Child-friendly Paris: a gourmet guide

by Natasha.Edwards

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.

FOR TODDLERS

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.

FOR TEENAGERS

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.

DESIGNER DINING

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.

CHILD-FRIENDLY HOTELS

Hôtel Meurice:
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.

Hôtel Valadon
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.

RESTAURANT CHOICE

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.

COOKERY CLASS

L’Atelier des Chefs (www.atelierdeschefs.com), 10 rue de Penthièvre.

 

 

Natasha.Edwards

I am a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveller, the Daily Telegraph and Elle Decoration. As well as several guidebooks to Paris, I have also written guides to Provence, the Côte d'Azur, Lille, Biarritz and the Pays Basque, Bordeaux, Reims and French food for, among others, Time Out, Berlitz, Insight Guides, Dorling Kindersley and Thomas Cook.

I came to Paris over 15 years ago for all the wrong reasons (love!) and have lived here ever since. I still adore exploring the city and today write about art, design, food, travel and French culture in general.

My Paris

Where I always grab a coffee: Le Rostand café on place Edmond-Rostand: it's my unofficial second office, right opposite the Luxembourg Gardens.

My favourite stroll: Although I think I know the city pretty well, there are always places to discover or rediscover. The district I always come back to, however, is St-Germain for its mix of history, small streets, cafés, shopping, people watching, the local and the cosmopolitan... in short, Paris.

Fiction for inspiration: Georges Perec's Life: A User’s Manual: a mind-boggling, jigsaw puzzle of life in a Parisian apartment building. For an insight into French character, the Asterix comic strips are pretty accurate, too!

Where to be seen this summer: Café terraces all around town. If your style is St-Germain, then it's between hip Bar du Marché and newcomer Germain on rue de Buci, if you are more Canal St-Martin, then the waterside Point Ephémère. Gourmets are going to be sniffing out the restaurant at Le Crillon, which has just appointed a new, young chef.

The most breathtaking view: The view of the city that gradually unfolds as you rise up the escalators at the Centre Pompidou.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The Jardin des Plantes for its combination of botanical garden, scientific institution and local park (perhaps not so quiet). The 19th-century greenhouses are reopening this summer, and it's surely the only place in Paris where you see ostriches when you drive past.

Shopaholics beware!: Artfully distressed concept store Merci, for its totally desirable mix of up-to-the minute and second-hand fashion, housewares, oddities and cult design items.

City on screen: Parisians adore cinema and there's something cinematic about the whole city. I love Jean-Pierre Melville's film noir Le Samourai, for its vision of Paris low life, nightclubs and the metro, with Alain Delon as the cool, lean, beautiful hitman, and, for something completely different, brilliant animation film Ratatouille, for its witty, sentimental, tongue-in-cheek evocation of Paris and its restaurant culture.

Don’t leave without...Visiting a Paris food market – one of them, all of them, preferably on Sunday morning, the best time for catching up on gossip as well as gourmandises.