Café de la Nouvelle Mairie
19, rue des Fossés-Saint-Jacques, in the 5th Arrondissement. 01 44 07 04 41
Open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight.
While the city is full of bistros and brasseries, knowing where to eat in Paris can sometimes feel difficult, as it can be hard to find a locale that feels truly authentic. Fresh ingredients are swapped out for frozen, and menus can seem a little too forced to fit into a certain gastronomic stereotype of Paris restaurants. This, however, is not the case at Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, a bistro and wine bar in the 5th Arrondissement, situated just steps from the Panthéon.
It has a casual yet professional vibe; you’re just as likely to find people having a business lunch as you are students taking an afternoon coffee break. Café de la Nouvelle Mairie also specializes in natural wines, and with a terrasse overlooking the fountain in Place de l’Estrapade, it’s an excellent choice for a wine bar when the sun is shining.
Reservations aren’t taken for the lunch service (though you’re more than welcome to call ahead for dinner), so we arrived around 1:30 p.m. in the hopes of hitting the second wave of the lunch crowd. It’s a busy spot, so you either have to get here early or a little later. We lucked out, as a few tables were open.
The waiter, dressed in dark jeans and a dress shirt, brought over the blackboard with all the day’s specials. The restaurant focuses on fresh and seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes daily. Written on another blackboard hanging high up on the wall is the wine menu, which features a healthy selection of natural wines.
We ordered the fresh figs and burrata as a starter, and a simple spinach, ricotta and basil quiche as the main dish, along with a bottle of red from Domaine Milan, a wine made without added sulfites. After bringing the wine, the waiter returned again, explaining, “We just ran out of figs for the burrata, but we can serve it without them if you like.”
I always think it’s a good sign when a restaurant runs out of a certain ingredient: it really does mean that the ingredient is being bought fresh daily, and that the restaurant doesn’t have a stockpile of it in the backroom dating days back. He brought out the burrata, drizzled thick in olive oil and sprinkled with toasted almonds, along with a basket of fresh, darker, whole grain bread. The burrata went quickly, and we used the bread to sop up the rest of the flavorful olive oil.
The quiche followed, clearly made with fresh spinach leaves and paired with fresh, wild greens; there may have been a dandelion green or two in there. The dish was light and simple, the classic example of how a meal doesn’t have to be complex if it’s made with good, whole ingredients.
By the time we were ready for dessert, there wasn’t any apple crumble left, so we took a cheesecake and pot de chocolat, essentially a chocolate mousse made with 75 percent dark chocolate. While cheesecake may not be your go-to dessert while in Paris, this one was dense and creamy, with a flavorful crust. We finished everything off with a round of coffee. Going against the Parisian trend of lousy espresso, the café serves grounds from l’Arbre à Café, a specialty coffee roaster that is a proponent of direct trade and gets beans from around the world. A strong espresso to pull you back to earth after a delicious meal is always a good thing.
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In a nutshell: Café de la Nouvelle Mairie offers simple and traditional French cuisine made with fresh and seasonal ingredients, paired with good natural wines at a very reasonable price. Good Latin Quarter ambience for those looking for an authentic dining experience.
Price check: Lunch, 9–19 euros; dinner, 20–35 euros.
If Café de la Nouvelle Mairie sounds good, you might like le Timbre, which also serves straightforward French cuisine. Read the review.
3, rue Sainte-Beuve, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 45 49 10 40.
Open Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
L’Arbre à Café