Parisian restaurateur, TV star, author and Cordon Bleu graduate, Rachel Khoo spills the beans on where to eat, drink and play in Paris.
Born in England, Rachel Khoo studied at the famed Central Saint Martins School of Arts and Design. But she always had a hankering for food.
Moving to Paris and enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, she graduated with a pastry degree, set up a restaurant in her Paris apartment, wrote four books including her latest My Little French Kitchen ($38, Penguin), and starred in her own TV series, The Little Paris Kitchen, which was filmed in her tiny kitchen in Belleville, Paris.
What do you love about living in Paris?
The markets, the ease of getting around and my friends, of course.
How important is food to the French way of life?
Food plays a big role in France but no more than countries like Italy, Spain or my dad’s home country Malaysia. Food is an international language.
Where is the best place to eat breakfast?
Bob’s Juice Bar (15 Rue Lucien Sampaix) in the 10th arrondissement. I’ll pick up a fresh juice and a muffin or head to their bigger establishment, Bob’s Kitchen (74 Rue des Granvilliers), for pancakes at the weekend.
What’s your favourite food neighbourhood?
It would have to be Belleville, my neighbourhood. You can find everything from handmade Chinese dumplings, North African fare to a traditional French bistro.
What is the latest food fad everyone’s going crazy for in Paris right now?
There are loads of éclair-only pâtisseries opening up, where they make the craziest flavour combinations.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I don’t have a favourite per se. I ate at Bistrot Bellet recently (84 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis). It’s a new bistro that serves food until midnight, which is rare in Paris. It’s well-done classic French fare at an affordable price.
Who is your favourite chef right now?
James Henry, chef at Bones (43 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac). They serve small plates with few ingredients, which are simply cooked but just delicious.
Where is your pick of the best farmers markets?
Marché d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement is pretty good. Although when I was travelling around researching for My Little French Kitchen, I absolutely loved the Saturday market in Rennes (capital of Brittany). The produce was stunning and unlike Paris, the stalls were run mainly by the farmers, fishermen and producers.
Is there a quintessential Paris drink at the moment?
Champagne! It never goes out of fashion. Otherwise beer; in the last couple of years there have been a few Parisian breweries opening up. For cocktails, Le Mary Celeste (1 Rue Commines). And coffee, Ten Belles (10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles).
Where do you go when indulging in non-foodie retail therapy?
I love the vide grenier (translation: empty attic), the French version of a car boot sale. It’s my favourite pastime to go searching for second-hand treasures and haggle.
What unique Paris experiences would you recommend?
Pick up some charcuterie, cheese, a bottle of wine and a baguette and hit the Canal St-Martin on a warm summer’s evening. There’s Pink Flamingo (American-style pizza) near the canal, too. You go sit by the canal and they bring it to you when it’s done.
What is your favourite day trip from Paris?
Versailles no matter how many times I visit always impresses me with its grandeur. Château de Fontainebleau is also beautiful, although last time I was there I got chased off the grass by a park guard. Grass in French parks are not usually for sitting on.