Despite the colour of the water being a bit off-putting and murky, the Canal Saint-Martin allows a charming waterside stroll with lots of great food stops along the way. This is hipster central, and new places are popping up all the time, but these are the ones that I love most, and, I believe, best define the Parisian food mood of the moment.
Grocery store / bistro
You could start your walk on the very, very cute rue Sainte-Marthe. Like the immediate area, it’s still very rough and ready, but its tiny shop fronts are just crying out for more food pioneers to open them up, add a bit of Scandi retro design and attract the crowd hungry to taste the latest, well, everything. And, luckily for us, La Tete dans les Olives got there first. A tiny olde shoppe created by Sicilian olive oil lover Cedric Casanova. One side of the store holds cans and bottles of olive oil you can taste and learn about as if it were wine. Elsewhere, there are baskets of elephant garlic, dried basil and pink peppers, lotions and potions (irresistible packaging alert!) made from the best Sicilian tomatoes and lemons. The tiny space is transformed, by reservation only, into a table d’hote, where chefs are invited to come and cook with whatever has arrived from Sicily that week.
After taking a peek, or even a nap, inside the Hopital Bichat’s charming gardens, cross the canal and head towards Le Verre Vole. Since it opened in 2000, this place has become a true institution and haut lieu of natural and organic wines. The plates are masterpieces of Parisian foodie name-dropping, and range from quick snacks of charcuterie as alibis for opening a bottle from the hundreds around you (there’s a supplement) to a full meal. Reservations are a must, but if you’ve missed out you could always walk a bit further and catch a little of Le Verre Vole’s philosophie at their new Epicerie – serving some of the best sandwiches in Paris.
Summer Time on The Canal Saint-Martin, Paris, France
A little further down, on the other side of the canal, is the Hotel du Nord, one of the best spots in Paris to give in to the cliché and people watch on its terasse for hours. It might be a shame to eat there, however, when Philou is just a few minutes’ away. Philou is one of those places, along with restaurants Spring and Frenchie, that have been ‘discovered’ by les anglo-saxons in Paris – so why would I be indifferent? Don’t expect, then, to hear only French spoken around you but the cuisine and wines are uncompromisingly French and hearty, especially during the game season.
Switching canal banks again, and moving south, la rue Yves Toudic has recently become one of the most pleasant for fashion shopping. On the corner is the beautiful boulangerie Du Pain et des Idees, selling Paris’s best sourdough and mind-bogglingly gourmand tartes and viennoiseries. My very favourite thing here is, however, the sacristain – puff pastry filled with crème patissiere. The unbelievably light pastry floats away in your mouth, leaving only caramelized sugar from the base to crunch between your teeth.
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Photo by Morgan Moinet