Work brought me to the Fitzroria area one weekday and as it was around lunchtime when I got out, I started looking at Google maps to see where was good to eat nearby. I found one restaurant I’d marked just a 5 minute walk away…. and it was really a canteen. The canteen of the Indian YMCA. Yes, I’d finally get to try it!

The canteen is just that… a canteen. And yes, it’s part of the Indian YMCA, which also offers short and long term lodgings. The food served is supposed to be very authentically Indian, very homestyle, and judging from that lunchtime, it’s very popular with both Indian and non-Indian people working in the area.

To get your food, you first queue at the back where you grab a tray and the dishes that interest you, before continuing in the queue to pay at the till. I loaded my tray with pilau rice, fish curry, daal, and a poppadom. Everything is priced individually and the more you pile on your tray, the more you’ll pay. Other things on offer were white rice, chapatis, chicken curry, lamb curry, a couple of other vegetable curries and dishes, yogurt, salad, chutneys, pickles. I was too late for the bhaji – that ran out. There was mango lassi on offer as well.

Lunch at the Indian YMCA

If I remember correctly, all this came to about £7.50. And it was fantastic! I couldn’t even finish that very generous portion of fish curry and the daal was excellent – highly drinkable. Everything was very fresh and I really wish it was located much closer to my regular workplace.

I’m definitely planning on making a visit on a weekend, when the lunches and dinners are served as a fixed price buffet (£8). Do check their website for opening times as they’re quite specific.

Indian YMCA
41 Fitzroy Square
London W1T 6AQ

For our last few hours in Paris that weekend, we walked. We walked across the river, through the Jardin des Plantes, through to the Grande Mosquée de Paris, where we were to stop for a drink and a bite. For yes, the Grande Mosquée has a restaurant, a hammam and a salon de thé in its little garden and all of them appear to be very popular. The food served appears to be Tunisian/Moroccan and it all reminded us of our time in Marseille last year.

We found a table in the shade and from the roving waiter, we ordered two teas and from the counter within the building, I ordered two pastries. The teas were strong, hot and syrupy sweet.

Our Lunch/Tea in the Garden

Our savoury choice was a meat filled brik…

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…while our sweet choice (which may have pushed us over the edge in terms of sugar) was a syrup soaked almond cake. The pastries were extremely fresh, what with the high turnover.

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The garden is gorgeous and its trees provide not only shade for us tea drinkers but also a perch for some adorable sparrows.

Sparrows

Unfortunately, the sparrows do make a nuisance of themselves, jumping on tables and attempting to take pastries directly from plates or even hands!

In the Garden

Sparrows and all, I highly recommend it! The restaurant was also very popular and I’d love to stop there next time.

Grande Mosquée de Paris
2 bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite 
75005 Paris
France

We spent our wedding anniversary in Paris! Yeah, it sounds romantic but I forgot about it until late in the day – haha! Luckily, I had planned ahead and already booked a table for dinner at La Régalade Conservatoire, the third and newest location of La Régalade under chef Bruno Doucet. TimeOut Paris even called it one of the most romantic restaurants in Paris; I was sold.

We arrived to a warm welcome with excellent service throughout the entire meal. There’s a menu for dinner – 3 courses for €37, with supplements for some of the specials of the day.

We started with a huge (and delicious) pork terrine that was plonked onto our table. We were to help ourselves to as much as we desired.

Terrine

There was some excellent bread to go alongside…

A Little Starter

…and a crock of equally excellent cornichons. It’s too easy to fill up on all of this but we did have to keep room for the dishes we actually ordered!

Cornichons

Starters. Makis de maquereau, concombre et poivron, mayonnaise citron vert et avocat. This was a refreshing salad with rolls of mackerel and cucumber.

Makis de maquereau, concombre et poivron, mayonnaise citron vert et avocat

Risotto crémeux à l’encre de seiche, gambas rôties à l’ail, émulsion de vache qui rit. Rice, seafood, garlic – what’s not to like?

Risotto cremeux a l'encre de seiche, gambas roties a l'ail, emulsion de vache qui rit

Just look at the fabulous colour of that risotto! There was even a bit of dried cuttlefish or something similar on top that had a great salty chewiness. And a foam of vache qui rit cheese? Genius.

The risotto was a fabulous colour

Main courses. Veau en deux cuissons, caillette au jus de veau et quasi rôti, légumes verts de printemps. Here we had veal in two styles – a roasted cut akin to a lean loin and a caillette (kind of like a forcemeat ball). It was all gorgeous. This was served with lots of spring vegetables – peas, mangetout, peashoots, onions.

Veau en deux cuissons, caillette au jus de veau et quasi roti, legumes d'ete

Onglet de bœuf rôti aux cinq baies, carottes et navets nouveaux, champignons de Paris et cresson sauvage. Again, perfectly cooked meat served with lots of fresh vegetables.

Let's see the beef!

Desserts had to be ordered right at the beginning but as the portion sizes had been well thought through, we were feeling very comfortable and were looking forward to our sweets. Soufflé chaud Grand-Marnier seemed to be one of the favourites with our neighbouring tables as everyone seemed to have one. And yes, it was glorious – all hot and fluffy and with a strong hint of Grand Marnier.

Souffle Chaud Grand Marnier

Pêche plate du Lot-et-Garonne cuite au four, émulsion de verveine et sorbet pêche. Oh gee, this was swell. What a fabulously gently cooked flat peach, topped with the peachiest of peach sorbets and a hint of lemon verbena.

Peche Plate du Lot-et-Garonne cuite au four, emulsion de verveine et sorbet peche

With our post-dinner teas came warm madeleines, served in the tiniest basket you ever did see. Teas were from Le Palais des Thés in Paris – and they were fantastic.

Madeleines

Portion sizes were very well thought out and we only realised afterwards that there were no extra carbohydrates on the plates – there was only bread on the side. And there were plenty of vegetables too – and we loved it all. It’s definitely a lovely restaurant to spend a special occasion (or even a not very special one!).

La Régalade Conservatoire
9 Rue du Conservatoire
75009 Paris
France

We stopped for tea that first afternoon after our time in the Musée Picasso in the 3eme and as we were nearby, I dragged Blai to Jacques Genin’s shop. The one on rue de Turenne has a small salon de thé where you can taste his famous chocolates and caramels as well as pastries. His other shop on the other side of the river is just that – a shop.

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We settled into a sofa in the lovely air conditioned room. There’s a menu but the waitress also rattled off the various flavours and other pastries also available (and I believe they are made in the laboratory upstairs). We chose a chocolate millefeille that would be put together a la minute. This was one excellent millefeuille.

Millefeuille de Chocolat

Coffee for me and a citron pressé for Blai. The chocolates they provided with the drinks were utterly amazing. Seriously, just get them.

Chocolates

We bought a couple of his caramels to takeaway (look at the cute little bags they have for small numbers of sweets) and ate them about an hour later. By that time, they’d softened in the heat in my bag to possibly a perfect texture – they were utterly luscious.

Caramels

I only wish I could have brought back more but the very hot weather prevented all of that. Here’s a good tip: this salon de thé is open on Sundays.

Jacques Genin
133 rue de Turenne
Paris
France

We finally made it to Breizh Cafe on this Paris trip; this restaurant specialises in the galettes and crepes from Brittany and is probably on everyone’s list of places to eat in Paris. I’d recommend getting there soon after their opening time for lunch if you’re trying to get a table without a reservation; and even if you have a reservation, don’t be surprised if you’re seated in their shop next door (it’s perfectly normal though we saw some tourists leave in a huff when presented with that option). We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and got a prime table on the sidewalk; soon after, the entire restaurant was full.

It took us a while to choose the fillings for our savoury buckwheat galettes – everything on the menu looked incredible. I knew that everything would be good – the restaurant is known for the quality of the ingredients it uses. A Galette Bretonne was filled with creamy mushrooms with cheese and smoked ham and the buckwheat galette was fabulous, all flavourful and crisp at the corners. (A neighbouring couple who left their “galette crusts” made me quite upset.)

Galette Bretonne

A Galette Artichaut was the classic complète – ham, cheese and egg – with the addition of artichoke hearts. Perfect.

Galette Artichaut

Of course, we couldn’t leave without a sweet crepe. After a long deliberation, we finally decided to split a Crepe Quimperone – a crepe filled with apple puree, drizzled with the cafe’s salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.

Crepe Quimperone

I see now why there’s always a crowd here! We’ll be back.

Breizh Cafe
109 rue Vieille du Temple
75005 Paris
France

We spent last weekend in Paris – it was a much needed break from work though it did feel like we traded one city full of tourists for another. That said, I love the change of culture, of language, of scenery. On Friday evening, we caught a Eurostar train to Paris, checked into our hotel in the 11eme and then headed straight out to find the nearby Les Niçois, a bar/restaurant that brings the French Riviera to Paris.

It was crowded on that Friday night but we just managed to find the last two seats in the place. We also managed to order food just before the kitchen closed and we dined on an Assiette Nissard, featuring a variety of Niçoise specialties: pissaladiere, pizza nissarde, panisses, tapenades noire et verte, anchoiade. With a basket of bread, this was a perfectly sized sampler of fantastic treats from the south for one person.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

But we were two and we needed a couple other light dishes. Croquettes were filled with a vegetable mixture similar to ratatouille, the flavour of which was very reminiscent of the south of France.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

I couldn’t leave without an order of grilled sardines. These little oily fish were perfect. Just perfect.

Dinner at Les Niçois in Paris on Friday night. The place is brilliant! You can play petanque in the basement!

As it was close by to our hotel, we even dropped by for a drink on our last day, prior to picking up our luggage and heading to the train station. It was quiet on a Sunday afternoon and they were preparing for the barbecue they hold every Sunday evening.

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I’m leaving what’s possibly the best for last! They have a games room in the basement, complete with a petanque court!

Basement Petanque

It’s a seriously fun place!

Les Niçois
7 Rue Lacharrière
75011 Paris
France

Nuh uh, I don’t have a glut. We only have two courgette plants but together, they pump out enough courgettes to keep us feeling like we’re eating courgettes at every meal. Some days it’ll be a massive one the size of my forearm; other days I’ve got a handful of baby courgettes to use up. But a glut? Nah, surely that’s when you have more courgettes than you can use, right? Because we’re using up all our courgettes so far!

And anyway, they are succumbing to powdery mildew now and I’ll make a note that next year, I should stagger the plantings for a longer courgette season!

This recipe used up some courgettes and some of our chard as well; the latter is also pumping out leaves at a phenomenal rate! It’s a very versatile recipe – we ate it as it is or let it cool and mix with beaten eggs and turn it into a big omelette. Or even stir it through some pasta. It’s the garden in a pan!

Courgette and Rainbow Chard

Courgette and Chard Sauté
Serves 2

2 courgettes
A small bundle of chard
Olive oil
A handle of pine nuts
Shavings of pecorino Romano or some other hard cheese
Salt and freshly black pepper

Cut the courgettes and in a large sauté pan, cook them in a little olive oil over medium heat, stirring once in a while.

Meanwhile, clean your chard and separate stems from leaves. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the stems and after a couple of minutes, add the leaves. Drain after a minute or two. Add the chard to the courgettes (which should be colouring by now) and stir.

Empty the small pot and put back over the heat. Add a little olive oil and toast the pine nuts, pulling them off the heat when they start to colour – the residual heat with continue to toast them.

Stir the courgettes and chard together and when all heated through, season. Stir through the pine nuts and plate, scattering the shaved cheese on top.

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