Place d’Aligre is a food-lover’s paradise where lively vendors tout fragrant fruits, glorious greens and cheery flowers. The square is filled with the perfume of whatever is in season. During our recent visit, the sweet scent of the first strawberries, the zingy tang of asparagus and the earthy aroma of morilles, fresh from the ground, hung in the air.
For those looking for an authentic Parisian food market experience, Place d’Aligre has it all. The bustling street stalls sell colourful, fresh produce from the farms surrounding Paris. Behind the outdoor sprawl of stands, in a mid-19th century building, le Marché Beauvau houses the best butchers, fishmongers, cheese shops and merchants selling home-made pasta, pastries, patés and terrines.
I’m not enough of a regular (although I’m working on it) to recommend the best stalls but this comprehensive guide by Paris by Mouth describes of some of the top picks.
The outdoor market is open between 09.00 and 12.00. Get there early and head for lunch at closing time. You’ll be ravenous after ogling all the tasty treats on offer. We had spied the outdoor tables and interesting wine list scribbled on the wall at Le Charolais before, but had never been lucky enough to bag a spot. When we saw a sunny, vacant table, we grabbed it. The small menu is made up of classics such as oysters, snails, steaks, cheeses and charcuterie, many of which are sourced from the market next door. We ordered the day’s formule –a huge slab of pâté forestier followed by roast chicken that was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside; and excellent value at €13.50. We washed it down with half a litre of Cahors. The best thing about this place is the rustic atmosphere. The crowd is a mix of locals, market merchants and the occasional tourist lucky enough to get a seat. The service is laid back but attentive.
There are many places in this area to have an excellent lunch. Another one I’ve tried and enjoyed is Les Rustres in Square Armand Trousseau. There, I spent ages pulling apart an artichoke and dipping the leaves in the most delicious vinaigrette. When I tried to order wine, the man at the next table firmly but kindly intervened and chose something much better. Mr A Little Piece of Paris recommends the tarte au citron at the neighbouring brasserie, Le Square Trousseau where the lunches are pricey but the desserts delectable.
Paris, quite rightly, is known for its cuisine but to the uninitiated, it is still easy to go wrong. Head to Place d’Aligre and the streets around for a surefire selection of cafés, shops and restaurants, with the bustling market at its core.
UPDATE; I recently visited this area and found that Les Rustres has since closed. This happens all the time in Paris. No two trips are the same, with business opening and closing at an astonishing rate.