The universe conspires…
On my first Sunday in Paris, my plans and backup plans to castle-hop in the outskirts of Paris, visit a park, eat breakfast at Coutume Café, etc etc tanked one after the other and I was miserable. The thing about traveling solo is that the highs are really high and lows are really low. I didn’t have a friend to laugh off the day’s debacles or a book to bury my nose in (all bookshops were closed) or phone service to talk to anyone. I roamed around the Latin Quartier trying to find an empty restaurant, away from happy groups of friends. As I walked by this small restaurant in a narrow alley, the jolly owner waved a menu and ushered me in. I peered inside for signs of people and when I saw there was nobody, I ensconced myself in a seat next to the window and ordered the Popeye crêpe. The crêpe, which I later discovered was called called a “galette”, was absolument délicieux, It was warm, crispy, oozing with fresh cream and spinach, and had a nice fresh egg cracked over the top. For the first time in the day, I was thankful for the chain of events that brought me there. Merci Flagrant Delice!
France’s best kept secret: La galette
I hadn’t the foggiest notion of what a galette was until that fateful Sunday. If you have not visited France, chances are you don’t have a clue either. Without further ado..
A galette, short for galettes de blé noir is an outrageously delicious savory crêpe prepared from buckwheat flour (blé noir), usually folded into a square, enclosing a mélange of vegetables, grated cheese, meat, and a softly-fried egg nestled in the center waiting to be broken to moisten your bite. In contrast, a regular crêpe is made from white wheat flour. Crêpes and galettes originate from Brittany, a region in the west of France and they are traditionally served with bowls of dry cider.
Be warned, once you go galette, you don’t go back!
But but but.. should you want to indulge all day – pas de problème! Galettes are super-duper nutritious. Buckwheat, actually a fruit, is high in protein, fiber, contains all eight amino acids and is gluten-free. How often do you come across food that is both healthy and sinfully yummy? NEVER!
DROOL! Now, where can I find the best crepes/galettes in Paris?
Crêperies are dime a dozen in Paris and there is sure to be one around every corner and at least one in every direction you look. Some are street stands, some are dine-ins. Crepes at street stands are often times very cheap and dine-ins can either be reasonable or burn a huge hole through your wallet depending on where you end up.
I certainly am no crepe-connoisseur but as someone who spent a month eating her weight in croissants and crepes, I do know a thing or two about where you can find a great crêpe in Paris. Here are my top 6 places to indulge, in no specific order (this excludes Flagrant Delice, which you should check out too!)
When asked about the best galette in Paris, people unanimously told me the next best thing to catching a train to Brittany would be to head towards Breizh Café. A directionally challenge me ended up at Little Breizh Café situated on the other side of Seine as Breizh café. Turned out that this cafe had no ties whatsoever to Breizh Café and was yet another happy accident. (#3 if you are keeping track ;))
The name “Breizh”- ostensibly not very French translates to “Brittany” in the region’s ancient language. This crêperie is run by a brother, sister and boyfriend trio who put their heart and soul into their petite establishment. I got there well past 3pm, just as they were closing shop. I pleaded with them to let me in and boy I must have looked really famished – they obliged without much ado 😉 The interior décor was rather pleasing – brick accent wall flanked by cream-colored stonewalls, massive wooden beams and and bistro chairs.
The buckwheat galettes here are prepared with very dense, black-flecked organic flour milled specially for the owners. I ordered a galette with spinach and goat cheese and the chef whipped it up in a flash – the galette was just the way I liked it – soft in the middle and crunchy on the corners; and the fillings were superb.
I have a special place in my heart for this charming little gem tucked away in the 4th arrondisment. The artsy interior décor is delightful with lovely blue mosaic tile on the walls and tables and stained glass lamps. They also have a 9€ lunch menu combo: galette + dessert crêpe + a bowl of cider. I highly recommend their “pommes de terres et raclette” galette.
The next time, I actually made it to the real Breizh Café. *cough* This may or may not be because I had company *cough*. One bit of advice: this place is always bustling, so it’s good to have reservations. While we didn’t have a reservation, we were accommodated at the next-door Breizh Café Epicerie after a short wait. The Epicerie is primarily a small market where they sell specialty foods from Brittany. BREAKING NEWS: This is one of the few places in Paris where you can snag Yves Bordier butter and all the galettes here are made with organic buckwheat flour, top-quality ingredients and this wickedly good butter.
A chalkboard listed the daily specials and I ordered the Basquaise, which came with asparagus, tomatoes, basil, cheese, olive oil and an egg sunny side up. The galette was parchment-thin, golden, infused with butter, and cooked to crispy perfection. For dessert, I shared a divine butter and salted caramel crêpe with Soritis.
Breizh cafe café is a hop, skip and jump away from the Cat Café, you could make a nice afternoon out of these two places.
Back in the day, many immigrants from Brittany settled in the area around Gare Montparnasse, after they landed there in one of many trains shuttling between Paris and Brittany. Being Bretons, they opened shops to do what they did best: make crêpes. Sotiris, Gabriel, Sabrina and I decided to spend an afternoon exploring this area and sampling crepes at Crêperie Josselin
But first, let me address the elephant in the room, I know you have been bursting to ask; And oui oui, it’s very true. French waiters are really cute. Now we can move on.
Before I was about to order the four-cheese galette, one of the types of cheese being Roquefort. Sotiris warned me: “Divya, you are not French enough to enjoy that cheese. It’s an acquired taste”. Indignant, I didn’t heed his advice and stuck with my choice to prove it to him that I was indeed quite “French”. But when the galettes arrived, I discovered that he was very right. Roquefort was disgusting beyond words. Sotiris happily chuckled and ate the rest of my crepe. While I didn’t enjoy *cough * hated * cough * my galette, my “French” friends loved their food and hence I’d say this place is definitely worth a try.
5 Crêpe stand outside Odéon Métro, Line 4
After the Roquefort debacle, I decided I wanted a cheap dessert crêpe to drown my sorrows. Gabriel said he knew just the place to take me, what he claimed was the best street stand in all of Paris. And he was not kidding. This postcard-sized street stand is run a by super sweet guy and he prepared a wonderfully good dark chocolate crêpe. Word to the wise: Resist temptation to order a Nutella crêpe and go for the dark-chocolate crêpe instead. Thank Gabriel later.
6 Sarvanna Bhavan (SB)
I was shell-shocked when I discovered that
a) Almost every South Indian’s favorite restaurant Saravana Bhavan, has a branch in the City of Light
b) There was an Indian Quartier (or Little India) next to Gare du Nord.
After having sampled and relished this location’s crispy and nutty flavored dosas, it is my duty to recommend this treasure. The dosas are served with cups of hot Sambar; a slightly sour-savory stew prepared from lentils, tamarind, and vegetables and an array of orange, white and green chutneys (sauces) in the colors of the Indian flag. For the record, SB serves some of the world’s best dosas. And oh, a dosa is a thin, large crêpe prepared from a batter of ground rice and lentils.
Bon appétit y’al!
Have you ever had a crêpe that rocked your world? Where and when? Please leave a comment below so it can rock mine too someday.
P:S Thanks Arnab for proofreading my post