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Whether it’s for authentic food or local wine, foodies flock to Paris. If you’re looking for a unique experience that seamlessly blends cutting-edge food with old Parisian charm, walk just 15 minutes from Hotel Indigo Paris – Opera. As you stroll past the cafés and shops on the busy boulevard Montmartre, there’s a sudden opening on the right that leads to a tiny, ramshackle arcade. Blink, and you could miss it.
This is the Passage des Panoramas. Built in 1800, it was once the height of modernity. This was the first of a network of now largely forgotten shopping arcades that offered a welcome escape from the mud and chaos of the city’s grands boulevards. Emile Zola describes the Panoramas at length in his novel Nana, with its theatre (still in existence), gas lighting (the first in Paris), and decadent shops.
These days it looks like more of a monument to the past with its stamp collectors’ shops and a hairdresser straight out of the 1960s. The worn floor tiles and many of the gold-leafed shop fronts haven’t changed for over a hundred years.
But the sleepy retro vibe is deceptive. In recent years, a generation of innovative, young restaurateurs has quietly transformed this once forlorn passageway into a hip destination. From international street food to natural wine bars, the Passage des Panoramas offers a snapshot of some of the latest foodie trends in Paris. Here are a few highlights:
Racines’ natural ingredients and organic wines
A pioneer in the passageway’s turnaround, Racines is a tiny restaurant and wine bar. With only 20 covers and a small but perfectly formed menu offering classic French cuisine, the emphasis is on natural ingredients and organic wines from small producers. It’s the brainchild of Parisian restaurateur of the moment, David Lanher, who has a talent for reviving lovely old settings with talented young chefs and sommeliers.
Passage 53 by Shinishi Sato
This minimalist, two Michelin-starred restaurant is the other pioneer in the Panoramas‘ renaissance. Its Japanese chef, Shinichi Sato, who trained with Pascal Barbot, brings a unique twist to French haute cuisine. With only 22 covers, Passage 53 offers a tasting menu that features only the best seasonal ingredients.
This is one of the most authentic places in Paris to get gyoza, flavour-packed Japanese dumplings. A side project for the meticulous Shinichi Sato of Passage 53, the Gyoza Bar‘s contemporary setting seems transplanted straight out of Tokyo.
Paris’ first 100% gluten-freen restaurant: Noglu
Noglu was the first restaurant in Paris to commit to an entirely gluten-free menu. But there’s nothing dour about this laid-back restaurant. Noglu offers a delicious contemporary take on French cuisine and a picture-perfect bakery on the opposite side of the passage.
Caffè Stern by David Lanher
Another David Lanher project, Caffè Stern occupies a former engraver’s shop. The protected historic interiors have received a contemporary twist courtesy of Philippe Starck; think taxidermied wolves sporting wings and diamanté ornaments. The emphasis is on authentic Northern Italian food provided by Michelin-starred Paduan chefs, the Alajmo brothers, and coffee from Gianni Frasi.
For the fast eaters: the rest of the Passage des Panoramas
No time to eat? Check out Coinstot Vino, a wine bar specialising in natural wines made with traditional methods; Les Grands d’Espagne, a tiny boutique and sandwich shop, specialising in Pata Negra ham from Southern of Spain; or Lo Zio, an Italian piadineria dedicated to a type of rolled up sandwich native to Bologna.