When it comes to food, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has it all. The Parisian neighbourhood has something for everyone, from luxe, high-end boutique eateries to student-friendly tapas bars. Find out what this emblematic area has to offer with our guide to the best restaurants in Saint-Germain.
Cafe, Restaurant, French, $$$
This 1686 café-restaurant is the oldest in Paris and both Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin were regulars here. It was also a meeting point for Charles Montesquieu, Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The place appears almost untouched, with various historical artefacts on display, including Napoleon’s bicorne hat. The menu is old-school French; the braised beef cheek is tender and flavourful, but the coq au vin is the real standout, and is one of the best you’ll find in Paris. Save room for the Café Liegeois Procope, a delightful melange of white-coffee ice cream, coffee jelly, coffee panna cotta and whipped cream.
Fans of Anthony Bourdain will be familiar with this standing-only tapas bar on Carrefour de l’Odéon. Yves Camdeborde’s tapas bar is incredibly popular, and for good reason: decent prices and a good selection of wine make this bar appropriate for all tastes and budgets. Just next door is l’Avant Comptoir de la Mer, which has the same premise but features a decent selection of fresh seafood, and not far away is l’Avant Comptoir du Marche, where the entire menu is dedicated to the pig.
The first thing you’ll notice at Shu is the door. You’re not mistaken; you’ve found the right place, but you’ll have to work for your dinner. Once you’ve crouched down and bent your spine in ways you never thought you would for food, the restaurant opens up into a warm, contemporary Japanese restaurant all about kushiagué: breaded and fried skewers. It’s a fun concept, especially as the ingredients making up your kushiague are not always that well described. Fret not, the staff always ask for your preferences to ensure you enjoy your food. The skewers are seasonal and constantly changing, and are served with three seasonings – fresh lemon juice, tonkatsu sauce or salt – though some come with their own special sauces.
Chef and owner Yoshinori Morié has designed a menu that pays tribute to French culinary culture, with his own touches of his native Japan dotted throughout. It’s not cheap, but if you’re into fine dining, it’s certainly not the most expensive option in Paris, either. Yoshinori’s most well-known dish is his foie gras de canard confit with smoked eel, figs and citron noir (dried limes popular in Middle Eastern cooking). The only problem is, the dishes are so well plated and presented that you won’t want to eat them.
Italian cravings are well satisfied by the team at Marcello, a St-Germain hotspot. Open for every meal of the day – lunch, brunch, afternoon tea, drinks and dinner – Marcello’s menu is simple and the food is home-made. The inner courtyard is sunken below street level, with a romantic fountain and climbing plants that take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city. You may think you’re in some far-away Italian countryside! Try their vongole (spaghetti with clams) or bianco (tortellini with truffle cream, chives and lemon). The best thing about this place? The pasta, which is made fresh in-house every day.
Quinsou is the kind of place where cooking teachers and professional chefs come for a quality meal. Each day, head chef Antoine Bonnet writes his menu based on whatever produce he finds at the market that morning, something that is both wonderful and frustrating. There’s no such thing as a bad meal at Quinsou, and when you hear of a particularly intriguing dish (there were rumours of a pigeon en cocotte with smoked celeriac, radicchio and anchoïade), it’s unlikely you’ll get the chance to try it yourself. At least the Normandy oysters seem to be a menu staple, served with Japanese dashi and a splash of yuzu.
It’s not always easy to find a restaurant that is open seven days a week in Paris, or a Japanese-style izakaya, but in The Cod House, we’ve found our Monday-night unicorn. One of several restaurants run by gastronomic powerhouse Black Code, here you’ll find a melange of Japanese and European flavours – sometimes all in one dish. Particularly well known, mostly on Instagram, is the Kimm’s cocktail: Pimm’s with red fruits and cucumber and an earl grey syrup. You really can’t go wrong with the menu, which includes both hot and cold dishes, but be sure to try the avocado with Japanese vinaigrette, the tarama à la truffe and the vegetarian bao with yuzu sauce.
Stepping into Epoca for the first time, you’re struck by the warm and casual Art Deco vibe. Though the focus is on good Italian food, it’s not the stereotypical Italian fare that you come to expect, but proper regional delights that are hard to find outside of the peninsula. The carciofi alla giudia (Roman-style fried artichoke) is probably the best-known item on the menu, an incredibly striking dish that is worth ordering just to see it; the pizza fritta in panzerotto (fried pizza, Neapolitan-style) is also a favourite. And they’re just the snacks! Epoca also serves a fresh and flavourful polpo mare e monti (grilled octopus with pumpkin cream) and a delicious spaghettoni cacio e pepe (spaghettoni with sheep’s cheese and pepper).
“Each dish is an invitation to travel,” is the motto at Ze Kitchen Galerie. Here, the food is all fusion, combining French technique and tradition with pan-Asian flavours and ingredients – something that, until fairly recently, was a novel concept in Paris. The food is well considered and the flavours eclectic and unusual, but they work well together, and the dishes are always very pretty. Colour and texture are also highlighted, as are ingredients typical of the Far East.