The Hedonist: Paris

What to see and where to be seen

Ben Illis
Saturday 15 May 2010 00:00

So, I'm sitting in a rather chi-chi garret, surrounded by BCBGers swilling cups of Fortnum's tea, massaging my throbbing temples.

As I await my omelette aux fines herbes avec son bacon and sausage, my friend Claire (for whom I blame my current state) texts me to say she is running late. I am neatly divided between willing it all to be over and hoping that Coco & Co (00 33 1 45 44 02 52; ) does indeed serve up the best hangover brunch in Paris, because I sorely need it. Claire promised me a night to remember, but I ended up with a night I am having trouble piecing together at all. As I stir another spoon of sugar into a cup of life-savingly good coffee I set about solving the jigsaw puzzle...

The previous day I'd checked in to the boutique for all budgets Mama Shelter (00 33 1 43 48 48 48; ), left my bag on my bed and immediately headed up to the roof terrace for a cocktail, just to remind my anxious liver that its tireless and unthanked efforts were required once again. Housed in a former multi-storey car park, Mama threw open her doors back in 2008, injecting some much needed style and charming kitschery into the shamefully overlooked 20th arrondissement. A favourite of the local BoBo ("Bourgeois Bohemian") crowd, Mama throws a daily barbie on the rooftop when the sun's shining and mixes a mean mojito. As I sipped some minty refreshment, Claire rang: I had one hour to get to the Pompidou for our first drink. The corridors of Mama Shelter passed by in a blur, so I barely registered its quirkiness (Obama candles and plastic face-mask lampshades anyone?). After a quick scrub with the complimentary Kiehl's products – so non-NCP – I was off.

I flagged down a cab to Café Beaubourg (00 33 1 48 87 63 96) by the Pompidou – very much a place to see and be seen in. While chugging down a bière blanche, I waited for Claire (yes, a theme was developing) and people-watched for all I was worth. The visibly wealthy and vastly overweight lady of a certain age to my right had a muscle-bound Latin lover around a third of her age and straight off the cover of a Mills & Boon. His main function appeared to be to carry her Chihuahua.

Then in swooped Claire to drag me off to dinner at the delightful BistroY Les Papilles (00 33 1 43 25 20 79; ), which serves up excellent trad bistro fare to a hungry crowd of regulars and well-informed visitors. Les Papilles is really a wine shop that offers a delicious, twice-daily changing prix fixe (no choices, four courses, €41) accompanied by the wine of your choice pulled from their shelves and served with a €7 corkage charge. The night was unseasonably muggy and a chilled Minervois proved a pitch-perfect counterpoint to our pitch-perfect meal, lubricating both tongue and hip joint and thereby preparing us for a night on the tiles.

But first, a quick sharpener at the Experimental Cocktail Club (37 Rue St-Sauveur). Tucked off the only partially poshed-up red-light district of the Rue St-Denis in the refreshingly un-snobbish deuxième, the ECC serves up cutting-edge cocktails on leather chairs against velvet and exposed bricks, screaming its Manhattan genesis loud and proud in the process. The signature cocktail – the Experience 1 – packs a kick like a mule, with the subtle fragrance of Indochine.

With two of those down us, we were rather liking the deuxième's work, so headed a couple of blocks south to Le Pin Up (00 33 1 42 33 04 86) a teeny-tiny retro joint, all kitted-out in shades and textures of white, with DJs in the basement serving up eclectic tunes on a bijou little dance floor – which was jostlingly full of Paris's cooler element. What's more, the cocktails were among the best-priced in town.

Now we were ready to let our hair down properly. I'd started to moan that my favourite Parisian clubbing haunts had all evolved into touristy symphonies of over-pricing and over-hype, so Claire forced me into a cab and we span around the Arc de Triomphe, which spat us out at Le Baron (00 33 1 47 20 04 01; ). With perhaps the toughest door policy in town, you'd best be on Facebook-poking terms with a promoter if you want to gain access.

Inside an achingly hip crowd of twentysomethings (and, thankfully, a few who'd made it beyond the big 3-0) were strutting their stuff to the latest electropop and some shamefully nostalgic groove classics. Filled with the asymmetric haircuts that you'd expect of any Hoxton hotspot, the place carried on until the sun came up – and that's about where my memory became irrevocably corrupted...

The next thing I'm aware of is my omelette arriving, disturbing my reverie. As I scoop a second heaped forkful into my mouth with a barely suppressed moan of pleasure, Claire shows up, too. Her smile is clear in any language. Night to remember? The best hangover brunch in Paris? Job done on both counts.

A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see

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