03 May Early June in Canal Saint Martin
At times, we need to get away from dense, city centres to find more intimate neighbourhoods. Hani Belasen opened Bonjour Jacob concept store near Canal Saint-Martin in Paris because the neighbourhood was a place where “people can take a coffee and enjoy life”, he explained to Monocle Radio.
Taking a coffee (or a glass of natural wine or some exceptional food) and enjoying life is the essence of life. And many such experiences can be found in the neighbourhood of Canal Saint-Martin.
The canal was built by Napoleon I – the Napoleon who conquered most of Europe in the 19th century. Much of the canal, as it heads to the river Seine, is underground. As it cuts through the 10th and 11th arrondissement, it opens to the sky, making for a pleasant place to stroll
As well as Bonjour Jacob, here are some of my favourite haunts around Canal Saint-Martin:
I can’t wait for … Early June
The first natural wine bar that I ever visited was Le Verre Volé, near where the Canal Saint-Martin swings north-east, towards Le Bassin de la Villette. This was back in the very early 2000s. Fast forward 20 years, and I came across Early June, co-founded in 2018 by Camille Machet, once of Chanel.
Early June calls itself a buvette. The space is crammed. Reservations are a must. It is a happy, friendly place with a flow of pop-up chefs. I was there in November 2021, when Angelo Koyfalas of Brosetti Trattoria in Bergamo was in town. He prepared 12 small plates – of which I sampled a fair number
As for wines, Camille took me to Catalonia (a Macabeu, Monastrell, Parellada from Celler Credo and a mascerated Muscat of Alexandria from Masia de la Roqua). It’s never good to be too purist. Otherwise I would have just stuck with French.
Tawlet – with a Lebanese heart
I discovered not only Hani Belasen through Monocle Magazine, but also Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Souk el-Tayeb, a social enterprise of farmers’ kitchens & markets, as well as a restaurant in Paris – Tawlet, which means ‘table’ in Arabic,
Kamal’s aim is to preserve the food traditions and culture of sustainable agriculture in Lebanon. “In a country as divided as Lebanon, nothing can bring people together as much as the land and food,” he once said.
For each day of the week, the cuisine at Tawlet hails from a different region. I was there on a Thursday – the day of the Bekaa Valley, home to Lebanon’s vineyards. The choice was either a buffet or €14 for the dish of the day – fattet batenjan, a traditional aubergine dish with or without meat. I like to eat three times a day, so I went for the simple dish (see images below).
In the restaurant store, you can find the Lebanese 7 spice mix created by Kamal working with Epices Roellinger, founded Michelin-starred chef, Olivier Roellinger, and an enterprise which now includes several other family members. The seven spices are Jamaican pepper, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, cardamon, cinnamon & ginger. According to the tasting notes, it is perfect for spicing up a beef bourguignon or for tomato dishes – and for using with pork.
Tawlet is at the start of the rue de la Fontaine au Roi – a small street which cuts through from the Canal Saint-Martin to Belleville.
Daniel Morgan – head chef at Robert
The restaurant Robert is also in the rue de la Fontaine au Roi. You can find out more about this restaurant in my post Tracking down Daniel Morgan in Paris.
Du Pain et Des Idées … near Bonjour Jacob.
My choice for pastries in the Canal Saint-Martin neighbourhood is Du Pain et Des Idées in the rue Yves Toudic. This is the same street as Bonjour Jacob. Be warned: there’s no sitting space inside, only benches outside and takeaway coffee, and the bakery is closed at the weekend.
Founder Christophe Vasseur also taught me the secret to making good bread. Look out for a two-day fermentation (to reduce sugar levels), a dark crust and a dense consistency (less yeast).
Other places on my list near Canal Saint-Martin
Le Rigmarole is a ten minutes’ walk south of Tawlet. The restaurant was founded by head chef Robert Compagnon and his wife Jess Yand. The inspiration is from Japan, and Italy, and the produce from France.
Read my post about the nearby district of Belleville. It is only a 15-minute walk from Canal Saint-Martin.