Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot.
Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, you can enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museumThe sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)

Saint Honoré Paris: A Pastry Party and a New Healthy Menu

The words, Saint Honoré Paris, mean more than the ever-so-chic luxury shopping street in the first arrondissement. Saint Honoré – the patron saint of bakers – is now given a double tribute at the Mandarin Oriental, the most modern of the Parisian Palace hotels, just around the corner from Place Vendôme.

Saint-Honoré Vendome

This week, la fête du Saint Honoré (16 May) was honoured in true Parisian Mandarin Oriental style, with celebrations centred around the famous Saint-Honoré pastry, originally invented by Chef Chiboust on the eponymous street back in the 19th century (1847 to be precise).

Whilst the location of Chef Chiboust’s original patisserie isn’t known, thanks to the Mandarin Oriental hotel on rue Saint-Honoré, it’s now an address (that I’m personally glad to see, as it was previously lacking) which honours the patron saint with their very own signature pastry, completely re-modelled in the hotel’s modern style.

(Did you know that the actual location of the hotel used to be on the same spot as a circus?  See my article all about the Bento Teatime and the true story of Chocolat the clown, who was made famous here.)

saint honore paris pastry mandarin

It’s a double whammy, as such a contemporary re-model of the pastry classic (originally designed by David Landriot) doesn’t stop there.

l’Honoré: New Healthy Menu

The Saint Honoré celebrations announced the opening of l’Honoré, the start of a new style of a healthy-eating detox menu experience from breakfast, lunch to teatime – served in the re-looked stylish lobby and the more discrete cosy alcoves.

Mandarin-oriental Paris

Butterflies follow us around the hotel: starting from the reception area with 138 Swarovski butterflies, representing each of the hotel rooms, to every stylish nook and corner.

saint honore paris

Michelin-starred Executive Chef, Thierry Marx – one of the pioneers in France by indicating vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free on his menus here – takes it a step further with l’Honoré by offering menus to cater for those with dietary requirements, or for those who simply like a particularly healthy but gourmet option.

L'honoré restaurant Mandarin Rue Saint-Honoré Paris

Photo courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Paris

(Update 24 May 2017) Honoured to try out the new l‘Honoré menu, I plunged right in with a taste of the carrot, apple and ginger detox drink. The detox concoctions change daily, but I would easily drink this every day given the chance: it has the perfect dosage of reviving ginger without it being too strong and the carrot is balanced beautifully with green apple (checking my complexion in the mirror today to see the benefits!).

The 100% vegan options on the menu are a mix of light quinoa style salads to avocado toast but the vegetable burger is more substantial, served in a rice-flour bun with pickles, salad and the most addictive parsnip chips. Spice lovers will adore the green vegetable curry with coconut and delicate rice: I found it hard to imagine that seasonal vegetables without meat or fish would be so satisfying, especially with its fragrant mix of fresh Thai basil and coriander.

honore paris new healthy menu
Dessert options are fruity and light – but if you’re feeling a bit more decadent, you can choose a pastry from the cake shop that sweetly beckons across the hall.  The one downside is that the new plush seats are so comfortable – it’s just too easy to wish to linger for teatime and, as you’re slightly hidden from view (not from the attentive service), it’s tempting to get working on your next project in such a discrete, peaceful haven.

Saint-Honoré Pastries on Rue Saint Honoré Paris

Back to the pastry party! Chef Thierry Marx and his prestigious pastry team had exceptionally created SIX different flavours of their signature Saint-Honoré pastry just for the occasion: including Matcha green tea, praline, and rose-raspberry. I’ve put in a word that they continue them during the year, so fingers crossed!

Saint Honore pastries Paris

But there was no time to stop and marvel at the Cake Shop’s window. Out in the leafy courtyard during a brief Parisian heatwave, Chef Thierry Marx was kicking off the Saint Honoré celebrations – starting with a demonstration of a giant Saint-Honoré savoury pastry.

Thierry Marx Demonstration Saint Honore

Renowned for his molecular gastronomy with touches of Asian exoticism, chef Marx explained his techniques with an impressive, speedy precision – interspersed with his charismatic sense of humour we’ve loved watching over the years as jury on the first few episodes on French TV’s popular Top Chef on M6. He’s my idol. He may be a celebrity chef but he’s a most modest human being and helps others to succeed.

He fires off a number of baking tips: from how to create the lightest puff pastry in the blender; to the preparation of an avocado and mascarpone cream with a hint of spice, while he pipes it out like luxurious clockwork using a special Saint Honoré piping tip. Finishing flourishes of the most delicate garlic flowers, spots of preserved lemon compote and lime zest are added before popping on the crab-filled choux with scallop coral hats. Et voilà!  As he sprays the masterpiece with ice, he announces that the tasting begins.

Saint-Honoré Thierry Marx

Before we know it, he hands us our aprons and we’re in Giraud’s hands to learn how to make a sweet Saint-Honoré cocktail.  Each cocktail coupe is decorated with their Saint-Honoré signature mini caramelised choux. Our tasting group is given a doser, the vanilla syrup, caramel and coconut water – and we learn to shake that ice shaker like a pro, right up to how to pour the cream to rest on the top.

The final touch is edible glitter, which I find difficult to get it in the glass. If you find glitter in their hedges, that’s still my cocktail masterpiece (well, it was my first ever homemade cocktail!)

saint-honoré-paris cocktails

All change to the next workshop: with the lovely Anne-Charlotte giving us the job of decorating the ready-prepared caramelised choux bases.  Our hardest job was decision-making: what cream to use (vanilla vs pink rose)? What piping tips (starred, plain)? What toppings (raspberries, blueberries, chopped nuts, whole almonds, chocolate marbles)?

Saint-Honore Paris Pastry

Celebrations continued into the evening, with a gigantic meters-long Saint-Honoré pastry – which needed four bakers to carry it while dodging the firework candles!

Here’s my Mandarin Oriental Saint-Honoré. Now I’m wondering how I could have piped out one of these beautiful butterflies: just imagine that stuffed raspberry on its side, fluttering about!

Saint Honore Paris pastry

If you’d like to make the easier classic version of the Saint-Honoré pastry, then it’s the final recipe in Teatime in Paris, as part of the special tea party chapter!

Saint Honore Teatime in Paris

Cheers to Saint-Honoré and to your year ahead of happy baking!

L’Honoré
Detox Menu (Breakfast, Lunch & Teatime)
7am-7pm
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré Paris

Easiest Nougatine Recipe

As the world is going nuts, it’s time for a crunch with a French salted caramel nougatine!

Paris Tuileries Gardens: Summer Amusements and a New Terrace Café

This week sees the start of Paris’s popular annual amusement park situated on the left side of the Tuileries Gardens. The Fête Foraine des Tuileries is open free to the public between 25 June and 22 August (update: 24 June – 27 August 2017) with a choice of 80 paying attractions.

Paris Tuileries gardens

With excited, bustling holiday crowds and entertaining wafts of candy floss (Barbe à Papa), waffles (gaufres), toffee apples (pommes d’amour), doughnuts (beignets), and marshmallows (guimauves), there’s something for everyone – and for those of you like my daughters who love the high-sensation rides, you won’t be disappointed.  I find it hard enough to even watch them!

Paris Tuileries Gardens

As my teenagers are screaming to their heart’s pulsing content, you’ll find me strolling in the rest of the more civilised Tuileries Gardens. Did you know you can see Sacré Coeur from the raised part of the gardens on the Orangerie side? I can’t believe I missed this before.

Jardins de Tuileries Facts

The Tuileries Gardens were first landscaped under Queen Catherine de Medici (widow of Henri II), who began the building of the Tuileries Palace in 1561 on the right bank of the River Seine. The word Tuileries refers to the tile kilns that previously existed on the site.

Tuileries Gardens Paris

The Palace was the Parisian residence of the French monarchs from Henry IV to Napoleon III. Before then, it was the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the medieval period then turned into a royal palace under Charles V in the 14th Century until the Louvre became a public museum in 1793.

King Louis XIV transformed the Tuileries Palace residence in 1666, when he commissioned his favourite gardener, André Le Nôtre, to design a vast new park with elevated terraces around a central axis. It was opened to the public in 1667, while King Louis moved to his new Palace at Versailles.

Wooden sailing boats for the basins in the Tuileries Gardens

In 1871 the Tuileries Palace was set on fire and although destroyed in 1883, we continue to enjoy the splendour of the gardens today which is more or less as Le Nôtre designed it with its some 63 acres (25 hectares) and water basins.

Big wheel Concorde Paris from the Tuileries Gardens Paris

Summer is the perfect time of year to stroll under the regimented shady avenues of lime blossoms and fill up on their heady fragrance.

Tuileries-gardens-paris-summer

Heading towards the elevated northwest corner of the gardens towards Place de la Concorde, is the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, a museum of contemporary art. There are currently 3 photographic exhibitions taking place, including the works of Josef Sudek.

Jeu de Paume Contemporary art gallery Paris Tuileries

There’s also a café inside but their new terrace was beckoning …

Jeu de Paume Museum Terrace

The museum’s new terrace café, La Boîte à Images, has been open since end April and is a quiet haven to sit in the shade in the gardens for lunch or for an afternoon goûter or mid-afternoon snack.

hidden quiet Cafe for lunch near Concorde Paris

This is where the locals are coming for a civilised summery picnic lunch, weekend brunch, after-work plate of charcuterie, or just a glass of wine. I was invited to choose from their selection of popular large salads (including quinoa), fresh baguette sandwiches, tuna Bagnat, or large Croque-Monsieur on oversized pain de campagne with a choice of crisps or side-salad. Iced fresh apple & mint juice was welcome, as was just a taste of the chilled Sauvignon Blanc (well, I wasn’t driving!).

Terrace Image box Museum cafe Paris Tuileries

As my daughter and I sat down, we were enjoying the animated game of pétanque going on next to us.  The café can lend you the boules to play and join in the fun too.

playing boules at the Jeu de Paume Museum Tuileries Gardens Paris

And I would thoroughly recommend a sweet stop here, with a dark chocolate or raspberry tartlet and Earl Grey tea (with Angelina teabags). I also saw the most tempting ice creams and sorbets too without the well-known queues in rue de Rivoli!

Tuileries gardens Paris Concorde Side

So, what kind of flâneur or stroller in Paris are you?  Would you find a chair or two and opt for an afternoon nap, tease the wool with a regal view over the octagonal basin to the Orangerie museum, or would you be on one of those crazy summer amusement rides?

 

Terrasse La Boite à Images
Open same hours as the Jeu de Paume Museum:

11am-7pm Wednesday-Sunday
11am-9pm Tuesday

A Champagne Teatime in Paris

When the heavens open in Paris and driving Spring rain pelts on even the most chic of umbrellas, the City of Light always has a bright side.

On the popular Rive Gauche (Left Bank of the Seine), near the Sorbonne and Pantheon and just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of Boulevard Saint-Germain, I’ve recently discovered a new quiet haven on rue des Ecoles: the Hôtel des Bulles de Paris.

Bulles de paris Hotel Rive Gauche Pantheon

This charming, modern hotel has a theme around bubbles. Happily we’re talking about my favourite bubbles: Champagne.
Just walking directly into the lobby, the welcoming staff is bubbly. Led (couldn’t resist that one) into the sparkling breakfast and tea-room on even the most gloomiest of days, the room is dappled in light with a very apt quotation from Louis Pasteur decorating the pastel walls:

Un repas sans Champagne est comme un jour sans soleil
A meal without Champagne is like a day without sunshine

Louis Pasteur

Les Bulles de Paris teatime lights

This new teatime brings back the sunshine. There’s no need for a menu since the choice is pure and simple: tea or Champagne – or both – served with the hotel’s signature patisserie.

To accompany the patisserie, two teas have been chosen by master of teas, Madame Tseng of La Maison des Trois Thés, nearby in rue Saint-Médard. Either choose a rather subtle black tea from Nepal, Makalu SFTGFOP 2nd flush. Tasting it on its own before the patisserie, I was trying to pin down the floral, fruity Muscat and rose notes with an accent of honey. It wasn’t until I tried it with the patisserie that the flavours came through, and could then see why it was a good match.

Teatime at Les Bulles de Paris hotel

For those of you like myself who love a more fragrant floral tea, then go for Madame Tseng’s white Jasmine tea, Xiu Qiu, from the Chinese province of Fujian. Even the hand-rolled pearl-shaped tea-leaves evoke the idea of bubbles!

The signature patisserie’s design had been re-modelled as an Easter egg nesting on strands of white chocolate, but the pastry remains the same: hiding inside the pearl-rose white chocolate shell is a Champagne jelly, topped with a raspberry sponge and delicate vanilla mousse.

Easter egg patisserie bulles de paris teatime

The real honour of this new teatime goes to the Champagne, selected by the Hotel des Bulles de Paris by Bocquillon: a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru with white floral notes, white fruits and a subtle hint of citrus, the perfect match with the patisserie.

Champagne Teatime Bulles de Paris

If you do opt for the tea and Champagne, I would recommend tasting the tea first and finishing off with the bubbles.

Champagne Bar Paris

Peeking inside the Champagne bar, I couldn’t help being drawn in to its quirky bubbly decor, and can just imagine finishing off the day after my chocolate and pastry walk nearby in Saint Germain with a glass of one of their wide choice of Champagnes in a bubble chair.  I hear another of their walls speak to me:

Start the day with a smile and end it with Champagne

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

Champagne Bulles de Paris flute bottle

The new Champagne Teatime is served Wednesday – Sunday, 2.30pm-5.30pm

Signature Pâtisserie with choice of two teas or a glass of House Champagne: 15€
(for all 3: €20)

Hôtel Les Bulles de Paris
32 rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris

 


This article is published on BonjourParis.com

Circus Teatime in Paris – Homage to the New French Film “Chocolat”

News is spreading in Paris this week of tomorrow’s release of Roschdy Zem’s new French film, “Chocolat”.

Chocolat French film Paris advert

Thankfully the shiny billboard’s image of a clown dispels any confusion with the previous film about a woman and a daughter opening a chocolate shop in rural France. Instead, this film is based on the true-life story of Raphael Padilla, nicknamed “Chocolat”, a former Cuban-born slave who became the first black circus artist in France at the end of the 19th Century.

Nouveau Cirque rue saint honore paris 19th century

Photos currently on display at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris

Historical Address

Most of the film’s story takes place at number 251, rue Saint Honoré – now the modern location of the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The hotel is proud of its prestigious historical past: previously a convent, a hippodrome, royal equestrian school then the Nouveau Cirque. The film centres round the renowned modern circus popular with the elite Parisians from 1886 during the Belle Epoque era.

Mandarin Oriental Paris plaque Foottit et Chocolat Paris clowns

On 20 January, a commemorative plaque was unveiled outside the hotel by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the “Chocolat” film crew. It reads:

“Here, at the Nouveau Cirque Raphael Padilla known as the “Chocolate Clown” (c. 1868-1917), born a slave in Cuba, and Georges Foottit (1864-1921) invented the clown comedy, associating the White Clown and Auguste”.

 

White Clown and Auguste; Foottit and Chocolat

It’s no surprise that the role of the more sophisticated, “sad” White Clown, George Foottit, is played by James Thierrée, a celebrated circus performer himself – and grandson of Charlie Chaplin. Known on film as a character clown, Chaplin wrote and directed the blockbuster silent film, The Circus (1928), considered one of his best comedies.

Clowns Foottit et Chocolat poster

Omar Sy plays the role of Raphael Padilla. Padilla was sold into slavery at age 9, then escaped to Europe to be discovered by Foottit when he was 18. As the outrageous Auguste clown, Padilla was known as “Chocolat” on stage. It’s a term that made it into French slang, as the expression “Être chocolat” (to be chocolate), means to be ridiculed or abused.
Foottit repeated, “Monsieur Chocolat, I’m obliged to hit you”. After being regularly duped, Padilla announced to his captivated audience, “I’m Chocolate” – a formula that would lead to 15 years of phenomenal clowning comic success.

Bento Circus Teatime Paris

Candy Floss, Clown Bow Ties and Red Noses

To celebrate the historical duo and such a glorious history of the Mandarin Oriental’s location, Thierry Marx and pastry chef Pierre Mathieu have created an exceptional gourmet duo together with their afternoon tea in Paris – with a difference. Be prepared to tickle your taste-buds with the “Bento Circus” at the Camélia restaurant and Cake Shop.

Three mysteriously stacked dishes gradually unveil a clown-inspired feast of nine entertaining treats for the senses.

Circus Bento Teatime Thierry Marx Camelia Paris

The three mini “starters” are perhaps savoury but with a Pomme d’Amour of fresh goats cheese rolled in piquillo pepper, sesame and parmesan, the first smiles are guaranteed.
An adult version of candy-floss has us deliciously tricked with hidden foie-gras, but for me the showstopper is the more serious mini tart of smoked duck, sweetcorn cream and caramelized popcorn.

Smoked duck tartlet sweetcorn cream and caramelised popcorn

The Auguste clown comes more into play with the next sweets on stage: a pistachio flowered hat, a crispy praline chocolate mousse with a lion ring – and a memorable coconut star crowning an exotic fruit tartlet that has me believe my feet have outgrown their shoes.

pistachio exotic fruit praline tartlets Thierry Marx Paris

As our charming server poured more tea from an oversized pot, he seemed surprised how little milk was used for a cloud of milk (“une nuage de lait”). No clowning about: for just a drop of milk, next time I’ll remember clowns’ tears: “Une larme de lait.”

At this point, it’s hard to believe that the show still goes on. The finale demonstrates an inventive vanilla clown’s eye, an explosive lemon bow-tie and an oversized red nose, concealing blackcurrant-blackberry confit and a vanilla-rose mousse in white chocolate.

Clown bento teatime Paris for French film Chocolat

Service is faultless: attentive, friendly yet relaxing – all ingredients for the perfect teatime of stylishly clowning about in Paris! And at 38 euros for such a prominent address, this celebratory Circus Teatime at the Camélia is great clowning value.

Bento Circus Teatime (until 31 March 2016)
Camélia Cake Shop
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
251 rue Saint Honoré
75001 Paris

Tel: (+33) 01 70 98 78 88

Update: Winter Teatime at the Camélia.

This article was published over at BonjourParis.com


 

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to taste the Circus Teatime. I was not required to write a review. As always, all opinions are my own.