There are few things better than a fantastic Sunday brunch to ease one out of the leisure of the weekend and back into the structure of the work week. To enjoy a nice, slow brunch in Paris is to be in heaven. I’m not sure when mon bel homme and I will get there, but I fully intend to enjoy a mimosa-filled meal at one of these lovely places.
(T Magazine) The ever-trendy Marais district will always hold sway in Paris, but for locals, attention is shifting east to the increasingly gentrified 10th Arrondissement, where young talent in food and fashion have settled around the Canal St. Martin. The hipster appeal is nothing new for the neighborhood — throngs of lissome, bike-toting 20- and 30-somethings with anti-bourgeois attitudes have been hanging out by the waterway, wildly popular for apéros and waterside picnics, long before the area shrugged off its image as one of the city’s untamed fringes — but it is quickly becoming an equally suitable destination for affordable breakfast and brunch bites. Here are some of the newcomers and old favorites worth tasting this summer.
Paris has stellar breads and sweets on nearly every corner, so it’s the rare boulangerie that is worth the trek across town. But if the lines that regularly snake around the block are any indication, Christophe Vasseur’s hallowed, decade-old bakery, Du Pain et des Idées, holds court among the deserving bunch. Despite weekday-only hours, abiding fans come in droves as much for the revelatory escargot (a pinwheel pastry; particular nod to the pistachio-chocolate variety), rustic Pain des Amis bread and mini savory pavés. Snag a spot at the picnic table just outside the premises or walk a block to the canal to indulge in your breakfast bounty.
Du Pain et des Idées, 34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010; 011-33-01-4240-4452; closed Saturday and Sunday.
With a name inspired by the irreverent photographer Helmut Newton, Helmut Newcake is more than just the latest foodie anchor on a formerly gnarly section of the rue Bichat; it’s the city’s first gluten-free bakery and salon de thé. The foray into gluten-free baking developed out of necessity for the co-owner and pastry chef Marie Tagliaferro, who was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 20 while working at LeNôtre. Since then, she’s been intent on showing unknowing Parisians (only 1 percent of the population is affected) that going sans gluten doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste. Weekend brunch varies weekly but often includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and savory tarts in addition to a variety of financiers, cannelés and éclairs so wildly delicious you’ll forget they’re gluten-free. The must-have: a white chocolate grapefruit tart rolled out just in time for summer.
Helmut Newcake, 36 rue Bichat, 75010; 011-33-0-9-8259-0039; closed Monday and Tuesday.
Lording over the canal is Le Sésame, a 1950s-inspired neighborhood standout known as much for its rakish crowd as its garden-fresh menu, with such staples as fresh smoothies, soups, veggie-laden quiches, bagel sandwiches and homemade American sweets. Drawing inspiration from her travels, the owner Léna Balacco describes the cafe as New York in spirit and Scandinavian in style. The modest dining room, outfitted with repurposed school desks, old booths and vintage furnishings, also doubles as an art space, playing host to regularly rotating exhibits and pop-ups. But brunch is the serious affair here so early arrival is key. For late risers, prepare to jostle the crowd for one of the cafe’s coveted spots. And if, despite your greatest efforts, you are unsuccessful, you might be able to snag a seat at Le Sésame’s sister cafe across the canal (see below).
Le Sésame, 51, Quai de Valmy, 75010; 011-33-0-1-4249-0321; open daily.
Loyal denizens of Le Sésame were thrilled when Balacco opened a second outpost, La Chambre aux Oiseaux, on the other side of the canal with her longtime friend and interior designer Hervé Labarre — this time a cross between an English teahouse and a New York coffee shop with a decidedly retro vision. On the outside, an intimate covered terrace seats 12 (particularly useful for those rare days when Paris temperatures creep above 60), while the inside smacks of an old-fashioned home. Kitted-out with mismatched vintage armchairs and tables, flowered wallpaper and secondhand accessories, the winsome little space was designed as an homage to Balacco’s grandmother and the fabric shop she owned in the ’60s. The food is equally homey. The starch-heavy and generous breakfast, complete with a selection of breads, cheeses and jam, bacon, and muffins, goes down smoothly with hot chocolate and lattes served in American-size mugs (a welcome departure from the diminutive standard). Reservations recommended; coffee available to go.
La Chambre aux Oiseaux, 46 rue Bichat, 75010; 011-33-0-1-4018-9849; closed Monday and Tuesday.
Farther north along the canal you’ll find Les Enfants Perdus, a brunch stronghold nestled around the corner from the brightly fashioned Antoine & Lili shops. The restaurant may have an air of modern hipness, but it traffics in nostalgia — its name is a nod to J.M. Barrie’s “lost boys” from Peter Pan, the owner’s personal favorite, and is reflected squarely in the playful attitudes of modish young waiters. “We’re all lost boys, here!”, one joked. Tradition reigns on the plate as well, where you’ll find eggs en cocotte, mixed salads served in square ramekins, French ham and smoked salmon, creamy ravioles de Royans and savory muffins. (The menu changes seasonally.) Flaky pastries are in plentiful supply, too, but it’s the cotton candy offered at the end of the meal that charms the 10-and-under set and the kids at heart. The other house specialty: an otherworldly pain perdu (French toast), but you’ll have to return for dinner and dessert to get a taste. Reservations highly recommended; request a spot in the snug alcove at the back of the restaurant.
Les Enfants Perdus, 9 rue des Récollets, 75010; 011-33-0-1-8129-4826; open daily.