Dining like a Parisian is like dressing like a Parisian. Think Jeanne Damas and Inès de la Fressange, famous advocates of understated chic in their I-just-threw-this-on shirt and jeans combo. Finding the perfect I-just-stumbled-across-this-place hideaway is a similarly subtle art, but well worth the research.
Trust me. The well-trodden path to the Eiffel Tower will only leave you waiting behind twenty other couples trying to snap a selfie whilst street vendors flog tired red roses and LED snow globes.
The joy of this beautiful city comes from doing Paris like a Parisian, so fall in love with Paris this Valentine’s Day by hitting up these local treasures.
For the Hopeless Romantic
Au Petit Riche
25 Rue le Peletier, 75009
Tucked away in a little street off the Boulevard Haussmann, Au Petit Riche is perfect for an intimate, quintessentially French dinner. With deep red upholstery and art-deco lamps, this bistro epitomises effortless romance. The restaurant is made up of several small dining areas branching off from the main corridor, so walking through it feels like finding your carriage on the Orient Express.
The menu is impressive and reasonably priced though, please note, not suitable for vegetarians. Treat yourself to oysters, followed by scallops or a proud selection of meat dishes, all washed down with one of the establishment’s 5,000 bottles of fine wine. How to choose? The sommelier, Jean-Paul, will be happy to advise.
For the Low-key Lover
Le Loir dans la Théière
3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004
This little café is full of home from home comforts, with a buffet table generously laden with homemade tarts and galettes and a living room atmosphere that is the perfect antidote to overpriced tourist traps.
The Alice in Wonderland-inspired decor is given a bohemian twist, with mismatched flea market tables and chairs, plush sofas, and old theatre posters peeling from the walls.
But all this is the by the by. For the real reason to come here is the desserts. Try the lemon pie with stiletto-deep meringue, scorched to perfection. Or perhaps the mille-feuille? Don’t be intimidated by its hefty appearance. Inside, it’s a real softie.
For the Crooner
33 Rue Dauphine, 75006
Attached to the Hotel d’Aubusson, this chic, cosy bar hosts jazz sessions from 9pm, transporting guests back to post-war Paris. With low tables and armchairs, heavy drapes, and an impressive selection of digestifs stocked high behind the mahogany bar, Café Laurent has a feel of the old Paris for a touch of traditional romance.
Remarkably, it is rarely crowded and so you can enjoy a glass of champagne and be serenaded as though you were the only people there.
For the Big Spender
4 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006
If your mantra this Valentine’s Day is ‘more is more’, I should tell you now that reservations at the Eiffel Tower are fully booked. Don’t be disheartened. Now is your chance to be creative, and that mon ami is where real romance is born.
La Société feels exclusive, famous for its young, fashionable clientele. Even the waitresses are impossibly good-looking, like extras in a Bond film. The general ambiance is elegance, affluence with a hint of snootiness.
The monochrome decor is contemporary and chic, with art adorning the walls and an impressive marble champagne bar. The menu boasts escargots, foie gras and lobster; perfect to seduce your taste buds and your valentine.
Unlike the Eiffel Tower, La Société sits right in the heart of one of Paris’ most vibrant districts. Emerge after your meal onto the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is eternally animated – a vignette of Paris as you’ve always imagined it. Take a stroll through the Latin Quarter to the Seine, because a little bit of cliché is okay. It’s Valentine’s Day goddammit.