Did you know the word « tourist » was invented by the British in the XVIIth century ? At the time it was fashionable for wealthy educated gentlemen to include Paris in their « Grand Tour » that often ended in Rome. Louis XIVth’s court of Versailles and the City of lights dazzled visitors.
In spite of the religious persecutions that followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), fascination with Paris remained intact over the years. It even grew stronger for the French Protestants who emigrated to England (and Holland) felt homesick and added to the myth of the French Capital.
The Grand Tour : love and hate.
Everybody goes to Paris in the XVIII th century with a love and hate feeling. The British novelist, Frances Trollope criticizes the stench of Paris. Politician and writer, Horace Walpole describes Paris as « the most abominably beasty town of the universe » but praises the « salons » held by distinguished ladies : « you will in general find the women of the beau monde more instructed than men ». In spite of the French Revolution and its dangerous headchopping habit, the English aristocrats -very daringly- kept on having dinner in Paris. At the time, one third of the clients of the restaurants were English and French cuisine’s glorious reputation was undisputable.
Though London chefs have now nothing to envy in their Parisian counterparts, eating out in Paris is still a great pleasure.
Love and eat…
There are plenty of tourist guides, or webstites to tell you about the best restaurants or bars in Paris like Michelin, or like the daily newspaper, Le Figaro, Time Out, which are, as a whole, very reliable. For the most trendy place don’t forget, you will need to book at least a month in advance.
But if, like me, you believe that « life begins at the end of your comfort zone » you may be tempted to wander in the streets of Paris off the beaten track and be nicely surprised by something you discover by yourself. A hit and miss adventure which does, however, requires some knowledge.
Eat and miss
A tremendous culinary and cultural experience may turn out to be very frustrating and disappointing if you have to deal with an unpleasant waiter He or she may be just ignoring you, pretending to speak English while you desperately try to express yourself in French or bring you the English menu not to waste his time. He or she may pour wine in your glass to make sure you buy a second bottle ( if you take wine by the glass you will often notice that the first one’s level is usually very low) ; he or she may be making mistakes with the bill… It is not rude to check the bill carefully. And while some waiters will tend to be oversmiling at the end of the meal, tipping is included in taxes but if you are happy it is usual to leave 5 to 10% of the bill as a « pourboire ».
All warmed over
While thinking that you eating in an authentic restaurant, you may also find that you eating « du réchauffé » without noticing. Because a lot of restaurants which look nice and appealing tend to serve rewarmed food, there is now a sign « restaurant de qualité » for those who serve fresh food. You will recognize them for their menus are often written on a slate according to delivery.
To help you avoid the worst, ParisZizag.fr, a website in French and in English, established a black list of the worst of the worst restaurants and bars in Paris. The survey done with the help of 10.000 web users opinion, defines 5 major categories.
The worst service is awarded to Le Pierrot, 67 avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75015 Les Etages, 5 rue de Buci, 75006 La Gueuze, 19 rue Soufflot, 75005 Le Tournesol, 9 rue de la Gaité, 75014 L’Atelier, 95 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006,
The « worst scam » gets to Le Georges, 19 Rue Beaubourg, 75004 Le Départ Saint Michel, 1 Place Saint-Michel, 75005 Le Bastille, 8 Place de la Bastille, 75011 L’American Dream, 21 Rue Daunou, 75002 L’Ice Kube Bar, 5 Passage Ruelle, 75018
The « best hold up » is attributed to Le Wanderlust, 32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 Le Silencio, 142 Rue Montmartre, 75002 Les Ombres, 7 Quai Branly, 75007 La Perle, 78 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris Le bar à Huitres – Montparnasse, 112 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014
The worst decoration is awared to Le President, 124 Rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75011 Flam’s, 32 Avenue du Maine, 75015 La Pachanga, 8 Rue Vandamme, 75014 La Casa Pepe, 5 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Le Palais du Kashmir, 77 Rue du Poteau, 75018
The notorious award of the worst toilets gets to Le Black Dog, 26 Rue des Lombards, 75004 Le Point éphémère, 200 Quai de Valmy, 75010 Le Merle Moqueur, 11 Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, 75013 Le KFC at Châtelet, 35 Boulevard de Sébastopol, 75001 Le Syphax, 26 Rue de Châteaudun, 75009
Hopefully Paris Zigzag’s bashing will stop these restaurants and bars from tarnishing the reputation of our beautiful capital city … and Paris will remain « A Moveable Feast » as Hemingway’s novel called it.
 Paris and the Parisians, 1835