Few streets in Paris have as much buzz around them at the minute as the Rue des Martyrs. Much of this originates from a single source, Elaine Sciolino, the New York Times correspondent whose 2015 book The Only Street in Parissparked global interest in what had long been a closely guarded local secret. The bakeries, cafés, ice cream parlours, and restaurants on this long, sloping street are among the city’s best.
Our culinary tour starts at the northernmost end of the Rue des Martyrs where, next to some of the trendiest vintage stores in Paris, you’ll find B&M Montmartre. The high-end burger phenomenon hit France late, but when it did the nation’s food geniuses succeeded in frenchifying this American classic. Describing itself as a fast-good brand, B&M serves made-to-order burgers created with only the freshest produce. Their meat comes from the city’s most celebrated artisan butcher, Hugo Desnoyer, and their exclusive buns are baked by Rachel’s Cakes.
Initially opened in 2008 as the Restaurant Miroir, the next stop on our list was reborn in December 2016 as the Café Miroir. This simple but chic little place offers authentic, seasonal cuisine inspired by the menus of quintessential French brasseries. Before becoming the head chef of his own restaurant, Sébastien Guénard worked at Les Lyonnais under the direction of the world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse. By his own admission, Guénard looks like a hardman but he is, in fact, a total softy. His food, ironically, represents the inverse: delicate on the outside but packed full of flavour.
You needn’t sit down for a full meal to appreciate to culinary wonders of the Rue des Martyrs. If you want to check out the street and grab a sandwich to go then head to the award-winning Pain Pain. In 2012, Sébastien Mauvieux’s bakery took home the coveted title of the ‘Best Baguette in Paris’. If you’ve ever been to the capital and seen the number of bakeries, you’ll understand just how stiff the competition is for this award. In addition to bread and sandwiches, Pain Pain do a variety of spectacular pastries, cupcakes, and chocolatey desserts.
L’Homme Tranquille is a small, family-run restaurant that has been in business since April 4th, 1985. La maman, Catherine, is the chef and children Antoine and Louise are on hand to take care of the guests. The restaurant is only open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, but a nighttime trip to the Rue des Martyrs means seeing a whole new side to it. Sprinkled with bars, it is also the place to go for an evening of wine and chess.
Scallops at La Table des Anges | Courtesy of La Table des Anges
As you’d expect from an angelically named restaurant, the welcome at La Table des Anges will leave you glowing. The exposed stone walls and sober, tasteful décor also create a peaceful and intimate atmosphere to relax in after the hustle and bustle of the street outside. Every dish on the menu, from the starters to desserts, has been made with locally-sourced ingredients of the finest quality. Some are French and others inspired by cuisine from around the world and there are always several options for vegetarians. The wine list has also been carefully crafted to complement the cooking.
For some of the best coffee and cake not only in the hip neighborhood of South Pigalle but in all of Paris, the place to be is the KB Cafeshop. While technically located on the Avenue Trudaine, it overlooks the Place Lino Ventura, named after the gravelly-voiced Italian actor of old French movies, past which the Rue des Martyrs runs. Open every day of the week till 6:30PM, it’s a casual, comfortable spot to hang out with friends or get some work done.
True to form, La Petite Bretonne is all about proudly promoting the culture and traditions, culinary and otherwise, of the rainy region in the northwest of France from which its owners hail. This family creperie has four locations in Paris but the other three are all down in the 14th arrondissement. The crepes come in three varieties, organic, buckwheat or wheat, and are filled with fresh products sourced from suppliers in Brittany. You can also wash them down with an organic cider.
For a little taste of France’s neighbour to the north, try Le Comptoir Belge. This purveyor of Liège waffles is always finding new ways to reinvent this classic Belgian dessert. For example, they now make them with organic eggs, clarified butter, and top quality pearl sugar. The waffles are always fresh off the iron, soft like brioche on the inside but with a perfectly caramelized exterior. Homemade Chantilly cream is a popular topping as is the salted caramel butter from Isigny.
Glaces Glazed is the ultimate hipster ice cream parlour. Part laboratory and part rock, pop, and electro disco, it only produces homemade ice creams in limited series and always as and when it’s needed, so nothing’s sitting around in a frozen tub for weeks on end in this place. The flavours are always offbeat and surprising and, if you don’t catch them on the Rue des Martyrs, you can always track them down at their roving food truck.
Popelini, named after the pastry chef and official cook of Catherine de’ Medici, is the center of Paris’ cream puff universe. (And, yes, in this city, such a universe most definitely exists.) There are so many flavours to sample that you might be tempted to fill a box with one of every kind. If that is going to wreck your diet and your budget, stick with two local favorites: caramel salted butter and chocolate praline.