It was in the French capital that the word “restaurant” was allegedly coined in 1765, by the soup maker M Boulanger, who sold restaurants divins – literally, “divine restoratives”, or, broths. When the revolution abolished food guilds and the country’s aristocrats were guillotined, the chefs, with few noble families left to serve, turned their skills to feeding le peuple, opening the world’s first public restaurants, at least one of which – Le Grand Véfour, in Palais Royal – is still open today.
Moving forward 250 years, Paris’s food scene has never been more exciting. After a dip in the 1990s, when the legacy of nouvelle cuisine finally petered out, and many chefs shunned their Michelin stars in favour of simpler (yet still conservative) bistro food, the glory days are back, as enterprising cooks and entrepreneurs come up with new, contemporary cooking codes and pay extra attention to the quality and provenance of the ingredients they use. So much so that walking around every single one of the city’s 20 arrondissements can sometimes seem like an invitation to weight- gain: decadent boulangeries, stunning cake shops, gourmet markets and delicious restaurants serving both traditional and next-generation French cuisine, as well as dishes from around the world. Mercifully, you don’t need a mammoth bank account to eat your way through the city. In short, the Paris of today is a veritable twenty-first- century nosh nirvana – so prepare your palate and loosen that belt: you’re in for a memorable gastronomic ride.
Over the last 20 years, Paris’s food scene has redefined itself, turning its back on classism to embrace the culinary ideals of a new set of open-minded chefs. Some trained with Michelin biggies; others are self-taught; all are well-travelled, plucky and determined to put...