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 Paris for the Paris Photo art photography fair this November. I stayed in the 2nd district, bang in the city centre, in the neighbourhood of Sentier, otherwise known as Silicon Sentier for its role as a hotbed of internet start-up entrepreneurship.
At the heart of this neighbourhood, once known for its textile and garment industry, is The Hoxton Hotel, which became my local, for breakfast and drinks, especially when all else was closed. The northern side of Sentier is marked by the art deco Grand Rex cinema, the west by the Rue de Montmatre and the east by the 10th district.
Here, street names run along the lines of D’Aboukir, Cléry, Poissonnière. Especially towards the 10th, the streets are narrow and the buildings wonky, a feel more normally associated with Le Marais in the 4th.
Small foodie places abound, the tourists in general don’t venture here, and Sentier’s central location makes it ideal for getting around the rest Paris.
Rue du Nil – Terroirs d’Avenir
This quiet little street must be one of the top foodie destinations in Paris. It’s dominated by two mini gastronomic empires – Terroirs d’Avenir and Greg Marchand’s Frenchie.
Terroirs d’Avenir specialises in selling food produced by small farmers and small-scale fishing. I knew them from an evening at Antidote Wine Bar in London back in February 2016.
In the Rue du Nil, Terroirs d’Avenir have five stores, selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, grocery staples, fish, meat, bread and pastries. It’s all about origin; it’s all about passion.
Rue du Nil – Frenchie
I know Frenchie Restaurant well. I did a post on Frenchie Covent Garden when Greg Marchand opened his London offshoot in 2016. Then I went back to take some photos behind the scenes for a project with the London Institute of Photography.
In the Rue du Nil, Frenchie Restaurant is open for dinner, Frenchie To Go for breakfast and casual lunch, Frenchie Bar à Vins for drinking wine, and Frenchie Caviste for buying it. I bought three bottles of wine to take home as the only flight of stairs between Sentier and my flat via the Gare du Nord train station is the one at Finchley Road tube station in London.
Rue du Nil – L’Arbre du Café
The Frenchie empire serves coffee from L’Arbre du Cafe, one of Paris’ most famous coffee shops, and across the street from Frenchie To Go in the Rue du Nil.
I popped in for a chat about coffee and tried the Lacu Ten from West Timor. This is civet coffee. The wild, cat-like luwak comes out to eat the ripest coffee cherries. A while later, they pop out of their digestive systems, with the beans collected and washed by the farmers, to produce a coffee that is among the most expensive in the world, at €39 for 125 grams at L’Arbre du Café. The coffee was rich and delicious. I was assured the luwaks were wild. Very often nowadays they are kept in cages in terrible conditions.
Food & fashion in Rue des Jeuneurs – Salatim and Sézane
A tip-off in the Rue du Nil led me to lunch at Salatim. No Michelin stars. Always a queue. Packed. Small. Vibrant. This is an Israeli restaurant. Salatim means salads, the little salads to be found at traditional Israeli grill restaurants, and it’s about homemade lemonade with mint.
Further down the Rue des Jeuneurs I came across Sézane. For me fashion goes with food; it’s all about how we live. Sézane is about women’s fashion. And it was SOO busy on a Thursday night. I thought there must be a special event. No, that’s just Sézane for you. It’s very Parisian. It’s affordable. And it’s about lifestyle. Every woman wants to be Parisian – or at least I do, an Isabelle Huppert, the French actor who stars 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. It may be Paris’ oldest passages, but it’s now worse for wear. A shame, as a friend of mine had a luxury fashion store there in the 80s and I recall it being much smarter. However, its décadence is endearing and it is home to natural wine bar, Coinstot Vino.
Coinstot is argot for ‘place’, and it’s that kind of place – earthy and buzzing. I had a glass of Alsatian Pinot Noir, Les Vins Pirouettes by Christian Binner, together with a plate of razor clams, even though I had already eaten – they looked too good to miss, and I felt at ease sitting at the bar.
I got talking to my neighbour, a natural wine producer, Sylvain Bock, from the Ardèche, on his once-a-year visit to his clients in Paris. He 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 kept on coming up to him for a chat. Eventually I managed to catch him, on the hop.
Paris is like that – out on the cold grey streets everyone is sombre, dour and in a hurry. Behind closed doors, in pockets dotted across the capital, 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 there and back each morning to Du Pain et Des Idées in the 10th. 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 shopping street from Sentier, take the walk through the Palais-Royal gardens and 17th century shopping arcade. This is one of my favourite places in Paris, with its wide, open space, flowers, fountains and the striped columns, Les Colonnes de Buren, by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren, where tourists stand to pose for photos.
For me, three places stand out on Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The first is Café Verlet – for great coffee and tea. Then comes Colette – the store that relaunched retail, and which will close its doors on 20 December to become a Saint Laurent – the end of an era.
Opposite Colette, there’s the new Robert Clergerie store. If I allow myself one luxury it is Robert Clergerie shoes, especially when I was then to fly to Barcelona and in one day alone I walked 22 kilometres around the city. When it’s not food, it’s fashion, and when it’s not fashion it’s art.
Click here for my other posts on Paris.
For content creation, visit me at gina-powerwords.com