Arriving in Paris should have been fairly straight forward. The train pulled into Gare du Nord on schedule and by the time we got the Metro down to Marais it was verging on dusk and a heavy-looking sky turned into light rain.
The apartment we booked many months prior was very much in the heart of it all; a beautifully renovated second-floor studio on the corner of Rue des Archives & Rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie, or as I called it – the corner of Gai and Gai.
If I even dare to make comparisons, elements of Marais remind me of parts of Surry Hills and Potts Point in Sydney, but that’s only if you blur your eyes significantly. Book shops, theatres, wine bars, designer homewares, high fashion, low fashion, gays, lesbians, patisseries, tea merchants; all this and more peppered through narrow streets that make home to Medieval and Renaissance-era buildings and residences.
A representative from the apartment rental agency was meant to meet us at a certain time and when that time came and went we tried calling the office and only got a machine message in French. Neither of us speak French. Well over an hour later feelings of concern started to set in. It was getting dark, none of the surrounding hotels had a room and nobody got back to us about our apartment. We were starving, annoyed and eventually found a tiny hotel with one remaining room.
The girl at reception listened to our story and helped out by calling our rental place and actually got through to someone. Finally! Within half an hour we’re let into our original apartment by a very apologetic bloke that knew nothing of our booking, as the guy that was meant to meet us was holidaying in Mexico and didn’t pass our details to anybody in the office. I hope he enjoyed his tequila.
Exploring this town on foot is the only way to do it and this third time to Paris had us sniffing around the Marais like local pooches on the hunt for good food, markets and coffee. Sadly the only semi-decent coffee the French can construct is an espresso and the rest is atrocious, except for one fellow that has us returning every day. More on him in another post.
Lunch the first day was had at Le Gai Moulin, an average-looking spot that seemed to be a bit of an institution amongst the locals. It has your typical bistro feel with miscellaneous bits scattered throughout the main dining room and tables so close together that you can’t help but rub up against the stranger next to you. I guess this is the Marais and we are in The Gay Mill so some people may just like that! Is that a baguette in your pocket or are you just happy to …
The menu du jour seemed pretty good value at €21.90 for three courses of unfussy traditional food. Mr K chooses a single main dish of duck breast with orange sauce (€13.9 yes they even have an English menu) while I go for the 3-couse deal.
It was a while since my last dose of politically incorrect foie gras (a few days) so when I saw baked eggs with foie gras as a starter, I had to have it. A cute lidded ramekin reveals beautifully gooey eggs topped with a generous round of creamy liver. Ooh la la. A few dunks with bread soldiers and it’s a right old mess. Très bien!
The duck looks a little on the dry side and the thick golden chips are perfect. The light rain outside had me choosing the homemade shepherd’s pie and while I didn’t love it, it was very much what I was expecting. A serving of home-cooked stodge plus a leafy green salad on the side.
Dessert was a lovely tarte tatin that finished the meal off nicely. Now, for some coffee …
Also located in the Marais is this little hole in the wall. Pozzetto. By the looks of things the drawcard is the gelato that’s spatula’d into your cone or cup, not scooped, just as it is done in Italy. Word has it that the coffee here is very good and seeing we had cake at the restaurant we side-stepped the gelato and sat inside for a coffee.
Espresso is always an easy and fairly reliable option in this town but the sound of macchiato has us a little hopeful. As soon as I heard the girl steaming the milk I knew things were not going to be so good. It just didn’t sound right. What came out was a high-ball glass of hot milk with a small shot of espresso, weak as piss and more designed for someone that likes to pretend they drink coffee (no offense but I like my coffee with grunt).
The search continues.