06 Dec My life in Silicon Sentier: Paris’ 2nd district
I like to go to a place and live like a local. That’s what I did when I was in town for the Paris Photo fair this November. I stayed in the 2nd district, bang in the city centre, in the Sentier neighbourhood, otherwise known as Silicon Sentier given the number of internet start-ups.
At the heart of this neighbourhood, once known for textiles, is The Hoxton. This hotel, with a branch also in London, became my local for breakfast, lunch and drinks. It’s especially good when all else is closed. The staff were so, so welcoming. It was like home.
The northern side of Sentier is marked by the art deco Grand Rex cinema; the west by Rue de Montmartre; and the east by the 10th district.
Sreet names run along the lines of D’Aboukir, Cléry, Poissonnière. Especially towards the 10th, the roads are narrow and the buildings wonky.
Foodie places abound, and the tourists in general don’t venture here – or at least not in November.
Sentier’s central location makes it ideal for getting around Paris.
Rue du Nil – Terroirs d’Avenir
The quiet little street of Rue du Nil is one of the top foodie destinations in Paris. Two gastronomic empires dominate the street: Terroirs d’Avenir and Greg Marchand’s Frenchie.
Terroirs d’Avenir specialises in selling food produced by small farmers and by small-scale fishing. I knew them from London, from an evening at Antidote Wine Bar.
In the Rue du Nil, Terroirs d’Avenir has five stores, selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, groceries, fish, meat, bread and pastries. It’s all about origin and passion.
Rue du Nil – 3 x Frenchie
I’ve already written about Greg Marchand’s London offshoot, Frenchie Covent Garden, and I took some photos behind the scenes in the kitchen for a project with the London Institute of Photography. It was exciting to now visit the Parisian Frenchie empire.
Rue du Nil – L’Arbre du Café
Coffee at Frenchie comes from across the street, from L’Arbre du Cafe, one of Paris’ most renowned coffee shops.
I popped in for a chat and to try the Lacu Ten from West Timor. This is kopi luwak coffee. Otherwise known as civet coffee. The wild, cat-like luwak comes out of the jungle to eat the ripest coffee cherries. The digested beans then pop out of the luwak’s digestive systems. The farmers collect the beans and wash them to produce a coffee that is among the most expensive in the world. At L’Arbre du Café, it’s €39 for 125 grams.
The coffee was rich and delicious. These luwaks were wild. Very often they aren’t.
Food & fashion – Salatim and Sézane
Up the road and turn left from Rue du Nil is Salatim, in the Rue des Jeuneurs. This Israeli restaurant is small, vibrant and always packed.
Salatim means salads, the small salads found at traditional Israeli grill restaurants. The homemade lemonade with mint is also particularly good.
Further down Rue des Jeuneurs is fashion & lifestyle store Sézane. For me fashion goes with food. It’s all about how we live, how we spend our time and how we present ourselves to the world.
Sézane was SOO busy that Thursday evening. I thought there must be a special event. No, that’s just Sézane for you. As the store says, it’s ‘From Paris with Love’.
Every woman wants to be Parisian. Or at least I do. I want to look and be like Isabelle Huppert in Michael Haneke’s new film, Happy End.
Across the road to Coinstot Vino
Walk to the end of Rue des Jeuneurs and you come to the Rue Montmatre, marking the end of Silicon Sentier. Cross the road and a bit further up is the Passage des Panoramas.
This may be Paris’ oldest passages, but it’s now worse for wear. A shame, as a friend of mine once had a luxury fashion store here in the 80s, and I recall it being much smarter. However, its décadence is endearing and it’s home to natural wine bar, Coinstot Vino.
Coinstot is argot for ‘place’, and it’s that kind of place – earthy and buzzing. Sitting at the bar, I had a glass of Alsatian Pinot Noir, Les Vins Pirouettes by Christian Binner, and a plate of razor clams.
My neighbour at the bar turned out to be natural wine producer Sylvain Bock, from the Ardèche. He was on his once-a-year visit to his clients in Paris.
Sylvain sells his sulphite-free wines round the world, with names such as Sylvain Bock Suck A Rock. The one I tasted, Les Grelots, was pretty good. I asked him for a photo. Not an easy feat as all the regulars wanted to chat with him.
Paris is like that. Out on the cold grey streets everyone is sombre, dour and in a hurry. Behind closed doors, there’s much merriment and socialising.
From Sentier to Du Pain et Des Idées
The Sentier neighbourhood is within walking distance of some great places.
For the best bread and pastries in Paris, I made the 20-minute walk each morning to Du Pain et Des Idées in the 10th district. It was especially worth it for the pistachio and chocolate escargots. Leave it till later than first thing in the morning, and these are the queues, as below. Beware: it’s closed at weekends.
From Sentier to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
To arrive at Paris’ foremost luxury street, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, it is a pleasant walk through the Palais-Royal gardens with its 17th century shopping arcade, flowers and fountains, and striped columns by conceptual artist Daniel Buren, popular with tourists taking selfies.
For me, three places stand out on Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The first is Café Verlet – for great coffee and tea. Then comes Colette – described by Forbes as the “trendiest store in the world”. Colette will close its doors on 20 December to become a Saint Laurent. I caught it just at the end of an era.
And then opposite Colette is the new Robert Clergerie store. Robert Clergerie shoes are my desert island luxury – the one I can’t forego.
When it’s not food, it’s fashion, and when it’s not fashion it’s art.
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