As with everything that comes with a first-time visit to Paris, the proximity to the famed Eiffel Tower on a good day often enhances the senses of a new visitor to the city.
Suddenly you’re seeing what used to be on a page and phone screen, in technicolor. As you take in the towering meters of metal shaped into art, politics, and history, your brain is reconfiguring.
For me, looking at the Eiffel Tower served to gratify, and categorize what used to be a visualization of a dream, into my lived reality – my senses cataloging with sound, sight, touch, and distantly with taste too (from the streetside snacks sold around the monumental structure).
Having an Airbnb apartment that was an 8-minute walk (or ride the Metro – Trocadéro (M6) (M9) line) to the Eiffel Tower, was magical. All the trials of my tip (for which there were plenty) still led to a journey that resulted in amazing memories, helped along by an array of culinary exploits.
I write this so many months after my trip to France, after having gone through old photo albums out of sheer nostalgia, and coming across unpublished reviews of a few restaurants and cafes I dined at during Paris Fashion Week. It seems that the excitements and traumas of the near month spent in the city of love, still left a hoard of glossed over content which I’m only just in the frame of mind to properly deal with.
So anyway, another value for money restaurant I came across with my friend Raine Tauber (internationally renowned makeup artist and former Senior Makeup Artist at MAC Cosmetics) on a night we refused to be stuck indoors for, was La Place.
Set in a side road just off the bustling center of the Trocadero (that platform you know from movies, which faces the Eiffel – in part, for great pictures and viewing), this stalwart of its Longchamp 16th arrondissement doesn’t seem like much, as the occasional city-dweller traipses towards far more glittering dining endeavors closer to the main streets and entrancing landmarks.
It sure is something gastronomically though.
For me, La Place Longchamp has got all the quintessential markers of classic Parisian restaurant culture, without gimmicks. It’s straightforward eating amid an ambiance made for conversing (and savored silences) between sips of the favored drink of the day.
La Place is blessedly devoid of pretension too.
When last I visited, they were stripped down to the bare essentials of white walls, crisp uniform, decent seating, no table cloths, and a restaurant size that feels neither cluttered together, nor ghastly in vastness.
I think I could even coin La Place as having decent “spacious intimacy” as far as their floor design is concerned.
Now, of the food…
French cuisine is often considered the pinnacle of fine food.
It is lauded, from preparation to flavors, as well as through the French-trained kitchen rock stars and maestros who have reinvented and defined culinary eras around the world.
Often, when people recount their experiences of French cuisine, they speak of the sophistication and somewhat ungenerous portions that push diners beyond the bounds of their comfort zones and predictable familiarity.
Once you’re in Paris though, you’ll come to know that you can get Michelin-star food even in hole-in-the-wall spots (more on that bistronomy find in my next write-up), and that even places without the infamous Michelin Guide rating, can satiate…beginning with my restaurant find!
Here, at La Place, where a meal will set you back around €28 on average, it’s not about strong and exotic flavors – in their A la Carte or Set menus.
You’ll find French classics on the menu, like Onion soup, and even bone marrow, snails, ceviches, and frogs’ legs aren’t beyond the realm of reason here. Reviews say the restaurant’s beef fillet, as well as the seared cod steak with Tom Yam sauce & vegetable wok, are not to be missed.
However, I am partial to the duck served both in Paris, and all the way down to the South of France.
The La Place duck, for example, is devoid of pageantry, but its texture and taste will pass muster against even the staunchest of regular palettes. This is what you order when you’re not perhaps too adventurous with food while abroad, and need your fix of pleasant and hearty (“meat and potatoes” type) peasant-style grub.
The menu has some steady residence, though the chef is prone to switching things up according to arrivals at the food markets they haggle at daily.
Vegetarians aren’t quite forgotten in the menu lineup by the way. La Place offers the likes of Green vegetable curry with coconut milk, and basmati rice for those Vegetarian types.
Now, if you’re one for Starters before the main meal, you’ll first have access to artfully sliced bread to munch on, before beginning your journey with €12 – €16 seafood starter choices like fried Squid with accompanying tartare sauce, or Beech smoked salmon that’s served alongside Harenga egg, homemade Blinis, and light lime cream.
Popularized Ratatouille can be ordered as a €24 main, or explore the far reaches of your gastronomy comfort with their Grilled octopus tentacle and its chimichurri sauce.
Sure, there are fresh salads made with produce visitors and reviewers testify is fresh – but imagine traveling all the way to Paris to gorge yourself on a Quinoa, feta, and prawns salad.
Perhaps ask your waitstaff if the kitchen can surprise you with something different if you’re really hankering for a salad at mealtime.
Dessert seems like an absolute treat here, with the restaurant leaning into their European cheese notoriety and offering the artisanal raw Manchega sheep’s milk cheese (Manchego curado DOP), with an astoundingly flavorsome spicy pear confit.
If the 6 – 8month matured cheese is not for you, then play it safe with a straightforward Rice pudding or Chocolate fondant.
Drinks are pretty limited in range, with a glass of champagne available to order, or the nectar of the gods (gourmet coffee) on the menu, along with bottles of water, regional wines, and other non-alcoholic beverages available.
I went for a creamy and utterly decadent hot chocolate (Le Chocolat Chaud), that went down like dessert before my actual meal.
I better savored my surroundings after that first sip.
The restaurant has been given a facelift it seems, since last I visited – but it’s all for the better!
It now retains its general French traditionalism where the menu is concerned, but embraces a far more modern, stylish, and dare-I-say-it ‘Instagrammable‘ moody aesthetic depending on what corner you’re nestled in.
The overall refreshed space is the kind that would make someone get out of bed, rather than consider this restaurant a convenient stop in before venturing to greener Parisian pastures.
“The restaurant is open every day from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., even on Sundays!” – La Place