James Henry's guide to Paris
Author: Maya Kerthyasa
Photography: Carla Coulson
It was romance that first drew James Henry to Paris. "I
initially wanted to move to the south-west of France," he says,
"but I had a girlfriend from Paris so that's how we ended up
The Brisbane-raised chef, whose resumé includes time at Cumulus Inc in Melbourne and The Stackings in Tasmania, kicked off his Parisian culinary career four years ago as chef de partie at American chef Daniel Rose's Spring restaurant. Then Henry helped launch the acclaimed neo-bistro Au Passage, a week-long stint that turned into a year. "Au Passage was sort of like an instant hit," he says. "It was fresh and new to the city and maybe a little inventive... The French were always surprised to find out it was an Australian kid in the kitchen."
After Au Passage, Henry felt it was "a natural progression" to run his own show, and in 2013 he opened Bones in the edgy 11th arrondissement, quickly winning the attention of serious foodists in Paris and around the world. "Bones was a challenging place to work," he admits, "but ultimately a fun and accessible restaurant."
Henry closed Bones in August to pursue new challenges. "It was a good learning experience," he says. "I loved the people I worked with, having the chance to run my first restaurant, and also being able to move on when the time was right." He still calls Paris home, though, and is keen to get to know the city even better in his newly acquired spare time. "Since I've been in Paris, to be honest, I feel like I've worked so much I still haven't really discovered the whole city," he says, "which is a nice feeling, really."
Henry spends most of his time around the 11th, drawn by its progressive food and wine scene. "It's where my restaurant was, it's right next to the 20th where I live, and it happens to be where most of the restaurants and the bars I go to are."
He occasionally dips into the more bourgeois parts of town - the 1st and 6th, say - but, for the most part, he sticks to his local haunts. "I don't have enough time to eat bad meals," he says.
LE BAL CAFÉ
"This is a favourite for Sunday brunch on the terrace. It's run by a couple of friends of mine, Alice Quillet and Anselme Blayney [with British-born co-chef Anna Trattles], and I think it's one of the few places in Paris to get good coffee. It's at the front of the photography gallery Le Bal, which always has interesting exhibitions and a great bookshop. For lunch they have a well-priced, really nice seasonal menu - roast lamb with roast beetroot and lentils, things like that. On the brunch menu there's always a really good sandwich, maybe an Ibérico pork sandwich on pochon bread [a buckwheat sourdough], and the Welsh rarebit is really good. They do a great kedgeree, too, and in summer there's jugs of Pimm's." Le Bal Café, 6 Impasse de la Défense, 75018
LE VERRE VOLÉ
"This place is known for its wines, though there's no wine list. There are shelves all over the restaurant lined with wine, and you either pick out a bottle or ask the sommelier to find something that will suit, and they always do. Le Verre Volé is great for lunch, definitely bistro in vibe, with a menu that changes all the time and it's in one of my favourite areas - the 10th, by the Canal Saint-Martin. There's a blackboard menu listing about a dozen entreés, and then a choice of two bigger plates, maybe a whole fish or a large cut of meat with a garnish, plus classic plates that never change, like boudin noir or a jambon de Paris. It's also a takeaway wine shop, so if the weather's nice you can buy a bottle and some food to go. There's a nice park nearby or you can sit by the canal. In summer the canal is crammed with young people drinking beer, hanging out, people-watching. It's a nice place to pass a Sunday." Le Verre Volé, 67 rue de Lancry, 75010
"Ten Belles is a café owned by my friends Alice and Anselme, from Le Bal Café, and it definitely has the best coffee in the city, in my opinion. They do sausage rolls, scones, savoury breakfast rolls, almond frangipane tart, lemon teacakes, things like that. Unlike Le Bal, in an open space, Ten Belles is more of a hole-in-the-wall kind of place; you can sit down, but it's pretty tight. They do takeaway coffee, too." Ten Belles, 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010
"This is the bar, not far from Bones, where we would go after work or on Sundays. It's good fun, kind of like a dive bar with great cocktails. They do €5 Negronis, it's loud, it's dark, there's a pinball machine, and it attracts a young, tattooed, pretty eclectic crowd. It's owned by a guy called Joe Boley from New Mexico and though the music is questionable - punk-oriented, most of the time - I like it." Red House, bis, 1 rue de la Forge Royale, 75011
"If I get up early enough on a Sunday I'll go to the Bastille markets; otherwise there's Terroirs d'Avenir. It's a one-stop shop for everything you need to cook a nice dinner or stock up for the week. They supply most of the top restaurants in Paris and we used to work with them a lot at Bones. Their retail shop in the 2nd includes a small butchery and a fish shop, and for my money, it's some of the best produce you'll find in France. They work with small farmers from Île-de-France for organic heirloom vegetables, and with fishermen from Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the south of France and in Brittany." Terroirs d'Avenir, 6 rue du Nil, 75002
"This is a great market for strolling and people-watching. Though it's large - about a hundred or so stalls - there's only one place I buy from, a small producer located on the left-hand side as you head into the market, who sells poultry and organic vegetables. There are always interesting root vegetables, turnips and radishes, and good herbs at this stall, but they sell out very fast. Paris isn't an early rising city, so if you get there about eight or nine you'll be fine." Marché Bastille, Thursday 7am-2.30pm, Sunday 7am-3pm, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011
"This historic restaurant next to the Cirque d'Hiver, the Winter Circus, in the 11th arrondissement has been bought recently by the people who own Saturne, another good restaurant in the 2nd. They've cleaned up the Belle Époque interior and put a really good Japanese chef, Sota Atsumi, in the kitchen. He's cooking quite traditional French food, but freshened up and well executed. Last time I went there I had an excellent piece of brill with grilled green beans and a béarnaise or sabayon sauce. Atsumi cooks pigeon very well - there's generally always a pigeon dish on the menu. And he does a really good Pithiviers, a sort of fancy French meat pie. There's an excellent wine list and a nice terrace for dining when the weather's warm. This is the sort of place you hope to find when you first come to Paris, where you'll eat and drink well." Clown Bar, 114 rue Amelot, 75011
"If I wanted a classic French meal I'd go to Le Baratin, a bistro in the 20th, open for about 20 years. It's quality cooking, great produce, unadorned, no artifice, good food, good wine. The menu changes occasionally, but the offal dishes are always really great. The last couple of times I went they were doing poached veal brains with beurre blanc and pink potatoes, which all the chefs seem to love." Le Baratin, 3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020
DU PAIN ET DES IDÉES
"This bakery in the 10th, just near Le Verre Volé, Ten Belles and the Canal Saint-Martin, makes excellent bread. I think the bread in Paris is generally okay, but there's a lot of mass-produced wheat being used, all coming from the same mills, which means everything starts to look the same and taste the same. Some bakers, though, are grinding their own wheat and some use ancient grains. The sourdough at Du Pain et des Idées is unique; made with organic flour, with roasted, toasty notes. People are also very fond of their pistachio escargot." Du Pain et des Idées, 34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010
"This is an Israeli sandwich shop in the Marais. The district is always full of people, particularly on a Sunday, so it's quite fun. They do a choux farcis sandwich, which is lamb cooked inside cabbage leaves, piled into soft pita bread with eggplant and a very simple fresh tomato sauce. And there's whole roasted cauliflower, which you eat with tahini and a cheese sauce." Miznon, 22 rue des Ecouffes, 75004