As a Modern Languages student at Queen Mary, Cassandra spent the autumn semester studying abroad at Sorbonne Université in Paris, and is currently waiting in anticipation to embark on her spring semester placement at Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. Cassandra invites you to join her on a Parisian culinary adventure, from the comfort of your own sofa!
Over the years I’ve had various ideas about how my ‘year abroad’ would turn out, and this definitely was not one of them! Since the initial outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, education has been hit hard, affecting most students, however I consider myself very lucky about the opportunity I had. Despite all the uncertainty, I was able to carry out the majority of my first semester in Paris, and I do not regret a single moment of it.
I moved to Paris in September to study at the Sorbonne University. This was my first time to France, moving away from home and being completely independent. This experience helped me to dedicate time to myself, and to explore the city to its fullest.
The university enrolment process was pretty stressful as organisation was not the best, and none of us Erasmus students had any clear guidance on enrolment. Apart from this chaotic start, everything turned out well and I was able to attend normally. The first three weeks of Uni I was attending full-time, however, as the Covid-19 situation worsened, classes were split. This meant that I attended in person on alternative weeks. During the odd weeks I would have classes online, meaning that I had loads of time to explore every corner of Paris.
I took advantage of every single day off and made the absolute most of it. I have had the chance to try many more restaurants than expected. Here is a list of my top ten food stops:
1- Café de Flore
This typical French café is definitely a must. Situated in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a very fancy area, you will be dining in one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris, best known for having a famous clientele such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Bataille, and many more. The menu has a wide selection, which could be viewed as quite confusing at first. In the end, however, I decided to go with the most famous item on the menu: ‘Soupe à l’oignon’. This hearty soup is served with a thick layer of cheese that will take your taste buds to another world. Due to its location, it is worth visiting the Sainte-Chapelle de Paris and Concierge, which are just a fifteen minute walk away. Entry is free for anyone under 25 and you will be able to book a free tour guide.
2 – Restaurant Marcel
If you are a brunch lover and have a sweet tooth, then this is the place to go! The menu is very minimal but it still manages to make you indecisive. I ended up going with a French toast topped with chocolate sauce. It sounds pretty simple, but this was the best one I have ever had in my life. To help you to digest this meal, a good idea would be to take a twenty minute walk to the historical landmark Hôtel des Invalides.
3- Pink Mamma
This restaurant is part of one of my favourite restaurant chains called Big Mamma. This typical Italian trattoria is set over a four story building that will make you feel as though you’re in an Italian countryside house. The selection of food is typical Italian food. All the ingredients used are imported from Italy and the quality shows. This restaurant is located within a five minute walk to Le mur des je t’aime and the very famous basilica Sacré Cœur from which you can see the whole skyline of Paris!
4- Loulou friendly diner
This restaurant is actually Australian, which may not be much inspiration whilst visiting Paris, however I had the best Buddha Bowl of my life here! This restaurant has a very cute outside dining area and is located just two roads down the Sorbonne University’s main campus, very near to the Notre Dame de Paris.
5- Café Kitsuné
One of Instagram’s most famous cafes has three of its locations in Paris. It has very modern and minimalist features in its interior decoration but the focus is on the presentation of their menu items. The portions are quite small but just right, and the coffee is spot on! No wonder it is considered one of the best cafes in Paris. Two of its locations are right beside the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.
6- Big Love Café
This cafe is from the same group as “Big Mamma”, the Italian restaurant I mentioned previously. It is here that I had the best cheesecake of my life…and I really love cheesecake! The presentation is very cute and I love the characteristic plates which just make everything better. Not far from Rue de Gravilliers, a small street with independent shops and quite a few ice cream places.
7- Cinquecento pizzeria
If you love real Italian made pizza, then this is definitely going on your list. I chose to have a pizza margherita with mozzarella di bufala, which melts in your mouth as you bite into it. As I went there during lunch time it was quite empty, however I have passed by in the evenings and it does get very busy. The menu is quite pricey compared to other restaurants but it is a good experience to try. Conveniently the restaurant is right opposite the Westfield shopping centre, which will make you feel like you have teleported back to London!
8- East Mamma
I guess it can be understood from the name that this restaurant is also part of the Big Mamma group. You’ll see from the photo below that I opted for a vegetarian pasta called “very wild pasta”, which had lots of mushrooms in it. The interior décor is amazing and the staff very friendly. The restaurant is just a ten minute walk away from La Place de la Bastille and the Opéra.
9- La crème de Paris
This restaurant/cafe is the perfect place for a casual meeting with friends and to have something sweet. It specialises in pancakes and waffles, and there are so many combinations which can be made as you can choose up to five toppings. Having said this, I opted for the basic crêpe avec Nutella. A classic. I was actually expecting a different kind of texture in the pancake but I enjoyed it very much. It is also located on the same road as the Sorbonne University’s main campus, which was handy.
10- Café Marlette
Another amazing brunch place which is right near the Moulin Rouge. The area is quite quirky and a fun place to visit during the daytime. The food here was quite good and I would definitely go again for a quick bite. It is very busy so it would be ideal to visit outside peak hours.
I hope that this will be useful if you ever go to Paris during your year abroad or on holiday. Public transport works the same way as London, however the city is so small and it can be walked across in just over two hours. This is why I walked everywhere during my time there, which allowed me to discover many little roads and places that wouldn’t have caught my eye on the map alone. Walking through Paris is definitely very rewarding and you can enjoy views that London does not offer. Pedestrian areas are much more important in this city and traffic never effects pedestrians as they are always prioritised.