Paris Gifts: La Belle-Iloise


The boulevard Saint-Germain is quite the bling-bling area, but if you’re looking for quirky yet practical Paris gifts that won’t break the bank, try Conserverie la Belle-Iloise, at 7, rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie, just off the boulevard.

A whole shop dedicated to nothing but tinned fish. Who would have imagined?

Conserverie la Belle-Iloise is a third-generation fish-canning factory in Quiberon, Brittany. I’ve bought its tins of sardines before at G. Detou, and I’ll bet they’re available at la Grande Epicerie, but this space, opened last September, is the first shop in Paris that offers its whole range of products, and at wholesale prices, too.

Just one part of the sardine section.

And what a range! Products run the gamut from sardines to mackerel to tuna; whole, flaked or creamy; preserved in olive oil, vegetable oil or butter; plain or marinated with muscadet, spices, olives, tomatoes or even curry. La Belle-Iloise is also innovative, coming up with dips, spreads, salads, soups and even all-in-one meals. You can buy a bunch of tins, cutely packaged in fishing net, or box sets (coffrets) that would make excellent gifts.

An array of flavors: mackerel with mustard; herbes de Provence and harissa; garlic and chili; or curry and almonds.

Moreish flaked tuna with prunes and spices

Catch of the day: a spread for your sandwich.

Branching out beyond traditional products: fish soup.

A very neat gift, among many other sets.

I must admit that when I first bought tins from la Belle-Iloise, I was drawn by the colorful retro tin designs more than anything, but once you’ve tried the products, it’s hard to go back to your supermarket’s tinned sardines. La Belle-Iloise is a family-run, artisan factory where everything is still done by hand. It also practices responsible fishing, selecting only albacore tuna, and restricts fishing when the season ends, which explains why stocks can run low at certain times of the year.Artisan, flourishing and flying the regional flag? Arnaud Montebourg, France’s industry minister, would be so proud.

Would you not buy this just for the tin?

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Conserverie la Belle-Iloise
7, rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 43 26 17 73.
Open daily, 9:30¬ a.m.–8:30 p.m.