We recently reviewed the excellent Unusual Nights in Paris from Jonglez, and here's another of their top Paris guides introducing visitors (and residents) to some places they may not know about. In this case it's Secret Bars and Restaurants in Paris.
big fans of this 'Secret' series of guides from Jonglez, and have used both
Secret Dublin and Secret Amsterdam, both of which introduced us to new and
fascinating places in cities we thought we knew pretty well. Jonglez, who are
based in Versailles just outside Paris, do seem to be able to find writers who
can unearth a city's secrets. In this case author Jacques Garance homes in on
Paris's bars and restaurants, beautifully illustrated too by photographer
The book runs to just under 200 pages and is organised in two different ways. The first half is by arrondissement, from the 1st to the 20th, plus individual entries for the suburbs of Nanterre, Puteaux and Saint-Ouen. This half covers what you might call the main entries, with each one getting a full page write-up and 1-2 photos.
The second half of the book is organised thematically, with some of the first half entries repeated with a cross-reference, but lots of extra entries for bars and restaurants too. The first theme, for example, is Secret Gardens and Open-Air Terraces. This begins with the cafés at the Louvre, which you might think aren't so secret but the author points out that most Parisians don't know how good they are, and don't know they have fabulous views. And most visitors find them by accident as they haven't gone to the Louvre to visit a café.
The cafés at the Louvre also make it onto a later list of Extraordinary Views. These include the restaurant at Le Terrass Hôtel in Montmartre (though the author admits the view towards the Eiffel Tower is better than the food), the Benkay Japanese Restaurant and the terrace above the bar at the Hotel Raphael near l'Arc de Triomphe.
The author also lists another seven places, but admits they're by no means all secret, like the Georges Restaurant at the Pompidou Centre.
No book like this would be complete without some suggestions for romantic restaurants and bars, and that's another of the themes that will help anyone plan the kind of Paris visit they want. These include some places that add history and grandeur to those special meals, like Le 1728 restaurant near the Élysée Palace, or the gourmet restaurant Lapérouse. This is hardly a secret rendezvous but maybe not too many people know about the private rooms you can dine in. These date back to 1766 and are genuinely private – no-one will enter the room until you call them.
What we like about these 'Secret' guides is that they always have a sense of fun about them. After all, a lot of the lesser-known attractions in a city turn out to be quirky and unique. In this guide, limited to bars and restaurants, the author has a bit of fun by listing, amongst other things, the eating and drinking places that have the most remarkable toilets.
Yes, the author has managed to find 14 places that have toilets that are decidedly different. It seems a shame to spoil the surprises, though L'Étoile Manquante, a café in the Marais, has several unusual features, including a train running back and forward between the ladies and the gents, if you want to pass any messages. The bar Le Lèche Vin near Place de la Bastille is decorated with religious images, except for the toilets which, well, are rather a contrast.
You'll also find this a useful Paris guide if you want bars and restaurants that are good for families, offer warm firesides in winter and even offer free food – yes, really. And the author isn't talking about soup kitchens. If you want to be in on that secret, you'll just have to buy the book.
Note that this edition of the book was published in 2009 so there are bound to be a few changes. Always check with venues first, and full contact details are given for everywhere that's listed.
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