A taste of the 7th Arrondissement
June 1, 2018
A typical day in the 7eme….
….starts with the view of Les Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb) from the balcony of “our” apartment (allow me a fantasy life). If we’re heading for the Metro at St François Xavier, we’ll have breakfast at La Boulangerie des Invalides on the corner opposite, where the croissants are in the oven. Returning at the end of the day there’s a queue for their baguettes, which “will be ready in 10 minutes”.
Their savoury tarts (quiches) are very good; the sweet tarts have a dark glaze, and crisp, slightly caramelised pastry. A Pistachio & Apricot was not too sweet, and the lime zest decoration on a Tarte au Citron was a clue; it was pleasantly sharp, with a texture like crème brulee.
If we’re going shopping on rue Cler, we’ll have our coffee there.
Café du Marché is always busy, but reports are mixed.
We preferred the “PTT” Bar-Brasserie for un petit crème, which seems less touristy; there’s usually a cluster of local tradesmen having drinks and a gossip at the bar.
You’re spoiled by the choice of food shop on this street. There’s a well-appointed new butcher at No 52, La Boucherie du Perche, which opened this year; they’re proud of the provenance of their meat, which looked very good; their terrine de campagne was the best I’ve ever eaten, juicy and not too coarsely cut, the seasoning well-judged and perfectly integrated.
At La Sablaise, the fishmonger, a magnificent, huge, wild Daurade (sea bream) was in pride of place among a fine selection.
Of the four greengrocers, we like Les Quatre Saisons, where the display outside follows the seasons, while the salads are kept in a cool, humidified display inside the shop.
The ice creams from Martine Lambert are very good: a scoop each of blood orange and salted caramel for me, rhubarb sorbet “pour madame”.
Paris has many chocolatiers, Rue Cler’s is François Pralus, where you can make your own selection from the counter. www.chocolats-pralus.com
Of the four wine shops we’ve settled on the friendly Nysa, for their helpful recommendations. 30 rue Cler. www.nysa.fr
There’s a well-stocked cheesemonger at No 31, La Fromagerie, which also sells eggs, bread, and fresh butter, which they cut to order off a big block.
There’s more cheese to be had round the corner on Rue du Champ de Mars, at the immaculate La Fromagerie Marie-Anne Cantin, one of the most reputable purveyors in the city.
We really like L’Épicerie Fine in the same street at No 8, which has a nice vibe; it’s run by a friendly and knowledgeable couple, Pascal & Nathalie, who attract a regular clientele. I go there to buy my favourite Dijon mustards from Fallot, the only remaining producer to use traditional grindstones. This shop sells everything a good grocer should, from Tiptree Christmas puddings and Patak’s pickles to Breton salted caramels (only buy these if you can afford the dental bills!)
USEFUL PHRASES AND SAYINGS in L’Epicerie: “Pouvez vous l’emballer pour l’Eurostar?” (Please could you wrap it to carry home on the train?)
AVENUE de SAXE MARKET
As well as rue Cler, the 7th Arrondissement is also served by a street market on Avenue de Saxe, which takes place every Thursday and Saturday morning (stalls attending vary on the two days).
The 7eme is a well-heeled neighbourhood. Market trader, farmer and legend, Peter Gott, once told me “if you’re thinking about taking a stall at a market, and you want to know if it’ll be any good – look at the shoes….”
You can buy six prawns, ten spears of asparagus, a slice of terrine, even half a loaf – as much as you want, or as little as you need.
Elderly locals scour the whole market, as quickly as they can manage. There’s no shame or embarrassment about using a shopping trolley.
Plastic bags are available on the food stalls, but the traders always ask “do you have a bag?” (Not “would you like a bag?”) and there’s no plastic wrap on veg, fruit, meat, or fish.
We bought dinner for Saturday, the only thing we had to cook was some very fresh asparagus, crunchy, green and flavourful.
USEFUL PHRASES AND SAYINGS on Avenue de Saxe:
“Faites la queue, monsieur?” (meaning politely “are you part of the queue, or just standing there?” – who said the French don’t queue? This was at the stall specialising in different varieties of potato).
“Une Barquette des Garriguettes, s’il vous plait” – the ladies of the 7eme were lining up to buy punnets of these perfect early strawberries, a good enough recommendation for me!
Of the fish traders, Les Pêcheries de St Malo seemed to be doing the briskest business – always the sign of a good trader.
As well as the French producers, there are stalls devoted to products from countries besides France, such as Armenia, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Others offer single specialities: eggs, Baltic herrings, snails.
We took a chance on a couple of bottles from a wine stall at the end of the morning. The Juliénas at €9 proved to be rather ordinary, but a pink St Pourçain was a bit of a bargain at €5.50. The prices were marked on the bottles in white ink, which the trader wiped off with a dampened thumb.
“Shopped out” and in need of a reviver by the time the market was packing up, we followed up with a decent coffee at Le Général Bertrand, 14 Rue du Général Bertrand, 75007
The royal wedding was showing live from Windsor on the TV; realising we were British, a good-humoured regular gave up his stool at the bar. We ended up by staying on to watch, over a simple lunch of charcuterie and a glass of rosé….
Saxe-Breteuil Market, Avenue de Saxe, 75007.
Thursday 7am – 2.30pm, Saturday 7am – 3pm