For food lovers the world over, a pilgrimage to Paris is a rite of passage, but all those Michelin-stars can add a couple of extra zeros to the bill. Thankfully Paris is also the birthplace of bistros, casual restaurants serving traditional dishes at great prices. They almost always offer an exceptional value 3-course menu-of-the-day and are as much a part of the history of this most foodie of cities as are the Michelin-starred temples of gastronomy. If you do want to splash out on one Michelin-starred meal without going too crazy, consider the €140 3-course weekday lunch at Jules Verne atop the Eiffel Tower – a world-class experience with the added bonus of a private elevator ride to the second level viewing deck, bypassing the otherwise very long queues.
Bistro Allard (6th arrondissement)
Opened in 1932 and now owned by Alain Ducasse, Allard is as old-school-French as they come, with charming staff, delicious bread, butter cut from a 5kg dome, and digestifs poured from double magnums. All the classics are here: gougères, terrines, perfectly dressed salad, turned vegetables and an impressive dessert trolley!
Josephine Chez Dumonet (6th arrondissement)
Old-fashioned tiled floors, lots of mirrors, bustling waiters, and unbelievably enormous servings (thankfully half serves of most dishes are available). Pickled herrings with potato salad is a stone crock large enough to serve four, house-cured salmon is the best I’ve ever had, and the apple tarte fin rivals Guillaume Brahimi’s.
Robert et Louise (3rd arrondissement)
A wonderfully rustic restaurant in the bohemian Marais district, where meat is literally hacked off a large chunk in the open kitchen and cooked on a metal plate over the fireplace at the end of the room. An entrée of ‘fresh sausages’ arrives as two thin sausages hot off the grill, the only garnish a smudge of grease, pots of salt and mustard are on the table. A rustic terrine, buttery escargot, and andouillette are similarly unadorned. The likes of delicious mushroom omelette keeps non-carnivores happy.
Bistrot Paul Bert (11th arrondissement)
This large, old-fashioned bistro with tightly packed tables and bustling service has a very impressive wine list. Seafood is well handled, meat dishes are classics (including the blanquette de veau in a cast-iron pot), the cheese board is generous and the Paris Brest is definitely the go-to dessert. €41 3-course menu with choices.
Le Comptoir (6th arrondissement)
I love this small art-deco room with a menu that showcases Yves Camdeborde’s Michelin-starred past while staying true to the simplicity of the bistro ethos. Whether you’re after classics like salade Niçoise and escargot with garlic butter, or the likes of penne with lobster, candied lemon and toasted almonds, a night at the adjacent Hotel Relais Saint Germain will guarantee you a table.
Updated 17 April 2019