Forget chicken nuggets; in Paris, children’s palates are educated young. Here are eight restaurants geared towards toddlers and teenagers, a junior cookery school and two child-friendly French hotels
Children get in early on the French passion for food. Eating out is a part of daily life here, and that means taking the kids, too – so the city abounds in child-friendly restaurants and cafés. Even designer hangouts and gourmet bistros become family destinations, especially on Wednesdays, when French kids don’t have school, and at weekends when Parisians go out for lunch en famille.
WHAT TO EAT
Special children’s menus (where they exist) are often disappointingly predictable. You may do better ordering from the carte. Some places will happily bring an extra plate for children to share with parents, or cook up something simple on the spot. Crêperies and cafés with omelettes and croque monsieur are easy failsafes, but there are plenty of straightforward French classics to be found in bistros: from starters such as terrines and saucisson sec or cured ham and cantaloupe melon, via steak-frîtes or roast chicken, boeuf bourguignon and beef with carrots to favourite desserts suich as crème caramel and chocolate mousse.
Vintage bistro Astier believes in training the tastebuds at an early age. While parents lunch on excellent updated bistro cooking from a chef who used to be at Le Meurice, children aged five and under can experience “Mon premier filet de sole” (my first fillet of sole) and potato purée for €10 (on the menu until October 2009, when it will be replaced by a new dish) along with a specially embroidered Astier bib to take home. For older children, the chefs are happy to adapt dishes and the junior rum baba – served with cream, but without rum – is always a hit.
Michelin three-star chef Guy Savoy has launched Opération Ado with a mission “to form the palate of the young by good cuisine” and encourage social interaction between parents and teenagers. Those aged 12 to 17 are offered a free meal, when accompanied by two adults, in his satellite restaurants: the modern bistro Les Bouquinistes, the elegant contemporary Chiberta and the rôtisserie-style Atelier de Maître Albert. The same deal applies for 15- to 17-year-olds at the gastronomic Restaurant Guy Savoy, on star turns such as artichoke and truffle soup, pigeon and john dory with sea urchins.
Young style fiends can dine at trendy Apollo, the former baggage hall of Denfert Rochereau station. It makes a real effort for children in a €13 menu proposing chicken supreme or sea bream fillet with green beans or pasta and a chocolate waffle. Local families pile in alongside artists and fashion people at Tokyo Eat inside the vast Palais de Tokyo contemporary art space, which offers big round tables, sputnik-style lights, and a simple kids’ menu alongside good modern fusion-tinged French cuisine. Nearby on the Champs-Elysées, the car-crazy can gaze down on Renault’s concept cars or Formula 1 models from the restaurant at the high-tech Atelier Renault, which has a children’s menu, weekend brunch and the possibility of stopping by for ice-cream sundaes in the afternoon.
DO IT YOURSELF
Children can learn to cook at the Atelier des Chefs’ 90-minute Graine de Chef classes for 7- to-12-year-olds on Wednesday afternoons, making anything from herby meatballs to pizza or fruit gratins. It helps if they understand some French but there’s plenty of participation as pupils chop, beat, whisk and fold while they prepare a drink, a main course to take home and a dessert to sample at the end.
Bankers, film stars and children really do mix at Le Meurice, which of all Paris’s luxury hotels is the one that goes out of its way to welcome children. There are various possibilities of extra beds, suites and connecting rooms, the Tuileries gardens across the street, soft toy mascot, child-sized dressing gowns, afternoon tea buffet, a Paris discovery passport and even special high-chairs designed by Philippe Starck. Family package from €1,350.
Twelve attractively designed rooms are good sized, all with a double bed and a real third bed; or you can book the whole “famly cottage” across the courtyard, which has two interconnecting rooms. Triple from €165.
Apollo (+33 1 45 38 76 77, http://restaurant-apollo.com), 3 place Denfert-Rochereau.
Astier (+33 1 43 57 16 35, www.restaurant-astier.com), 44 rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud.
Atelier Renault (+33 8 11 88 28 11, www.atelier.renault.com), 53 avenue des Champs-Elysées.
Guy Savoy (www.guysavoy.com): Restaurant Guy Savoy (+33 1 43 80 40 61), 18 rue Troyon; Atelier de Maître Albert (+33 1 56 81 30 01), 1 rue Maître Albert; Les Bouquinistes (+33 1 43 25 45 94), 53 quai des Grands-Augustins; Chiberta (+33 1 53 53 42 00), 3 rue Arsène-Houssaye .
Tokyo Eat (+33 1 47 20 00 29, www.palaisdetokyo.com), Palais de Tokyo, 13 avenue du Président-Wilson.
L’Atelier des Chefs (www.atelierdeschefs.com), 10 rue de Penthièvre.