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Tuesday marked the 20-year anniversary of the Eurostar service, which has ferried more than 145 million passengers between London, Paris and Brussels. The French capital has changed immensely in the past two decades, with several down-at-heel areas being reinvented as hip neighbourhoods full of exciting new bars and shops.
The latest hotspot is in a micro quartier right near Gare du Nord, home of Paris’s Eurostar terminal. This formerly nondescript ’hood, wedged between the international station and the Marais, covering the streets between Cadet and Château d’Eau metro stations, has long threatened hipness thanks to cheap rents and an influx of creative types. But a recent gastro glut has sealed the deal.
Ratapoil du Faubourg and Le 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis (52 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, no website), two of the city’s most raved-about new bistros, opened there this year. Ratapoil serves filling but creative fare and an already-legendary salted-caramel pudding, while Le 52, is the third “neo-bistrot” by chef Charles Compagnon. It reproduces the winning formula of his other ventures, L’Office and Le Richer, with all-day opening, exposed brickwork and bold plates such as pork belly with chorizo and potato pressé.
At both, three courses typically cost less than €30, which is very good value considering that in most quality Parisian restaurants main courses alone start at €18. Be warned though, the area’s third hot new restaurant, Asian celebrity chef André Chiang’s Porte 12, charges more like €70 for a three-course dinner. For the less flush, artisan fast-food joints are also proliferating: Big Fernand for chunky burgers, Little Fernand for hot dogs, and La Parenthèse for grilled cheese. Health-conscious hipsters take their dissertations and oversized jumpers to vegan cafes such as Pinson or Fée Nature for gluten-free muffins, spirulina smoothies and buckwheat chouquettes.
Shoppers will find chic boutiques neighbouring Lidls and production company offices. Les Voltigeuses specialises in quirky, independently made womenswear, while Nationale 7 stocks rare vinyl. First editions of Dr Seuss books are available at the Rouge 58 gallery, and at Michalak Masterclass the renowned pastry chef offers cookery lessons.
Once night falls, drinkers head to the inky-dark L’Âne Chic , with its wide selection of beers and good music, and Le Fantôme, where arcade games, pizza squares and DJs vie for attention. A much-hyped cocktail bar, Le Syndicat, stocking only French-produced spirits such as citron brandy and pastis, is due to open this month.
At the heart of it all is the 45-room Hotel Paradis (doubles from €87), where British pop stars have been spied among the high-sided cream sofas and mid-century heirlooms and army of anglepoises. In January, sister property Hotel Panache will open five minutes away, and is likely to be just as cool, just as affordable. Now all you need is that train ticket.
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