms cooked inside of chestnut leaves, a real treat. Nice list of Italian wines, too.

149 boulevard Saint-Germain (6e) Paris

Located next to the little white lighthouse at the entrance to the fishing port of Sauzon on Belle-Ile, this simple seafood restaurant serves the excellent local catch of the day, including langoustines, mussels, oysters, lobster and sea bass. An enchanting terrace overlooks the harbor. Open April 1st through September 30th.

Quai Guerveur Hôtel du Phare Sauzon

After working at the famous La Régalade for 10 years, chef Stéphane Jego took over this doddering Basque restaurant in a quiet, bourgeois corner of the 7th arrondissement and turned it into one of the most popular bistros in Paris. The diverse crowd includes everyone from high-spirited rugby players (this place can be rather noisy) to sedate older local couples in tweeds. They all come for the same reason: Jego’s hearty southwestern French bistro cooking is outstanding. The menu follows the seasons, but runs to sturdy French comfort food such as foie gras, petit sale (salt-preserved pork served with lentils), and scallops cooked in their open shells, as well as daily specials like sea bream roasted with olive oil and lemon. Book the earlier of the two dinner seatings if you’d like a little more peace and quiet over a very good meal.

27 rue Malar (7e) Paris

Located on an island in the Bois de Boulogne, the vast park on the western edge of Paris, this romantic good-weather-only pavilion is surrounded by flowering gardens and towering pines. You will have to take a cab to get here, but it’s a delightful outing on a warm day. A stylish crowd of Parisians enjoys an open-air terrace that is set with well-spaced tables and is candlelit at night. The menu can include starters such as tuna tartare or a terrine of leeks layered with mushrooms. Main courses could be curried shrimp with rice pilaf, the house specialty, or maybe the grilled sea bass with caponata. Topped with fresh raspberries, the airy mille-feuille is an ideal warm-weather dessert.

Bois de Boulogne (16e) Paris

Operating since 1939 in one of the most beautiful locations in the city, the gorgeous Place des Vosges in the Marais, this café has happily withstood the transformation of this patch of Paris into a trendy neighborhood. It remains a friendly, lively, old-fashioned good-value café. Service starts at breakfast and continues until 1 a.m., with a simple menu that includes escargots, good salads and a great steak tartare. It remains the local for many neighborhood residents, who pop in just for a coffee or a glass of wine. I hope it never changes.

19 place des Vosges (4e) Paris http:/

This bustling bistro offers not only a fine array of traditional dishes but also a delicious dose of eternal Paris. It originally opened to feed the hungry stall-holders and workers from Les Halles, the central market of Paris, which was once just down the street. That market, sadly, is long gone (it moved to suburban Rungis in the ’70s and the original buildings were demolished), but the raucous, jolly mood of this place harks back to an era when farmers and merchants arrived in the middle of the night to peddle their wares. I can’t think of any happier cure for jet lag than a 2 a.m. feast at this place, which serves until 5:30 a.m., especially since it offers some of the best rib steaks in town with huge sides of crispy golden frites (a meal best washed down with the house Brouilly, still decanted from big barrels up front). Other good dishes include wonderful pâtés, mutton with white beans, andouillette (chitterling) sausages, and offal for those who don’t find it awful. Service is brisk and wisecracking, and there’s a lot of chatting between tables.

5 rue des Prouvaires (1e) Paris

Though the Cordon Bleu now has campuses in other cities, for anyone with a serious interest in cooking there’s nothing quite like the bona fide French atmosphere at the original school in Paris. Founded in 1895, it has trained thousands of the world’s most celebrated chefs (Julia Child among them) and offers a broad range of courses according to one’s interests and culinary acumen. The very popular four-day French Regional Cuisine course, which covers a different region daily, is highly recommended for serious amateur cooks. The two-hour courses offered daily are very professional and highly enjoyable as well. Instruction is in French with English translation in most courses.

8 rue Léon Delhomme (15e) Paris Prices vary by course

A penny-wise crowd of Left Bank locals frequents this popular restaurant where the prix-fixe €42 menu includes three courses, a half-bottle of wine per person and coffee. The food is only fine, but the right time to visit is on a warm summer night. From the terrace outside you’ll enjoy views of the Place de Breteuil and a glimpse of the gilded dome of Les Invalides lit in the distance. Try the shrimp beignets or smoked salmon to start; choose among main courses such as sea bass with lemon butter or rack of lamb; and finish up with cheese or a dessert like crêpes flambéed in Grand Marnier or chocolate profiteroles.

3 place de Breteuil (7e) Paris

Ever since it opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1911, Harry’s Bar has been a monument to American expatriate life in Paris. Run for many years by Harry MacElhone, this ever-popular bar has fixtures that were shipped to Paris from New York, and the décor of dusty American college pennants conveys the perennial spirit of the place. It was once the preferred watering hole of American journalists and writers in Paris, but today attracts a much broader but equally thirsty clientele. Don’t expect a decorous cocktail bar, but it’s polite, the drinks are fairly priced and well-mixed (they make a mean Manhattan), and it’s as intrinsically a part of life in Paris as the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.

5 rue Daunou (2e) Paris

This well-run old-fashioned bistro is not only one of the best buys in town, but it’s well-known to Parisian gastronomes for an excellent selection of game dishes in season. Whether or not you come during the wild season, you’ll eat extremely well, as the traditional French dishes are skillfully prepared from first-rate produce and generously served. It’s a bit of a madhouse at lunch, so I prefer to come for dinner when it’s quieter. Mrs. Harper enjoys the Niçoise salad as a starter — it’s generously garnished with chunks of tuna, ripe tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and black olives. I unfailingly start with whatever terrine is on the menu that day (they’re all good, but the game and wild hare terrines are exceptional). Next up, I’m game for anything: maybe wild duck in black currant sauce, venison, or partridge, but the blanquette de veau (veal stew), boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and chicken cooked with morel mushrooms are delicious, as well. A lavish cheese tray is include in the prix-fixe menu, and desserts run to fruit tarts, oeufs à la neige, sorbet or ice cream. A wonderfully Parisian experience.

45 avenue Ledru-Rollin (12e) Paris

Since real bistros are becoming hard to find in Saint-Germain-des-Prés — the rents are too high for most to make a go of it — it’s great news when one opens, especially if it’s as good as this snug, stylish dining room just off the Rue du Bac. Chef Guillaume Monnet, who previously cooked at Apicius, creates an ever-changing menu of delicious contemporary French dishes that have included starters such as oxtail ravioli with foie gras, and steamed eggs with smoked salmon; mains like poached St. Pierre fish with a rutabaga purée and hazelnut butter, and grilled pork belly with salsify Tatin; and perfectly delicious chocolate soufflé. 

10 Rue de Saint-Simon 7e Paris US$65

Old-fashioned bistros are rare in Paris these days, especially ones that are conveniently located right in the heart of the city. This relaxed and quietly chic spot just off the Place des Victoires was a favorite of Julia Child, and the excellent traditional cooking makes it one of mine, too, especially for dishes such as chicken liver terrine and grilled turbot with Béarnaise sauce. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

1 Rue du Mail 2e Paris US$60

Please note that the Ritz Paris will close this summer for a two-year refurbishment.

Chef Michel Roth’s dining room at the Ritz is a study in la vie en rose, with a ceiling painted to look like the sky, fine views over a courtyard garden, tufted banquettes and acres of silk damask creating a setting of perfect luxury. Especially delightful at lunch, as Roth is a particularly gifted fish cook, the menu here follows the seasons and changes with the chef’s inspiration but features dishes such as foie gras with pineapple and lovage, John Dory with artichokes and girolle mushrooms, and meringue with poached peaches in pink Champagne emulsion.

15 Place Vendôme (1e) Ritz Paris Paris Very Expensive

A well-prepared catch-of-the-day menu makes this friendly seafood house a good choice for lunch. There’s a nice selection of white Bordeaux to accompany dishes such as fish terrine, herring and beet salad, grilled razor-shell clams, and croaker — a species of ray-finned fish — with herb butter. 

22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre Bordeaux US$45

Please note that the Ritz Paris will close this summer for a two-year refurbishment.

Drinks cost an arm and a leg at the second bar of the Ritz hotel (the one up front by the entryway is the busier and less intimate Bar Vendôme), but in my opinion, they are worth every euro cent, thanks to effortlessly charming British bartender Colin Field. This cozy little bolt-hole is a shrine to its most famous patron, and his typewriter is displayed below several photos of the famous writer. The affable Field is a brilliant mixologist and loves concocting new drinks for his clients — give him carte blanche and see what he comes up with. His delightful book, “The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris,” a list of his favorite drinks and anecdotes about the people he first made them for, is one of my favorite Paris souvenirs.


15 place Vendôme (1e) Ritz Paris Paris

The sumptuous dining room at the Four Seasons Hotel George V is one of the great restaurants of Paris, with spectacular flower arrangements, one of the best wine lists in France and flawless service. Chef Eric Briffard is an impeccable culinary classicist, but also possesses a witty gastronomic imagination, as seen in dishes such as Norwegian salmon with Cremona mustard, smoked ravioli and watercress cream, and spiced lamb shoulder with harissa sauce and a tagine of vegetables. Superb desserts, too, including chocolate mousse with cappuccino zabaglione.

31 avenue George V (8e) Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris Very Expensive

This delightful, low-key café has an excellent location between the Palais Royal and the Louvre. When the weather is bad, opt for one of the tables in the open- air gallery, and when it is good, you can enjoy a wonderful show of Parisian life on the terrace out front, which overlooks a large, traffic-free square. The quality of the offerings is better than at most Paris cafés, and the waiters are polite, prompt and often English-speaking. Le Nemours has a lot of self-effacing charm, which is why it’s one of my favorite “real-people”cafés in Paris.

2 Galerie Nemours/Place Colette (1e) Paris

This clubby Italian restaurant with something of a ’60s décor sits in the middle of what Parisians refer to as the “Golden Triangle,” or the most expensive shopping precinct in the 8th arrondissement. It’s a place you’ll either love or hate. The fashion-industry and jet-set regulars get the best service, but even though my name has never appeared on a perfume bottle or in movie credits, I’ve always found the waiters to be polite and charming. Recommended dishes include a fine beef carpaccio with arugula and Parmesan shavings, artichokes alla Romana, spaghetti Belmondo (it’s named after the French actor, and comes with tomato sauce with fresh basil, mozzarella and black olives), and veal scallop topped with sage leaves and a slice of fried prosciutto.

7 rue Chambiges (8e) Paris

Chef Sylvain Martin’s innovative modern French cooking has made this stylish contemporary restaurant a local favorite. The menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as trout with polenta in langoustine sauce, and crêpe soufflé with raspberries. 

114 Cours de Verdun Bordeaux US$55

This friendly, mostly seafood restaurant on a spit in the pleasant resort town of Saint-Lunaire near Dinard has spectacular sea views and offers perfectly sourced and cooked dishes such as grilled sole, cod steak with ratatouille, and a frangipane tart topped with preserved oranges. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

1 Pointe du Décoll Saint-Lunaire Prix-fixe menus, US$35 and US$50

Diligent young chef Christophe Philippe’s simple little bistro in the Latin Quarter doesn’t have much atmosphere, but is still a great find for anyone who wants to sample inventive contemporary French bistro cooking for reasonable prices. The menu varies but runs to dishes like nems (Vietnamese-style spring rolls) filled with Basque pork and boudin noir, grilled duck breast with pear-turnip compote and lemon-cream mille-feuille for dessert.

8 rue Descartes (5e) Paris Moderate

After working at Le Meurice in Paris, chef Jacques Guillaumat took over this auberge outside of chenonceaux and now serves reasonably priced modern French cuisine. Expect dishes such as langoustine-and-crab-stuffed cannelloni with avocado mousseline, and pike-perch in vanilla sauce. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

30 Rue Nationale Chisseaux

Young chef Pascal Barbot is one of the rising stars of French cooking, which is why reservations at this tiny dining room with metallic walls and a handful of comfortably spaced tables are very difficult to obtain. Dishes typical of his imaginative cuisine include a signature “ravioli” of avocado slices stuffed with crab, a small cake of mushrooms and foie gras, and chocolate biscuit with milk sorbet. Closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

4 Rue Beethoven 16e Paris US$150

Once a louche Montparnasse café frequented by writers and revolutionaries, today Le Dôme is one of the best seafood restaurants in Paris. The original art deco interior survives, with its stained-glass windows and cozy booths. This clubby restaurant is popular with French politicians and corporate brass. Service is precise and formal, and the catch of the day is one of the best in Paris, including excellent oysters, pan-roasted turbot with Hollandaise sauce, and excellent bouillabaisse. Finish up with some roasted figs and vanilla ice cream or maybe a cheese plate composed of fine fromages from the Bras family (as in Michel Bras) in the Auvergne.

108 boulevard Montparnasse (14e) Paris

A good choice on a day when the restaurant at Le Jardin des Plumes is closed (Monday and Tuesday), this well-run auberge 10 minutes from Giverny in Gasny serves appealing traditional French dishes such as soft-boiled eggs with creamed morel mushrooms, and steak with perfectly made sauce Albuféra. Closed Tuesday nights and Wednesdays.

1 Place de la République Gasny

As long as you know that Bobosse, the blue-smocked host, is a teasing and slightly ribald character, you’ll have a wonderful time at this preserved-in-amber bistro with lace curtains and walls lined with bric-a-brac. Located in a quiet neighborhood near the Gare de Lyon, the kitchen serves a hearty and delicious encyclopedia of traditional French dishes, including homemade foie gras, finely sliced country ham, and caillettes (succulent patties of pork and Swiss chard wrapped in caul fat). Main courses include juicy veal chops with morel mushrooms, and pan-fried scallops with tagliatelle. The chocolate mousse is epic, and Bobosse is sure to propose a pour of one of my favorite postprandial tipples, Vieille Prune (an eau-de-vie distilled from plums in the Lot), which he pours into snifters from a wooden water can and flambées for a moment to release its perfume. It’s all rather theatrical, and so is Bobosse.

28 avenue Ledru-Rollin (12e) Paris

I love the food of southwestern France, which is the specialty of this discreet restaurant not far from the Gare de Lyon (it’s a great place for lunch or dinner before you hop a TGV to the south of France). Though I liked the dining room better before it was redecorated several years ago, they had the good sense to leave the beautiful wedding-cake moldings untouched, and it’s a quiet, comfortable place for a meal. Start with the superb pâté en croûte of duck foie gras studded with pistachios, or the hot foie gras sautéed with quince, and then tuck into one of the best cassoulets in Paris or confit de canard, grilled duck preserved in its own fat, one of my favorite dishes. Although my meals here are invariably duck-centric, there are many other good things on the menu, including scallop tartare with artichokes and hazelnuts, and sea bass with mussels, leeks and celery. Desserts aren’t especially memorable, but there is a superb collection of Armagnacs.

40 rue Taine (12e) Paris Expensive

Popular with patrons of the neighboring Drouot auction house, this lively wine bar is a great spot to celebrate a winning bid, or perhaps find the courage to make one. It pours a nice selection of Beaujolais, among other wines, and serves very good charcuterie and cheese platters, along with a hot daily special or two (maybe escargots and pan-fried salmon). Lively and very friendly at noon, it’s quieter in the evening, when it’s ideal for a relaxed, casual nibble and a nice bottle of wine.

8 rue Drouot (9e) Paris

Ignore the slightly peculiar décor—an odd mix of art deco and colonial style of this long-running brasserie across the street from the Gare Saint Lazare in the heart of Paris and concentrate on the first-rate food served here. I often pop into their tiny oyster bar—open for lunch only, for a plate of freshly shucked bivalves and a glass of Muscadet, but also enjoy a proper sit-down meal of such well-sourced and carefully prepared dishes as crab-filled ravioli or lobster salad, followed by scallops with sautéed spinach or grilled sea bass with a sauce vierge (olive oil, chopped tomato and basil), and a nice baba au rhum. Service is brisk and professional, and this is a good address to bear in mind when many other Paris tables are closed, like the month of August or around the Christmas holidays.

111 rue St Lazare (8e) Paris

I have a soft spot for Bar Le Forum, or just Le Forum, as the regulars call it. Conveniently located near the Madeleine and ideal for a drink before or after dinner, this handsome cocktail bar was founded in 1918 and has been run by the same family since 1931. It has warm oak paneling, good lighting, comfortable seating and a charming and very efficient staff. Needless to say, they mix excellent drinks. I also enjoy Le Forum for its diverse and friendly Parisian clientele (in hotel bars, you often end up talking to other foreigners). The Forum Cocktail, a mix of gin, Noilly Prat dry vermouth and Grand Marnier that was created here in 1929, is a very pleasant tipple.

4 boulevard Malesherbes (8e) Paris

Tucked away in a slightly gritty neighborhood near the Gare du Nord (and as a result, quite ideal for a first or last meal in Paris if you’re traveling to England, Belgium or Holland), chef Thierry Breton’s bistro is a crowded, noisy place where the service can be a bit absentminded. Ignore these caveats, though, for some of the best traditional bistro cooking in town. Breton appropriately enough comes from Brittany, and his menu often features produce and dishes from this charming part of France, including fricassee of abalone from the Channel Islands, and excellent scallops cooked in their shells with salted butter in season. The wood-paneled dining room with red velvet banquettes hasn’t changed since the ’50s, but that doesn’t stop an avid crowd of Parisian food-lovers from filling this place nightly (will I ever forget the time that I was seated next to Catherine Deneuve?). The rabbit braised with rosemary is a house classic, and in season, Breton offers one of the best game menus in Paris. Whatever you order, do not miss the superb “Paris Brest” — named for a bicycle race between these two cities, it’s a choux pastry filled with hazelnut butter cream, worth every calorie.

10 rue de Belzunce (10e) Paris

The modern French comfort food at this friendly bistro is excellent, including dishes such as foie gras, sole in lemon butter, and slow-cooked lamb, and it also has one of the more interesting and reasonably priced wine lists in the city. Hence, its popularity with the wine trade and local antique dealers is no surprise. 

45 Rue Notre Dame Bordeaux US$50

Among the bouchons (a local style of bistro), this one has been a local institution since 1726 and is notable for its wonderful atmosphere engendered by beamed ceilings and traditional furniture. Try dishes such as the house terrine made with pork and chicken livers, saucisson de Lyon (pork sausage with pistachios) with a side salad of lentils, and the celebrated poulet aux morilles à la crème (chicken with morel mushrooms). Closed Sunday evening.

25 Rue Guynemer Lyon US$50

Montparnasse has changed significantly since “les Années Folles,” or “the Crazy Years,” of the 1920s, but you can still channel a bit of the era’s frivolity at Le Select. Of the many cafés along this famous strip, this is the best, with a nice terrace out front and booths inside where you can settle down with a glass of wine and an open sandwich made with bread from the Poilâne bakery. You certainly won’t be the only out-of-towner in the crowd, and it’s somewhat expensive, but also lots of fun.

99 boulevard du Montparnasse (6e) Paris

This engaging, low-key bistro in the heart of the city takes its name from the fact that its cosmopolitan quartet of chefs hails from around the globe, including Japan, Israel, New Caledonia and France via Vietnam. The worldly food prepared in the open kitchen reflects this diversity, and includes excellent dishes such as swordfish with Madras curry jelly and coconut-cilantro gremolata. Closed Sunday and Monday.

33 Rue du Cancera Bordeaux Five-course Tasting Menu, US$50

Featuring a glamorous dove-gray décor and a ceiling glittering with 10,000 suspended pieces of cut crystal (the work of young French interior designer Patrick Jouin), the Paris restaurant of globe-trotting chef Alain Ducasse offers a grand slam experience of contemporary French haute cuisine, with some of the best service in the world and a remarkable wine list. Ducasse himself is not in the kitchen, but his lieutenant Christophe Saintagne creates delicious dishes such as langoustines napped with crème fraiche and caviar, turbot with shellfish and Swiss chard, and one of my favorite desserts in the world, caillé de brebis, caramel, poivre, or fresh ewe’s milk cheese with caramel and pepper. A real pomp-and-circumstance address with an international clientele, it’s also ideal for a special-occasion meal or a long, leisurely lunch. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

Hôtel Plaza-Athénée, 25 avenue Montaigne (8e) Paris US$250, with fixed menus priced higher

If all you want to eat when you come to Paris is foie gras and boeuf bourguignon, this stylish restaurant with a loft-like décor isn’t the right place. If, on the other hand, you want to sample some excellent and inventive contemporary French cooking, you might enjoy chef William Ledeuil’s very popular restaurant in Saint-German-des-Prés. Ledeuil is fascinated by Asian ingredients and recipes, and he creates unusual but unfailingly delicious hybrid dishes like saffon-seasoned potato cream with mussels and ginger aioli, grilled veal shank with a white-peach condiment and teriyaki sauce, and white-chocolate-and-wasabi ice cream with raspberries and a rose sauce. It can be noisy here, and the friendly young staff lack a bit of polish, but Ze Kitchen Galerie has a lively atmosphere and attracts an interesting crowd of artists, antique dealers and gallery owners.


4 rue des Grands Augustins (6e) Paris Moderate to Expensive

Once frequented by Picasso and Hemingway, today this smart café is more the haunt of students, gallery owners and antique dealers than of the artists who inspired its name. Fortunately, it hasn’t lost any of its classic Left Bank atmosphere as its clientele has changed. I like it because it’s quieter than the cafés on the busier Left Bank boulevards, and the light food it serves is pretty good. The back room, attractively decorated with mid-century ceramics and paintings, is a perfect spot to head with a good book on a rainy afternoon instead of being cooped up in a hotel room.

43 rue de Seine (6e) Paris

I was wary of this auberge in the town 45 minutes north of Paris where Vincent van Gogh spent the last few months of his life, since I expected it to be a tourist trap. Instead, the dining room has been beautifully decorated to approximate what it may have looked like when Van Gogh was a boarder here, and the food — simple, hearty and generously served — is good. Try the pistachio-studded duck terrine, leg of lamb slow-cooked for seven hours, and chocolate mousse. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

52 Rue du Général de Gaulle Auvers-sur-Oise

Located on the banks of the Loire, this popular restaurant has three dining rooms — two modern, one traditional — and offers dishes such as foie gras marinated in Muscat wine, roasted guinea hen with pistachio butter, and mille-feuille with passion fruit caramel. Closed Monday.

17 Quai Charles Guinot Amboise

Tucked away in Montmartre, this attractive restaurant with a stylish modern décor serves one of the most original menus in Paris. Chef Antoine Heerah is from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, and his distinctive cooking marries its culinary traditions (French, African, Chinese and Indian) to fresh French produce with intriguing results. Start with the jardinière of crunchy vegetables in a Mauritian “pesto” sauce (lemongrass, curry leaves), then choose from dishes such as steamed yellow pollock with a spicy tomato condiment or rack of lamb with masala spices and sweet potato gratin. During the summer, you can dine on one of the prettiest little terraces in Paris.

52 rue Lamarck (18e) Paris

As Saint-Germain-des-Prés has become overrun by luxury boutiques, many of its best little watering holes are no more. This is one reason I like Le Bar, a polite but pleasantly raffish place popular with a diverse crowd of book editors, politicians and boutique owners. You never know who you’re going to find here when you settle down on one of the cushy leather sofas for a well-made drink. They also give generous pours.

27 rue de Condé (6e) Paris

I love sidling up to the beautiful copper bar here for a glass of whatever amiable owner Stéphane Delleré may be pouring, as well as perhaps an overheard French state secret or two. This estimably convivial wine bar is just around the corner from Hôtel Le Bristol, the boutiques on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the French Ministry of the Interior, which explains why it tends to be thronged with men in dark suits at noon. They come for the good wine and maybe a slab of pâté or some goose rillettes, then a freshly chopped steak tartare, a steak or confit de canard. Don’t pass up the cheese tray, and be forewarned that this place is anything but fancy and can be a bit noisy.

4 rue des Saussaies (8e) Paris

Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco is a rising star on the Riviera at this dramatically located restaurant with beautiful views over the Mediterranean. Colagreco is a poetic cook who delights in using fresh herbs, vegetables and seasonal fruit in tasting menus that include dishes such as shrimp carpaccio with raspberry and blackberry purée, citrus and elderflower; and squab with risotto, strawberries and gizzard confit. Closed Monday.

30 Avenue Aristide Briand Menton Prix-fixe Menus, US$95 and US$155

One of the more unfortunate recent developments in Paris has been the ruination of good hotel bars in an ill-considered effort to become “trendy” (see the Hôtel Plaza Athénée). Happily, the bar at the Hotel Lutetia has escaped. I like sitting at the bar and having a real drink, not some overwrought cocktail, something that’s not always easy to do in Paris. This is a pleasant place for a libation before dinner on the Left Bank. The hotel has recently changed owners and a major renovation is slated; I hope the bar survives intact.

45 boulevard Raspail (6e) Hotel Lutetia Paris

A great hue and cry went up several years ago when this much-loved and independently owned Latin Quarter brasserie was taken over by the Brasserie Flo group, because this organization, which also owns La Coupole and several other famous Parisian brasseries does not have a particularly distinguished track record with gastronomy. Happily, however, Flo knew that they’d succeed best by leaving this cozy 1930s vintage dining room down the street from La Sorbonne more or less untouched, and the quality of the cooking has held up pretty well, too. In any event, I never come to Balzar for a gastronomic adventure, but for decent plain French food and because I like the atmosphere so much. Sorbonne professors and local book editors sit cheek by jowl with travelers from around the world, and tuck into dishes like a salad of mache and beets, marinated leeks, choucroute garni, roast chicken, steaks, and very good profiteroles. The regulars all drink the house Bordeaux, which takes no prisoners. Ideal for weekend lunches and late night suppers.


49 rue des Ecoles (5e) Paris Moderate

Just a few miles outside of Uzès, chef Julien Lavandet and his partner Jennifer Henriksen have created a delightful and deservedly popular restaurant with excellent market-driven Provençal cooking. The menu changes regularly, but dishes such as herb-garnished red tuna and shrimp tartare, and yellow pollock with Swiss chard, artichokes and spinach show off his style. Several large terraces provide venues for fine-weather dining.

12 Route d'Uzès Montaren-et-Saint-Médiers

This pleasant but unexpectedly simple Michelin-starred restaurant in a residential corner of Saint-Brieuc occupies an old granite house. Talented chef Jean- Marie Baudic changes his menu daily according to the season and the markets, and the only choice is whether to have two courses or three. Baudic has a particular love of seafood and vegetables, as seen in dishes such as a starter of dressed crab with quinoa, piquillo peppers, baby vegetables and shellfish jus; and a main course of brill with vegetables and a luscious deeply reduced meat sauce. Perfect for lunch. Closed Sunday and Monday.

5 Rue Palasne de Champeaux Saint-Brieuc Two-course menu, US$40; three courses, US$60

Founded in 2004 by bilingual Frenchman Olivier Magny, O Chateau has emerged as the premier organization in Paris for those who aspire to seriously deepen their knowledge of wine through instructional tastings. Courses are held in a magnificent 17th-century limestone cellar in the heart of Paris, and while serious, they’re also good fun. They range from "Introductory Wine Tasting" to "Wine and Cheese Lunch" and "Grands Crus Tasting", among other options, and Magny also conducts excellent day trips with tastings in the Champagne country. All events are in both French and English.

68 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1e) Paris Introductory Wine Tasting, €30; Grands Crus Tasting, €120

A temple of Parisian haute cuisine since 1946, this celebrated power-broking establishment occupies a grand 19th-century townhouse off the Champs-Elysées. Current chef Alain Solivérès presents elegant dishes such as sea bass with leeks, Champagne and osetra caviar; boudin of Breton lobster with an emulsion of tarragon and aniseed; and spit-roasted Bresse chicken for two with morel mushrooms and pats of butter infused with Jura wine tucked under the skin. Closed Saturday and Sunday, and from late July to late August.

15 Rue Lamennais 8e Paris US$175. Tasting Menu, US$240; Seasonal Menu, US$130

With aproned waiters, a tile floor and old-fashioned light fixtures, this is the sort of glorious Paris bistro the whole world dreams about. The ultimate meal here begins with the sublime terrine de foie gras, followed by the best boeuf bourguignon in Paris, and homemade mille-feuille for dessert. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

117 rue du Cherche-Midi (6e) Paris US$75

Not far from the Louvre, this corner wine bar is also recommended for a good casual French meal. It occupies a quirky triangular space on a corner near the Place des Victoires, and the main dining room is up a flight of stairs. Most of the wines on offer are organic, or what the French call naturel, which means unsulfured, and many are from offbeat wine regions. Dishes to watch for include a superb veal tartare with Parmesan shavings, steak tartare, sea bass with baby vegetables, pear clafoutis (baked in custard) and the fine cheese plate. This place works with the best local suppliers, including star Paris butcher Hugo Desnoyer. During the summer, it serves on the sidewalk, which is lovely on a warm night.

43 rue Croix des Petits Champs (1e) Paris

Since he took over his family’s simple auberge 17 years ago, chef Olivier Bellin has won two Michelin stars for his contemporary Breton cooking. His menu evolves constantly, but dishes such as langoustine with girolle mushrooms and apricots, sea bass with onion ravioli, and seaweed-infused pear tart with verbena ice cream are typical of his style. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

7 Rue de la Plage Plomodiern US$125

With a convenient location in the heart of Paris near the Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde, this popular family-owned brasserie has an appealing menu that will satisfy any appetite. Start with oysters, escargots or onion soup, and then try sole meuniere, steak tartare or grilled Scottish salmon. I particularly enjoy their Sunday special, which is roast lamb with aligot, an Auvergnat dish of potatoes whipped with fresh cheese curds and garlic. They also serve pasta and salads and offer a special menu for children under 12. The non-stop service (from 11.30am to 12.30am) also makes this an excellent spot for a late lunch. 

2 rue Cambon (1e) Paris Moderate

Discreet, low-lit and attractively decorated with velvet settees and oil paintings, this snug little bar is one of the best on the Left Bank. Popular with celebrities passing through, and stylish locals, it’s a great spot for a quiet chat or a glass of Champagne in a romantic setting. Service is friendly and attentive, and the drinks are generously poured and perfectly mixed.

13 rue des Beaux-Arts (6e) L’Hotel Paris

Chef Yves Camdeborde’s very popular bistro, a few steps from the Odéon in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is first-come, first-serve on Sundays, so arrive early and be prepared to wait. Camdeborde, who founded the well-known La Régalade almost twenty years ago, is one of the great modern bistro chefs of Paris. His cooking style is at once inventive and earthy, a reflection of his roots in southwestern France. The menu here changes often but runs to dishes like octopus salad, roast rack of lamb and chicken Béarnaise. Note that a different menu is served at weekday dinners, which must be booked well in advance. 

9 Carrefour de l' Odéon (6e) Hotel Relais Saint-Germain Paris Moderate to Expensive

This very popular café just up the street from Le Bon Marché department store can be a bit noisy, and sometimes the service is overwhelmed, but it offers an excellent taste of local life on the Left Bank. It serves some terrific Beaujolais by the glass, including a wonderful Morgon Vieilles Vignes. Many of the waiters speak English; the crowd is friendly and well-dressed; and the simple food (salads, sandwiches, steak tartare) is good. A fine bet for breakfast, a late lunch or tea, too.

51 rue du Cherche-Midi (6e) Paris

This strategically located café just across the street from the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés takes its name from two “magots,” or Japanese statuettes, in the main salon. Its large terrace has been an excellent spot for people-watching since it opened in 1885. Much like its erstwhile rival the Café de Flore, it has attracted many artists and notables over the years and is very expensive. The Deux Magots and the Café de Flore are the salt and pepper of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, eternally paired but also very different. Though the Deux Magots also awards a famous literary prize, it pulls more shoppers than the Flore, and the crowd is often more international than Parisian.

6 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6e) Paris

Formerly Pavillon Ledoyen, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris occupies a pretty pavilion in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées. There are lovely views of the surrounding chestnut trees from the first-floor dining room, which has an elegant Directoire décor. It has all been refreshed with the 2014 arrival of chef Yannick Alléno (formerly of Le Meurice), whose cooking received three stars in the 2015 Michelin Guide. A superb talent, Alléno has dazzled diners with dishes such as tronçon of turbot roasted with bone marrow, and wagyu beef served with crispy raviolis, olives and green tomato jam. This restaurant is as perfect for an important business lunch as it is for a romantic dinner. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Carré des Champs-Elysées 8 Avenue Dutuit (8e) Paris US$220. Prix-fixe Menu, $270

After cooking at the famous Le Chantecler in Nice and several other well-known tables along the coast, talented chef Alain Llorca has opened an auberge not far from Saint-Paul de Vence. The shaded terrace offers fine views of Saint-Paul and the distant Mediterranean, and the menu runs to sophisticated southern French country dishes such as zucchini flowers stuffed with black truffles in mushroom butter, and veal rolled with local olives accompanied by fresh vegetables. 

350 Route de Saint-Paul La Colle-sur-Loup US$130. Prix-fixe Menus, US$65-US$145

Francisco Pirès, who runs the shellfish stand at this very popular seafood restaurant in a quiet well-heeled corner of the 17th arrondissement near the Place des Ternes, just won the annual competition for France’s best oyster shucker, and this doesn’t surprise me at all, since I’ve admired his deft touch at opening these bivalves for a longtime. The challenge, of course, is to open these gnarly shellfish without damaging the oyster or covering it with splintered shell, and Pirès makes this tough job look easy. Aside from oysters, other good starters here include smoked Norwegian salmon and stuffed clams or mussels. For a main course, I usually go with the grilled sole or the squid à la Provençale, always order a bottle of Menetou-Salon, and never pass up the made to order apple tart, although the crêpes à l’orange are terrific, too.

16 Rue Saussier-Leroy (17e) Paris

For many years, La Villette, the old slaughterhouse district in the 19th arrondissement, was the place to go in Paris for really good meat. Ever since I found this place on the Left Bank, however, there is no longer any need to make a long journey for a memorable carnivorous meal. Owner William Bernet presides over this French version of a great steakhouse and its excellent wine list. There is a wonderful assortment of charcuterie from Laguiole in the Auvergne to start, and then the large, beautifully cooked steaks arrive. The best is the rib steak, which is big enough to feed two or three and comes with a side of excellent fries. This insider’s address doesn’t look like much, but it pulls a well-heeled crowd that often includes a well-known face or two, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

8 Rue des Plantes 14e Paris US$100

If you want a sushi fix while you’re in Paris, this small, quiet bar overlooking the Seine on the Ile Saint-Louis is the place to go. It doesn’t have a lot of atmosphere, but chef Katsuo Nakamura works behind the counter with the freshest fish in Paris, and most of the other clients are likely to be Japanese. Pricey, but so is the finest fish, and the Zen calm here makes it a pleasant place for lunch during a wander around the islands (Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis). Reservations are essential.

4 quai d’Orléans (4e) Paris

Chef Jean-François Piège a rising talent of the new generation of French chefs. After cooking at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crillon, he opened this intimate, supper-club like space that reminds me of a Miami cocktail lounge in the Fifties. Piège is trying to revise the traditional experience of dining out in Paris by introducing a short menu that allows you to chose one, two or three courses, depending on how hungry you are. In addition, all meals here begin with a wonderful assortment of hors d’oeuvres and include a cheese course, dessert and petit fours. Piège has a lot of gastronomic wit as well—highlights of my last meal here included a delicious deconstructed paella and chicken with Xérès vinegar, Parmesan and white truffle shavings. Service can be lackluster, but this dining room is quiet and comfortable, and a meal here is an appealingly off-beat experience.



79 rue Saint-Dominique (7e) Hôtel Thoumieux Paris Expensive

For an experience of vintage Parisian elegance, this white orchid-filled dining room with its small army of courtly waiters can’t be bettered. It occupies the first floor of a refined townhouse in the heart of the city, and a doorman in the small elevator escorts you to your table. The menu offers a superb selection of house classics such as the Challans duckling for two rubbed with spices and served with peaches and verbena. More recent creations include beef from Galicia and duck foie gras, served with puffed potatoes; and roasted sea bass paired with chanterelles, fresh almonds and crispy buckwheat. Closed Sunday, Monday and most of August.

17 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 8e Paris US$200. Tasting Menu, US$245

Chef Paul Michelli is one of the most famous fish cooks in Paris, and after running a swanky eponymous seafood house in the 7th arrondissement for several years, he moved to this cozy, clubby little place in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés a few years ago. It’s since become a real insider’s address with local gallery owners and antique dealers, many of whom dine here daily, because they love Minchelli’s minimalist cooking style—he believes that really fresh fish should never be overwhelmed by sauces or garnishes. The short menu changes here often but the haddock tartare and the grilled salmon make for a very good meal indeed. I also like the marinated sardines, steamed cod and pasta with poutargue (pressed salted fish eggs).

21 Rue Mazarine (6e) Paris

Like many of the best new Parisian chefs of recent vintage, Guillaume Delage has set up shop in a remote residential neighborhood. It is worth traveling to his simple but attractive corner bistro, however, for outstanding contemporary French food. Expect dishes such as veal stew with rice pilaf and vegetables, grilled steak au poivre with green salad and new potatoes, and chocolate mousse with white chocolate and streusel. 

208 Rue de la Croix-Nivert 15e Paris US$65

Mrs. Harper and I have enjoyed several cooking schools in Paris, but this one on the Right Bank in the Marais is our new favorite. The setting is attractive; lessons are in English; and it’s reasonably priced (you can pay an arm and a leg for lessons from celebrity chefs in Paris). Founded by a nice woman from Chicago and her French husband, this well-run outfit offers a variety of courses covering different types of French cooking at different times of the day. The last lesson we did was “Bistro Night in Paris,” which taught us grilled salmon with Béarnaise sauce, a new riff on mashed potatoes, and an easy fruit tart. Other themes include French breakfast pastries, bistro lunches and a French market class.

80 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville (4e) Paris Bistro Night: €65

Set on a lively market street in a stylish residential neighborhood, this popular café is a good place for refreshments if you are visiting the Eiffel Tower or Les Invalides. Stop by for breakfast, a coffee, a glass of wine or a light meal: The salmon tartare is good, as are the salads. Service can be a bit hectic, but that’s par for the course in a Parisian café.

38 rue Cler (7e) Paris

Chef Bruno Doucet continues to offer the hearty, southwest France-inspired dishes that made the original La Régalade on the Left Bank so popular, but he’s a bit more imaginative at this new Right Bank outpost. Excellent food and a good-value prix-fixe menu make up for the plain décor and occasionally spotty service. My last meal here was very satisfying: chicken-broth-and-coconut-milk soup with grilled shrimp and spaghettini, free-range pork belly on a bed of lentils, and cod steak on a bed of wilted spinach. Dessert was a remarkable Breton sablé (shortbread) with sliced strawberries and creamy mascarpone. This is a smart choice if you’re in the market for a low-key but still memorably gastronomic meal. Just make sure to reconfirm your reservations, since the popularity of this place can lead to foul-ups.

123 rue Saint-Honoré (1e) Paris

Many of the best new tables are simple little places, a reflection of the Marseillais dislike of formality and pretension, and one of my favorites is Le Grain de Sel, located on a side street near the Vieux-Port and perfect for lunch. The chalkboard menu changes regularly, but runs to dishes such as green gazpacho with baby clams, and roast veal with polenta and anchovies. Closed Sunday and Monday.

39 Rue de la Paix Marcel Paul Marseille

This elegant limestone townhouse near the Assemblée nationale on the Left Bank houses a Latin American cultural center. For knowledgeable locals, it also has one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, where dinner and lunch are served during the summer months, weather permitting.

217 boulevard Saint-Germain (7e) Paris

Despite the facts that it resembles a small, mirrored railroad car and that diners sit at high stools before a communal table, this has become the toughest reservation on the Left Bank because of the superb cooking of young chef David Toutain. Working in a tiny open kitchen, he composes a new tasting menu almost daily, and the dishes reflect his culinary creativity and flawless technical skills. Expect a suite of beautiful edible miniatures such as a slow-cooked egg with new garlic cream and lemon-verbena foam; dressed crab with candied grapefruit and a rich consommé of North Sea shrimp; griddled razor shell clams, squid and zucchini in lavender foam with yuzu cream and dill flowers; and veal in black-olive tapenade with grilled shallots. Service is flawless, and it’s a good idea to order the well-chosen wine pairings. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

66 Rue Mazarine (6e) Paris US$200

This welcoming restaurant in an old lodge adjacent to the Château de Blois serves intelligently updated French classics such as boned frogs’ legs in lettuce cream with goat cheese gnocchi, veal sweetbreads with mustard sauce, and Grand Marnier soufflé. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1 Avenue Jean-Laigret Blois

The restaurant at Les Etangs de Corot won a Michelin star this year for chef Rémi Chambard’s excellent contemporary French cooking. Working with seasonal, often local produce, Chambard creates dishes such as wild sea bass carpaccio with beets, apples and caviar; and sole with Swiss chard, baby onions and gnocchi. The Grand Marnier and saffron soufflé makes the perfect finale to a fine meal. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

55 Rue de Versailles Ville-d'Avray

Tucked away in a side street near the park created from the old Les Halles de Paris, this charming restaurant has become a hit, thanks to the flavorful, inventive cooking of chef Adeline Grattard. She changes her tasting menu daily, but dishes such as steamed turbot with julienned potatoes and a shellfish emulsion, and ginger ice cream with red fruits and sorrel cream reflect her experience working at Paris’ celebrated Astrance, as well as a stint in Hong Kong. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Note: Relocating in mid-October.

4 rue Sauval (1e) Paris US$70

Scotsman and oenophile Tim Johnston originally worked at Willi’s Wine Bar before setting up this friendly, casual spot in 1987. It’s very popular with local expats and visiting Anglophones, many of whom appreciate Johnston’s Australian pours by the glass. His real forte, however, is Rhône Valley wines, and I’ve had some remarkable glasses here over the years. I often come by if I’m in Paris on my own, since it’s a comfortable spot for solo dining, and I like the contemporary French market-driven menu, which runs to dishes such as grilled tuna steak, pan-roasted duck breast and an assortment of excellent British farmhouse cheeses.

47 rue de Richelieu (1e) Paris

Located just off the stylish rue du Bac on the Left Bank, chef Joel Robuchon’s fashionable small-plate restaurant is ideal for a light but memorable meal. Reservations are only possible for lunch from 11.30-12.30 pm and 2.00-3.15 pm, and for dinner at 6.30 pm. Otherwise it can be difficult to secure a seat here, but worth it to taste delicious dishes like foie-gras stuffed ravioli in chicken bouillon or sea bass cooked with baby artichokes and girolles mushrooms. Counter service only. Note that a second branch of this restaurant has just opened on the Champs-Elysees.

5 rue de Montalembert (7e) Paris Expensive

One of the most spectacular dining rooms in Paris, Les Ambassadeurs offers a ring-side seat on the history of France, as it overlooks the Place de la Concorde, and occupies an 18th century limestone hôtel particulier that’s one of the most pedigreed properties in the city. The interior is a tour-de-force of Gallic elegance, with stone-lined walls, ceiling frescoes, a harlequin floor and a deeply drilled old-school serving staff who rarely miss a trick. What this restaurant isn’t anymore is a pulpit for an influential Parisian chef; Christian Constant, one of Paris’s most important cooks for having trained a whole raft of young talents, and Jean-François Piège, his successor, have moved on. However young chef Christophe Hache is still a very good cook, and this remains one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the world. Hache menu changes often, but my last meal here was excellent--ormeaux sauvage (wild abalone) with mousseron mushrooms, peas and lardons; veal sweetbreads with crushed cashews and sauteed cabbage; and a perfect strawberry tart.  There’s a remarkable wine list here, too, and the prix-fixe lunch menu is an exceptionally good buy for food of this quality.




10 Place de la Concorde (8e) Hôtel de Crillon Paris Very Expensive

Run for more than 20 years by the natty Zhu Wen, a native of Shanghai, this pleasantly clubby Chinese restaurant is guarded by two marble lions at its front door. Lao Tseu means “Old Master,” and this bijou restaurant attracts a Left Bank crowd of book editors, writers, fashion designers and socialites. They appreciate the stylish décor of black leather-padded walls by celebrated interior designer Olivier Gagnère, deferential service, relaxed atmosphere, reasonable prices (for the neighborhood) and good food. To be sure, this isn’t the best Chinese food you’ll ever eat, but it’s the kind the French upper crust like, and this restaurant has long been one of my favorite Left Bank addresses when I want someplace non-French and easy. The steamed ravioli and other nibbles are good, as are the fried chicken with ginger sauce and the duck with five spices.

209 boulevard Saint-Germain (7e) Paris

Chef Laurent Parrinello cooked at La Chèvre d’Or in Eze and the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc before setting up shop with this small and charming bistro in the Old Town of Antibes. The Mediterranean cuisine that emerges from his open kitchen has made it a local favorite. Expect dishes such as arugula risotto, and half-salted cod steak with grilled baby onions and chorizo. And don’t miss the local goat cheese. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

2 Rue de la Tourraque Juan les Pins Antibes

Reviving a famous restaurant such as La Mère Brazier is fraught with challenges, but chef Mathieu Viannay’s shrewd makeover of one of the best-loved tables in Lyon has been rewarded with two Michelin stars. While retaining dishes that date to the restaurant’s founding in 1921 by Eugénie Brazier, he has also introduced some of his own excellent creations, which have included a wonderfully rich fricassee of veal sweetbreads and lobster with a cumin-flavored carrot mousseline and roasted butternut squash, as well as a classic Grand Marnier soufflé. The excellent wine list features the best of the Rhône Valley. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

12 Rue Royale Lyon US$120

Chef Florent Chicard has recently taken over this townhouse restaurant, which is a major hit with both wine merchants and gourmands. Try dishes such as Kobe beef-and-oyster tartare or poached lobster and roasted sweetbreads with morel-sauced macaroni.

42-44 Allée de Tourny Bordeaux

This friendly and casual bar à vin near the Palace of the Popes in Avignon is an excellent address for lunch or a light dinner. Owners Nicolas Martin and Véronique Bonnemer know their wines and serve a good selection by the glass. I especially recommend their take on shrimp tempura, and the lamb chops with pea purée. Closed Sundays.

46 rue de la Balance Avignon

Founded in 1903 by the Austrian pastry chef Antoine Rumpelmayer, this elegant tearoom is famous for its lusciously thick hot chocolate and Mont Blanc pastries. These rich meringues, topped with spiced chestnut cream, are a delightful treat after a walk around the Tuileries Garden across the street. Leather armchairs at green marble tables and elegant wall murals create a genteel atmosphere, and you’ll spot many a grandmother here with her happy grandchildren. The lemon and strawberry tarts are delicious, too, and this is an excellent place for afternoon tea.

226 rue de Rivoli (1e) Paris Http://

This cozy bistro in the residential 11th arrondissement is where you’re likely to find Paris food critics eating on their nights off. The blackboard menu changes daily, but runs to dishes such as coddled eggs with wild mushrooms, cod with chanterelles, great steaks and homemade seasonal fruit tarts. The wonderful wine list is especially strong on Côtes du Rhônes. Closed Sunday and Monday.

18 Rue Paul Bert 11e Paris US$65

Occupying a pretty white pavilion in the gardens of the Champs Élysées, Laurent has a dual personality. It is a popular power lunch venue for French politicians and business people in the afternoon, and then it becomes quieter and more intimate in the evening. During the summer, weather permitting, they serve outside in one of the prettiest gardens in central Paris. Chef Alain Pegouret is a talented classicist with a deft culinary imagination, and I always look forward to his spider crab in fennel cream and turbot with a ham-and-endive tart. In season, the lobster with white truffles is very much worth a splurge, and his warm coffee-and-cardamom soufflé is superb. Excellent wine list and very good service.

41 avenue Gabriel (8e) Paris Very Expensive

With a charming décor created by soft lighting, old beams, oil paintings and seasonal bouquets, this cozy restaurant stands on the site of an old convent where King Louis XIII was crowned in 1610. Before buying the establishment in 1996, chef Manuel Martinez cooked at many of the great restaurants of France, and this impressive background informs the precision of his delicious classical cooking. This place is ideal for a tête-à-tête, and my favorite meal starts with the lobster ravioli garnished with foie gras and cep mushroom crème and continues with sea bass stuffed with duxelles (hashed mushrooms), and perfect vanilla mille-feuille.

8 Rue des Grands Augustins (6e) Paris Expensive

The three-star table of chef Eric Frechon is one of the best and most reliable top-of-the-heap restaurants in Paris. It formerly migrated between a beautiful oak-paneled dining room (winter-fall) and a glass-walled space overlooking the hotel’s lovely courtyard garden (spring-summer), but has recently moved into a new marble-floored dining room with a slightly bland décor by French decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon. Service is impeccable; it has one of the best wine lists in Paris; and Frechon, an amiable Norman, is a superb cook. His menu evolves constantly, but dishes not to miss include macaroni stuffed with black truffles, foie gras and artichokes; the poularde de Bresse in two services — the breasts in a sauce of vin jaune with asparagus, crayfish and girolle mushrooms, and the thighs with a truffled leek-and-potato bouillon — and any of the chocolate desserts.

112 rue Faubourg Saint Honoré (8e) Hotel Le Bristol Paris Very Expensive

Though it’s located in the heart of the city on the busy Rue Réaumur, as soon as you step inside this simple, cozy bistro, you’ll think you’re in the French Basque Country. Garlands of red Espelette peppers hang from the ceiling, and the welcome is very warm in this casual room with a vintage mosaic floor, a long service bar and framed posters on the walls. Chef Bertrand Guéneron, who was once sous chef to Alain Senderens, turns out delicious renditions of Basque classics such as axoa, a hearty veal stew; salt cod with chorizo; and baby squid sautéed with Espelette peppers. He also offers a variety of delicious contemporary French dishes, including sautéed fresh cod with curried leeks and coriander, and scallops meunière with almonds and black mushrooms. Paris used to be full of warm, relaxed little bistros serving regional dishes, but as they’ve become scarcer, I like this place even more. Try a bottle of Brana Irouléguy from the Basque Country with your meal, and don’t pass up the gâteau Basque, a flaky cake filled with almond cream.

38 rue Réaumur (3e) Paris

After studying ethnology and ethnic literature, Fatéma Hal opened this Moroccan restaurant in 1984, and it’s widely considered to serve some of the best food of its kind in Paris. I quite like Moroccan food, and since it’s still not commonly found in North America, it’s always a pleasure to dine in this attractive room. Start with the assortment of eight Moroccan hors d’oeuvres, then order chicken tajine (cooked in a domed clay casserole) garnished with olives and pickled lemons, kefta tajine (beef meatballs with tomatoes, coriander and potatoes) or one of the generous couscous, including a vegetarian version. Finish up with homemade Moroccan pastries and mint tea, and note that Morocco makes some surprisingly good wines.

11 rue Faidherbe (11e) Paris

With a chic Left Bank address near the Rodin Museum, chef Alain Passard’s L’Arpège, a pear wood-paneled dining room with Lalique glass inserts, is one of the more controversial haute cuisine establishments in Paris. Some adore Passard’s minimalist style and his love of vegetables, most of which come from his own farms in the Sarthe and Brittany, while others find dishes such as onions baked in rock salt and garnished with Parmesan overpriced relative to their simplicity. A brilliant choice for vegetarians or adventurous diners, it’s likely to disappoint if you love the grandeur of traditional French haute cuisine. For my part, I respect Passard’s talent and like his food, especially at lunch, but find the prices a bit wilting. Don’t miss the sautéed chicken with shallots, onions and potato purée — it’s great comfort food at the top of the Gallic food chain.


84 rue de Varenne (7e) Paris Very Expensive

Though the atmosphere at this establishment — within an easy walk of the château de Verrières — can be a little stuffy, the contemporary cooking is delicious. The menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as shiitake mushroom soup with bacon, goat cheese éclair with arugula emulsion, and duck breast with a cashew nut crust. Excellent cheese selection and a notable wine list.

6 Rue de Lorraine Saumur

Run by the charming Madame Ly, this elegantly decorated dining room (Chinese ginger jars, pots of orchids, low lighting) is a relaxing and very pleasant place for a meal of carefully prepared Chinese and other Asian specialties. We always start with spring rolls, steamed ravioli and maybe one of the Thai-style salads, then enjoy the filet of beef with ginger and chives, lacquered duck, or sole with caramel sauce. Finish up with a fresh mango or caramelized bananas, and note that there is a surprisingly good wine list. Very popular with a well-dressed local crowd.

95 avenue Niel (17e) Paris

To be perfectly clear, the main reason to dine at Le Jules Verne is that is offers spectacular views over Paris from the city’s most famous landmark. So if you come here with tempered expectations and are prepared to pay dearly for the privilege of these magnificent panoramas, you’re likely to enjoy yourself. This restaurant is now part of the Alain Ducasse stable, which might lead you to expect some really great food. Instead, the food is generally good, but not better, and the wine list is predictably overpriced. Because of fire regulations, most of what you eat is actually prepared in a ground-floor kitchen and transferred to a service kitchen in the Eiffel Tower, so it’s best to order the €200 prix-fixe dinner, which changes from time to time, but can include lobster, foie gras terrine, turbot, Bresse chicken with cep mushrooms and two desserts. The à la carte menu is very, very expensive. Service can be problematic. In my experience, the long-running stereotype of the haughty French waiter is happily less and less true in Paris these days, but this welcome change does not seem to have registered with many of those who work here. So now that I’ve been a bit of a wet blanket, go and enjoy yourselves, and do go early, since it’s thrilling to watch the lights of Paris come on when the sun’s going down.

Avenue Gustave Eiffel (7e) Eiffel Tower Paris

As an early riser, I often visit this elegant 1862 tearoom during a quiet morning walk in Paris. The coffee is excellent, and it is a special pleasure to read the paper over one of the fresh croissants and watch the world go by on the Rue Royale outside. Though it is most famous for its macarons (the salted-caramel and cassis ones are my favorites), the pastries are excellent, as well. Ladurée is extremely popular for a light lunch or tea later in the day. Pleasant branches are strategically located around the city (75 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8th; 21 rue Bonaparte, 6th; in the Printemps department store, 64 boulevard Haussmann, 9th) but none has the historic charm of the original.

16 rue Royale (8e) Paris

If you happen to be in Paris on a warm summer’s day, the first thing you should do that morning is to book a terrace table at this restaurant in a corner of the Palais Royal. Dining alfresco here is unforgettable, as restaurant patrons can stay in this lovely urban garden after it has been closed to the public. The menu includes starters such as squid’s ink or lobster risotto and various salads, and main courses such as roasted sea bass with leeks or wild hare stew. Soigné service and a chic crowd add to the pleasure of a meal here.

110 galerie de Valois (1e) Paris

Englishman Mark Williamson launched the modern Parisian wine bar when he opened this still very popular place near the Palais-Royal in 1980. Small, convivial and stylish, it attracts a fashionable international crowd who enjoy the excellent pours by the glass and a good chalkboard menu that runs to dishes such as artichokes with marinated onions and foie gras, and pan-roasted guinea hen with girolles. A great destination after a stroll and some shopping in the Palais.

13 rue des Petits Champs (1e) Paris

Located on the banks of the Seine, this stylish fish house used to be a rather stuffy and sleepy place called Le Pont de l’Alma. In its welcome new incarnation, it has an open kitchen, dark parquet floors and a terrific young service team, most of whom speak English and all of whom are very keen to please. Since the quality of the cooking is excellent and it’s just a stroll from the Four Seasons George V, this is one of my favorite restaurants in the 8th arrondissement. Snag a table with a view of the Eiffel Tower across the river and order dishes such as sea bream carpaccio with caviar, freshly shucked oysters, delicious fish soup, sole meunière, or the sea bass cooked over a bed of wild fennel stalks for two. From the very good wine list, I always order the Saint-Péray, a northern Rhône white that teams beautifully with seafood.

10 avenue de New York (16e) Paris

Located in the Louvre, the Café Marly is a nice spot for museum-goers and a pleasant place for an alfresco drink on a warm night. The quality of the cuisine is merely fine, and the service can be exasperating, but it’s worth shrugging off the occasional haughty hostess for the pleasure of the setting. I suspect that I’m in the minority in thinking that the I.M. Pei glass pyramid in the courtyard was a mistake, but it’s admittedly quite pretty when lit up at night, and this café is ultimately a very handy address.

93 rue de Rivoli (1e) Musée du Louvre Paris

Located on the banks of the Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this romantic restaurant occupies a townhouse that dates to 1766 and has a long and fascinating history; the great French gastronome Auguste Escoffier was once the chef here. The main dining room has real Old World elegance, with low lighting, oil paintings and wood paneling, and they also have several private dining rooms where the scratches in the mirrors are said to have been made by ladies testing the veracity of diamonds newly offered by their suitors.  It is also very quiet and ideal for a tete a tete. Chef Jean-Sebastien Pouch offers an appealing menu that runs to dishes like langoustines or dressed crab for starters, and main courses such as turbot with a condiment of lemons, capers and shallots or rack of lamb with olive cream.

51 quai des Grands Augustins (6e) Paris Expensive

After cooking at Les Ambassadeurs in the Hôtel de Crillon for a time, chef Dominique Bouchet opened his own establishment a dozen years ago. This dining room with its exposed stone walls and contemporary art has since become one of my favorite in Paris. Bouchet is one of the most experienced chefs in town — he also cooked at Jamin when it was run by Joël Robuchon and at La Tour d’Argent. This gastronomic history informs his menu of traditional French dishes. Start with the king crab with avocado, mango and green apple, or the imaginative sake-marinated foie gras with black cherry jam, quince and toasted brioche, then sample sea bass with vegetable-stuffed zucchini blossoms, onion fritters and lemon capers; duckling with caramelized apples, chanterelles, glazed onions and a duck jus with a tang of yuzu; or a perfect filet of beef. Service is precise, and the atmosphere is dressy but low-key. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

11 Rue Treilhard 8e Paris US$85. Tasting Menu, US$115

Overlooking the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, this excellent Michelin-starred restaurant showcases the modern Breton-Japanese cooking of chef Raphaël- Fumio Kudaka, a native of Japan who previously worked with Olivier Roellinger. Kudaka’s cooking is delicate, precise and subtle, as seen in dishes such as a salad of lobster and grilled chicken with a miso-seasoned vinaigrette, and rack of pork with red miso and a wasabi-spiked sauce gribiche. Excellent wine list. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

7 Quai Thomas Cancale Five-course menu, US$85; eight courses, US$150

For a terrific catch-of-the-day menu in this seafood-loving city, try this casual and authentic place. Aside from superb fish from boats operating out of the port, it offers a spectacular setting overlooking the Mediterranean from a craggy promontory. Closed Sunday and Monday.

2 Boulevard de la Libération Marseille

With an ornate traditional French décor of oil paintings on ochre walls and lavish floral arrangements, chef Orsi’s stylish restaurant has an old-school elegance. Expect formal service and classic dishes such as foie gras ravioli with a Port-truffle sauce, gently spiced lobster with artichokes, and roast pigeon with preserved garlic, along with an excellent cheese tray and sumptuous desserts. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3 Place Kléber Lyon Menus, US$90, US$100 and US$110

After many years working in celebrated Paris kitchens, including Pavillon Ledoyen, Epicure and Arpège, young chef Stéphane Cosnier returned home and opened this modern French bistro, which is a perfect place for lunch after a visit to Carnac. His menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as roasted langoustines with crushed grilled peanuts, John Dory in mussel sauce, and a buckwheat waffle with stewed peaches and verbena ice cream. Closed Mondays.

36 Avenue de la Poste Carnac

Amiable service, a good wine list and the excellent cooking of chef Christophe Poirier make this intimate restaurant in a 1768 vintage half-timbered inn a perfect destination for lunch. Try dishes such as broccoli flan with shellfish or foie gras mille-feuille to start, then perhaps the duck breast in pastry with morel mushrooms, or sea bass with fennel and capers. Fresh strawberries in a vanilla dressing make an ideal dessert.

27 place Isaac Benserade Lyons-la-Forêt

Though it’s off the beaten track, young chef Bertrand Grébaut’s bistro is worth discovering for his imaginative contemporary French dishes. Grébaut trained with chef Alain Passard at L’Arpège, a background that shows up in starters such as risotto with watercress and sorrel, and main courses like cod steak in a jus de poulet with fennel bulb shavings, or succulent pork rib with radishes and carrots. Friendly service in an attractive, loft-like space and an interesting wine list make this a great choice for casual dining. Closed weekends.

80 rue de Charonne (11e) Paris US$75

Don’t arrive at this workaday café expecting anything particularly glamorous. I enjoy it for the broad terrace overlooking a pretty square, the handy nearby cab rank, and the fact that it’s an everyday Parisian café in one of the city’s most heavily visited neighborhoods. This is a simple café that serves its area well, and since that happens to be the Latin Quarter, it pulls a mix of academics, students and travelers. The wine list is decently priced for a café in a prime precinct, and the waiters are friendly.

18 place Maubert (5e) Paris

Paris is one of the world’s great jazz cities, and this club near Les Halles is widely regarded as one of the best spots in town. Recently renovated by interior designer Elliott Barnes, who trained with Andrée Putman, Le Duc is looking better than it has for a long time. There are usually several performances an evening, but I like coming to the late show at midnight; check the website to see who’s on.

42 rue des Lombards (1e) Paris
SIMILAR REGIONS TO Worldwide //  Europe //  France

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