Sometimes I think we need to accept that with the best will in the world, the French are just always going to be that little bit better than us. I like a dig at nos amis gaulois as much as the next person, but after a weekend in Paris I’m prepared to give them their due. The clothes are less studied chic, more “we’ve always worn neutrals, catch up”; the interiors are still rocking that shabby-in-an-aspirational-way vibe they always have; the wine is cheaper, the food reliably brilliant. Even the trendy natural wine and small plates bars that Paris has been flooded with, just as we have, seem less pretentious somehow. 

I love eating in Paris partly because the bistrots are so well set up for people watching (read: judging) with their lines of outside tables facing into the street, all the better for peering at people from behind your sunglasses. I also love how the best, busiest bars sprawl out onto the pavement in the way they’re so rarely allowed to here. You find yourself elbow to elbow around a wine barrel with people of all ages, drinking glasses of cheap wine, occasionally punctuated with a plate of cheese and good bread. 

Eating in Paris was a reminder that the best things really are the simplest. A plate of soft rillettes and cornichons, a perfectly laminated croissant, a great slice of flan with a tempting wobble – good ingredients, a careful hand, and time to enjoy eating well. Among the best meals was a sirloin cooked in a hunk and then sliced, served on top of the best sauce au poivre I’ve ever had, with a mound of thinly sliced fried potatoes nestled alongside the meat. We followed it up with a rum baba to share (which came with the bottle in case you felt the need for an extra slurp) and practically rolled out of there. 

Today’s recipe is a nod to that perfect meal, but with garlicky, black pepper flecked crème fraîche (get some good full fat French stuff if you can) and fresh persillade to give it a more summery, slightly less gut-punching finish. Why not pick up a nice bottle on the way home and pretend you’re in Paris for the night?

The Art of Friday Night Dinner by Eleanor Steafel (RRP £26). Buy now for £19.99 at or call 0844 871 1514

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2023-05-18T16:53:17Z dg43tfdfdgfd