A Little Piece of Mine

My Paris End of Sydney

I’ve heard it said that living in Paris spoils you for life. Maybe… Its charms are legendary, and legion: the cafes, the food, the markets, the art, the fashion, the shopping, the eating, the walking, the gardens, the architecture, the rain, the sunset, the lights, the cobblestones, the bridges, the doors, the wine, the baguettes, the Métro, the #68 bus, the Vélibs, the pouting, the unstinting melancholy, the shrugs, the scarf tied just-so, the tarte au citron with a Pompadour of a meringue on top. Sigh–all that. Irreplaceable. But it’s bye bye Paris. A bientôt. A plus tard. A la prochaine. Je m’en vais. Hello Sydney! It’s been a while. 18 years. You look good. Not exactly Paris, but then again, there are similarities…

Iron Maiden
The Harbour Bridge. Just like the Eiffel Tower–only horizontal and, ahem, in that way, bigger. Impressive ironwork, a nice rivetting job and stirring views from both, but in place of the staggering queues and lifts jammed with snap happy tourists at La Tour, Sydney’s ‘coathanger’ has pods of vertigo-resistant climbers in boiler suit and harness clambering atop. Now if only someone would attach 20,000 sparkling light bulbs.

Choc Wave
What can measure up to Jean-Paul Hévin’s momentous chocolate mousse? Adriano Zumbo’s mint-coloured Mylo can, erm, can.

Zumbo Milo

Sweet Talk
What to do when the strawberry tart with orange flower jelly from Des Gâteaux et du Pain can’t be had, queue up at Black Star Pastry for a summer berry, yuzu and plum meringue tart, or the blueberry and lavender.

Black star tart

Fine Grinds
All too often the coffee in Paris can bring to your knees, but not in a good way! Bitter, burnt, long-life milk. Dire. Enter a new generation of bars (with many an Aussie behind them) and baristas who take their coffee making very seriously. Coutume Café in the 7th, Ten Belles and La Caféothèque in the 4th, KBCaféShop and Café Lomi in the 18th. Creamy flat white in Paris? Mais oui. An espresso that doesn’t have the effect of a salt lick. Done! Sydneysiders, unlike Parisians, came late to café culture, but they are now officially coffee obsessed. Snobbish even. Bean fiends are everywhere. Crêpes might be queue worthy in Paris, but coffee is what you line up for in this city. On the run, on a pavement stool, at the bar or on a bench, it’s all good at Marrickville’s Cornersmith, made more appealing by the emphasis on sustainable, locally sourced goodies and a penchant for bartering for backyard produce, and Coffee Alchemy; Baker Brothers and Mecca Espresso in the city; Bread & Circus in Alexandria, Ruby’s Diner in Bronte. If I get an itch for an oozy omelette aux fines herbes, I scratch it with poached eggs and smokey eggplant relish at Cornersmith, an egg and bacon roll at Pig & Pastry, or ignore it altogether with chunky toast, avocado, roast tomato and apple balsamic at Ruby’s.


Bread Alert
Alas a 5-minute walk for that French baguette with the look, the crust and the crunch from Secco is a thing of the past. Gone too, dark and chewy Poilâne sour dough planks in my toaster. Now it’s a car job for decent bread, but at least there is some! Sourdough from Bourke Street Bakery, Iggy’s and Sonoma and the latter’s country white baguette eases French bread cravings. Still on the hunt for something divine like Du Pain et des Idées’ Christophe Vasseur’s  Rabelais, a sweet bread with chestnut honey, saffron, nuts from Perigord and turmeric, though.

Bourke St bakery

Meals ’n Wheels
Paris has a motorcade of cook-up vans nowadays, from the fat, juicy burgers, fries and coleslaw of Le Camion Qui Fume to Cantina California’s tacos, dude burgers and cup cakes, from the empanadas of Clasico Argentino to Mum Dim Sum’s dumplings and soups. But ooh la la look at Sydney’s wheelie dealers: Sarazine crêpes has buckwheat beauties filled with free-range ham and egg, Swiss brown mushrooms, Tasmanian gruyere, and Dijon mustard. Close your eyes, stream Charles Anznavour into your headphones and you could be in Paris. And, they’ve got celebrity sugar hits in Edith Piaf (homemade fruit compote and whipped cream) and Gerard Depardieu (homemade salted caramel and chocolate sauce with whipped cream). Elsewhere in the city there are buns of chorizo and chimichurri from Caminito, pork buns, prawn gow gees and vegie spring rolls from Let’s Do Yum Cha, wood-fired pizzas from Happy as Larry, vegan or haloumi burgers from the Veggie Patch Van, and waygu beef nachos, fish tacos and Eton mess from Agapé Organic.


Market Appeal
Every Paris neighbourhood 
has its own marché volant (flying
 market) where ribbons of food stalls effortlessly descend a couple of mornings per week. While the lettuces dished out by songbird Monique at Marché Saxe-Breteuil, slippery fresh sole from fishman Monsieur Bourgeois at Marché Grenelle, and the buckwheat galettes at Marché Président Wilson might be gone for now, Sydney can sate a market craving, but only on a Saturday. My local Orange Grove Market in Balmain Road offers up French cheesebeaufort, comté, double cream, and camembert–sliced up by a dapper Parisian (under the watchful eye of his garrulous Californian boss), as well as French sausages–Toulousain, spicy merguez, dried and cured saucisson–all made in Australia courtesy of charming Montpellier native Jean-Marc. He also has pork rillettes, Dijon mustard with cassis, foie gras, and La Rustique camembert on the menu. Vive la France! Although billed as an organic market, not all produce tows that line. There’s lots of “hand-picked”, “farm fresh” and “natural” signage above trays of vine-ripened cherry toms, buckets of velvety yoghurt, baskets of greens, barrels of olives, planks of flour-speckled breads, and tubs of Grandma’s addictive baba ganoush alongside generous squares of rosewater Turkish delight. Egg and bacon rolls, fair trade coffee, laksas, dim sums, Japanese pancakes, and beetroot-cured trout stand in for roasters jammed with chicken and fat-crisp potatoes, Alsatian choucroute, spicy couscous, and Carribean accras. Equally delicious, the Eveleigh Farmers’ Market in Carriagework’s heritage listed Blacksmith’s Workshop; Seventy+ stallholders serving the season’s best, from organic meats and diary to baskets of fresh picked fruit and veg, from chunky sourdough to chutneys and jams via black truffles from Hartley, steaming porridge, Billy Kwong pork buns drizzled with chilli, and of course, coffee in all its guises.  On Saturdays only though 8am-1pm.

Orange Grove 1

A Window on the World
African QueenThe Goutte d’Or neighborhood in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement is all about Africa: Dejean Market with everything from manioc to fish heads and luminous batik fabric, or a touch of Marrakesh at Azhar Hamman & Spa (a vigorous brush with a kessa glove, and a soothing mint tea), and dates stuffed with almond paste in rue Myrha. Sydney has Auburn. Folks from 119 countries, speaking more than 67 languages means tastes of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Turkey via restaurants, bakeries, food stores and the totally applaudable Eat, Learn and Greet Cooking Classes led by refugees and
 asylum seekers. Passage to India: It’s bindis and biryani all over in Passage Brady in Paris’ 10th, while Sydney is no slouch in the Hindustan stakes, offering up Wigram Road in Parramatta’s Harris ParkOrient Express: South of rue de Tolbiac in the 13th is all out Asia: Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian and Laotian eateries, even a Buddhist temple down in a car park. Or there’s Belleville for handmade Chinese noodles & chilli aubergine (so good at Wenzhou). In Sydney think Cabramatta, Canley Vale and Canley Heights for Vietnamese pork rolls, pho and egg noodles. It’s slam dunk for the harbour city when it comes to contemporary Asian fare, with the likes of  Cho Cho SanSurry Hills Eating HouseLongrainSpice TempleMr Wong, Moon Parkand Billy Kwong. Australia part of Asia? Deliciously so!

Surry Hills Eating

Wall Street
Street art is pretty much everywhere today, across social media, auction houses and even in retrospectives in major museums. In Paris, despite strict laws and the need to get permission to daub, it thrives in Belleville’s rue Dénoyez, near the perennial Les Follies café, along Canals Saint-Martin and de l’Ourcq, as well as in rue Oberkampf and Ménilmontant. In Sydney, it’s big in the inner west–Newtown, Chippendale, May Lane in St Peters, and the Sydney Uni graffiti tunnel, with forays into Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. My current favourite: the Black Anzac mural in Redfern.

Two Wheel Drive
Little compares to cycling along the closed quays of the Seine on a Sunday. Skirting the Tower, the Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, the Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame, all those bridges, the café barges of Bercy, and then if you’re game, out of the magic 20 arrondissements on to Charenton, past the monstrous Chinagora building and then along leafy river banks to Saint Maurice and Maisons Alfort. Contrastingly, Sydney is all about the big blue. Water, water everywhere. As in the Bay Run, a 7km trundle around the watery edges of Iron Cove Bay through the urban landscape of Drummoyne, Five Dock and Leichhardt. Or, the Glebe Foreshore around Rozelle Bay overlooking Anzac Bridge and the city via Bicentennial, Federal, Jubilee, and Blackwattle Bay parks. No Opera House vista yet, but Sydney Council has plans for continuous access from Circular Quay via Walsh Bay, Darling Harbour and the Pyrmont peninsula through to Rozelle Bay. Not quite the same league of monuments as Paris, but better water views! Wow factor goes to the cycleway crossing the Harbour Bridge, leading on down past the laughing face of Luna Park to pretty Lavender Bay.

Luna Park

River Dance: The Seine in Summer

When the sun finally deigns to shine brightly in the city, Parisiens collectively burst out of their French doors and hit the cafe terraces. While the usual suspects on famous avenues, traffic-ringed corners and shady rues continue to pull in punters, it’s a bunch of pop-up bars and cafes on the riverfront way down in the unglam 13th arrondissement that are really buzzing. The Batofar, the floating benchmark for electro and techno which has been moored here for ages, has long thrown its deckchairs overboard onto the cobbled banks of the Seine when the days and nights warm up. Now it’s got company. Lots of company. Since the opening of Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design on the quai d’Austerlitz in 2012, the area has slowly morphed from plain Jane into place to be. Come the weekend, the array of steamer chairs, lounges, benches, stools, low tables and deck chairs belonging to the summer-only cabana cafes are crammed with sunseekers ordering up pizzas, burgers, tapas, salads, cocktails and beers in plastic glasses. Just like the beach–without the sand or surf. If you do fancy a dip, there’s always the Piscine Josephine Baker, a glass-walled 25m pool on a barge moored permanently close by. A retractable glass roof opens to the sky in summer months and there’s a sun deck with Seine vista. No cocktails or cool soundtrack, though, and queues are the norm. Come for the chilled-out ‘less Paris more Berlin’ river cafe vibe, the Art Ludique Musée in the Cité complex, with its current Super Heros expo of drawings, paintings, graphics and sculptures from the big animation houses, the open air cinema screenings, or Saturday yoga sessions on the Wanderlust terrace.

Summer Seine

Glove Box: Causse Gantier

The first crusty caveman to wrap his fists in animal hide had no inkling of his ongoing contribution to the fashion world. His little innovation went on to became an emblem of power and rank, favoured by kings and queens, popes and plutocrats. Gloves were crafted in kid leather, doe skin, silk and linen. For a while there, even chicken and dog skin were in vogue. French glove maker Causse Gantier, who’s been in the business since 1892, has a stable encompassing python, lambskin, crocodile, iguana, ostrich, crocodile, stag and peccary (a sort of wild pig). Some 40 craftspeople work at the company’s headquarters in Millau carrying out 100 different processes to fashion just one glove. They dampen, stretch, cut, mark, trim, decorate, sew and delicately stitch to create some 25,000 pairs a year—fingerless models (like those permanently glued to the hands of Karl Lagerfeld), as well as long fingered, low-cut or elbow-length versions festooned with embroidery, lace, buckles, frogging, studs, a single pearl or nothing at all. Their seriously slick Paris boutique designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, featuring a wall of metal rods sprouting gloved metal hands and lofty layers of wooden drawers housing myriad sizes and colours, is a testament to Causse’s time-honoured mission to produce luxury hand bijoux. Elizabeth I, who had a wardrobe mistress just for her vast glove collection, would no doubt approve. Fittingly, as the last remaining workshop in what was once the glove making capital of France, Causse Gantier was offically added to the UNESCO list of rare artistic crafts in 2012. Causse Gantier, 12, rue de Castiglione 75001

Cause GantierImage by Causse Gantier

Under a Cloud: Kumo

Lamenting the propensity for sad old black umbrellas on the streets of Paris and beyond, designer Mathilde Fiessenger and photographer Paul Frey resolved to do something about it. They set up Kumo (‘cloud’ in Japanese), convincing a few artistic French chums, including Morse, Frédérique Vernillet, Adèle Beauvineau and Check Morris, to create dramatic designs to grace their fabric canopies. Cocktail Droit is a riot of pineapples, planes and umbrella-toting cocktails, Ces Dames is sombre black on top with sirens sun-baking and sashaying on the white underside, and Pluie Tropicale has cheeky monkeys and roaring tigers up top to drive off rain drops. The parasols with their beechwood handles are all proudly made in France, and make it just that much nicer to come in out of the rain…or sun. From €120, including delivery.


Cooking the Books in Paris

Chefs and the food obsessed from all over descend on La Librairie Gourmande to hunt out tomes dedicated to cooking, culinary arts and techniques, wine, food styling, table design, flower arranging, and food-themed dictionaries. That hard to find book about butchering goats and rabbits. It’s here, along with ones about sausages,  truffles, gingerbread houses, and beer making.  Lebanese recipes rub up against Spanish, French, Indian, British, Catalan, Scandinavian, and Italian. You’ll find devotions to couscous, to medieval cooking, to Monet’s kitchen and Van Gogh’s table at the Auberge Ravoux, as well as the musings of modern day celebrity chefs. 92-96, rue Montmartre, 75002

L’Appetit Vient en Lisant, publisher Agnès Viénot’s shop, is a trove of old, rare and new cookbooks. There are wonderful flights of fancy—recipes inspired by characters such as Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, and Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp, by romantic moments in Hollywood films (Pulp Fiction, Gone with the Wind…), by the imaginings of Lewis Carroll, and Herman Melville, by Italian films (Sicilian arancini, Venetian polenta), and the fables of La Fontaine (rhubarb cake, and acacia blossom omelette). Plus…works by the revered Antonin Carême, Grimod de La Reynière, and Urbain Dubois, and a series of tasty guides to the cafés, bars, markets, restaurants, tea and snack shops in Istanbul, Naples, Brussels, Lisbonne. Marrakesh, and London. 1, rue Frédéric Sauton, 75005

For anyone with an ounce of interest in French gastronomic history, Librairie Rémi Flachard is a gem.  Brillat Savarin, Grimod de La Reynière, Escoffier, M.Flachard has seen (and sold) them all, from ancient leather bound volumes expounding on the fine art of carving a roast to presidential menus and letters between like-minded food lovers of long ago. 9, rue du Bac, 75007

Bake That: Café Marlette

In 2009, sisters Margot and Scarlette Joubert cooked up the idea to bag organic ingredients to make breads, cakes and biscuits for cooks who were too time poor to bake, and non-cooks whose idea of homebaked bread was oven thawing a frozen loaf. They looked to their childhood home of the Île de Ré, a photogenic collection of white-washed houses, old ports, pine forests and sandy beaches, to furnish as many ingredients as possible; the naturally ground flours come from buckwheat, barley, and wheat grown on an organic farm down the road from their workshop in La Rochelle, the salt is the famed fleur de sel d’Ile Ré, while certain spices, sugars, dried fruits, and chocolate hail from sustainable, eco-friendly ventures outside the region. Costa Rica, for example, supplies the cane sugar for the gluten-free, golden-coloured rapadura cake. The sisters are nit-picky about what they put in their feed bags, pushing a healthy, wholegrain approach. The Marlette sachets for buckwheat blinis, orange gingerbread, English scones, fennel bread, apricot and fig cereal bars etc (just add the eggs, butter or milk) can be found on the shelves of  gourmet stores throughout Paris, but thesedays you can also try before you buy at Café Marlette. The Joubert’s comfy little shopfront just down from Pigalle serves up wholesome breakfasts (boiled egg with rustic own bread toasties), brunch (pancakes with honey and berries, or a side of smoked salmon), and sweet treats (gluten-free chocolate fondant), as well as daily soup, salad, and sandwich choices. Coutume coffee and Løv Organic teas also on the menu. 51 rue des Martyrs, 75009, Closed Mon.

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