Saturday, 6 September 2008

Dining out with a difference in Paris.

Finding a restaurant in Paris is never hard, but trying to find a good restaurant is perhaps a little more of a challenge. Being the most tourist-frequented spot in the world means that restaurant owners can afford to be slack, as there will never cease to be a supply of new and unaware clients. Thankfully, however, for every lazy restaurateur in Paris, there is a fabulous, innovative one. Going to a great restaurant absolutely compliments a day’s outing, but there are also establishments in Paris which can be the outing themselves. Here are a few of the more eccentric places which will offer you more than just a meal, guaranteed.

In the 4th Arrondissement, just around the corner from the Pompidou Centre is a joint called Dans Le Noir. Dinner here is really just that. The dining room is pitch black, and guests are asked to surrender anything that could generate light- watches, cell phones and so on- at the door way. You can literally see nothing. While this might be disconcerting to begin with for you, it has absolutely no bearing on the staff, who are all blind. They will guide you to your table (and anywhere else you may need to go during your meal) bring you your food and help you experience their world for the duration of your meal. The idea of Dans Le Noir is both to help sighted people understand the day to day existence of a blind person, and to heighten (or at least alter) the diner’s perception of the food they are eating. Without sight, the food becomes more fragrant, more powerfully spiced; more present. The diners often believe the meals are made up of far more complex ingredients than they actually are, simply because they focus on the act of tasting so carefully. Dans Le Noir is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for Brunch; cheekily, Tuesday night is singles night- a true blind date!

If you are more interested in audible rather than visual (or lack thereof) stimulation, try
Bel Canto, also in the 4th Arrondissement. Here, dinner is as dramatic as an opera- complete with opera singing waiters. Dressed to the nines, the waiters will perform their standard duties, and suddenly burst into eccentric, elegant song. Not so much service with a smile as service with a serenade, Bel Canto is an absolute must, particularly if you are a fan of Italian food. Importantly, Bel Canto’s staff are all students from Parisian music schools, so you don’t need to worry about being forced to endure metro-quality performances! The restaurant is open every night from 8pm.

If you have children with you who are less than charmed with the idea of dinner ‘en famille,’ a good idea is to take them to La Maison Nicolas Flamel. Found in the 3rd Arrondissement, the building is the oldest in Paris, and belonged to the famous alchemist. A real person, the kids will be interested because Nicolas features in none less than Harry Potter as the inventor of the Philosopher’s Stone. It is always fun to find the links between history and story, and there is no doubt that Nicolas did TRY to create such a product…..his success is perhaps less certain. The food is very traditional French food at a reasonable price, particularly at lunch time, when you can get a ‘formule du midi’ for 18.50euros.
So whether you are after heightened taste-sensation, dinner and a show or a little bit of magic, dining in Paris can adapt to your needs. But don’t stop here, the left bank has some real gems to offer also, which I will explore and divulge at a later date….

Dans Le Noir- 51 Rue Quincampoix, 75004.
Tel. 01 42 77 98 04

Bel Canto- 72 Quai de L’Hotel de Ville, 75004.
Tel. 01 42 78 30 18

Maison Nicolas Flamel- 51, rue de Montmorency 75003.
Tel. 01 42 71 77 78


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I always find eating out in other cities quite difficult, especially with children! I think kids can be quite fussy with french food - me and my husband tend to cook the kids dinner in our Paris apartment and then eat out later and give them a Parisian ice cream to avoid the massive tantrums!!