Author John Baxter featured on this week’s podcast, in a conversation that revolved heavily around restaurants on the Left Bank.
Given he has written books about France and food (among many other topics), when he talks restaurants – we listen. Below is a list of the six main restaurants he talked about. They certainly aren’t the best or the newest or the hippest restaurants in Paris, rather, they’re the classic kinds of places a renowned author in Paris would choose.
Here they are, with addresses, and a few notes from John’s own descriptions on the podcast. Bon appetit.
The podcast episode
Here’s the episode, in which John talks about more than just restaurants. There’s talk of famous Left Bank characters, food, and much more from the compendium of Paris’s history. Find John’s books and his literary tours here.
Six classic restaurants on the Left Bank of Paris
1. Le Select
This is where John wished he’d visited in the heyday of Montparnasse, preferably on a night out with poet Hart Crane. Le Select is an old American bar, right on the border of Montparnasse, a famed haunt of the ghosts of yesteryear. Their menu offers all the classics from Sole meunière to Confit de canard It still makes for a wonderful spot for a terrace cocktail, but the drinks are overpriced – you’ve been warned. Address: 99 Bd du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris
Iconic to say the least. This restaurant describes itself as if it was a high class brothel, with its website calling it a “discrete house of pleasures”. Over the centuries, diners have included everyone from Proust and Victor Hugo to Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway. And also John Baxter, who shares tales in the podcast above about spending a piquante evening in one of these private rooms…
It is a fun place, you can hire private salons for 50 euros per person and the waiters don’t come in unless you let them. That might be why so many celebrities seem to favour this place (see their Instagram account for a who’s who of international stars. Meanwhile, two desserts and an espresso will cost you over €50 (!), so it might not be for everyone, but if you can afford it, you should do it! Address: 51 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006
This is the famed restaurant said to have inspired the 2007 Pixar hit Ratatouille. John talked of their delightful duck meals, but if you’re hoping to visit you’ll have to wait until somewhere in the first half of 2023 when their extensive renovation will be done.
As a substitute, the team offers home-delivered meals, a smaller restaurant downstairs at La Petite Epicerie de la Tour, at La Rôtisserie, and at their nearby bakery. More info on their website here. Address: 19 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris
Their dishes are excellent and they have the best steak tartare, says John Baxter. This brasserie serves traditional French food, and their online menu offers everything from wild codfish with mashed potatoes, sea bass with fennel, salmon linguini, or linguini with truffle. Address: 143 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris
5. Le Balzar
This is an old-fashioned brasserie from 1886 that prides itself on everything being a maison, meaning it’s made on the premises by hand. Their menu is online here in English. Address: 49 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris
An elegant seafood restaurant with an impressive interior. French poet Jean Cocteau, who was a friend of the restaurant’s owner, designed the original logo and plates, while renowned artist Christian Bérard created the murals. The restaurant says its seafood-based cuisine combines creativity, simplicity and freshness. It’s also a good place for celeb spotting. Mick Jagger, Steven Spielberg, Jody Foster and many others feature in their guest book (you can see their signatures and drawings here) Address: 2 Pl. de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris
The best restaurants in Paris
Want more restaurants? Of course you do! Here is my own recommendation for the best restaurant in each of the 20 Paris districts. There’s something for everyone on every budget. How many have you visited? Or, if you’re solely up for a historical establishment, here are ten great restaurants to brag to your friends about.
This week’s episode was originally released as a bonus for Patreon members, and each question was sent in from members. Support The Earful Tower podcast on Patreon here, where I’ll release more members-only episodes in the future.
All tese tips and more are in my PDF guide to Paris, newly updated, and exclusively on sale here.