By Katie McElveen
Set away from Paris’ main tourist haunts in the sixth arrondisement, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood may seem like an unlikely spot for a hotel. But that’s precisely the reason Laurence Tafanel chose it for Esprit Saint Germain, the 28-room boutique hotel she opened in 2004 and renovated earlier this year. “It still feels like old Paris,” Tafanel says of Saint-Germain. “There are so many local shops and restaurants right here.”
After a six-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Esprit Saint Germain is set to reopen in September. As travelers look to return to the City of Light in the coming months, this list of Tafanel’s favorite stops near her hotel is one worth bookmarking.
Marsan par Hélène Darroze. “This is a place for a special event,” Tafanel says of the renowned French chef’s Michelin-starred restaurant on rue d’Assas. “I love her light cuisine and the restaurant’s ambiance. It’s a unique menu, and the wine-pairing option permits the discovery of different varietals.”
Aux Prés Cyril Lignac. “I love the traditional French dishes that are served here in a retro setting: floral tapestry, leather benches, and vintage lamps,” Tafanel says. “This is a more casual restaurant than Marsan, but still wonderful for a celebration.” Dessert is the raison d’etre here: Chef Lignac also runs several patisseries and has his own brand of chocolate.
Madamador. Tafanel enjoys the welcoming mood of this French bistro, which opened last August with a focus on interesting wines and creative vegetable preparations. “The menu changes every day depending on what’s available at the market,” she says.
Le Bon Saint Pourçain. “This typical French bistro is hidden behind the church of Saint-Sulpice,” Tafanel notes. “You’ll need a reservation as it’s very popular amongst the Germanopratins, or Saint-Germain-des-Prés residents.” Even better, the bistro takes advantage of its quiet cobblestoned perch with outdoor seating under a crisp navy awning.
Le Hibou. People watching doesn’t get any better in Paris than on the terrace of this busy bistro, which is open until the wee hours. “You’ll find soft lights, cozy decor, and lots of wood and leather accents at this restaurant,” Tafanel says. “It’s a lifesaver when you’re jetlagged, particularly if you’re with children.”
Breizh Café. It’s all about quality and authenticity at this casual creperie stand on the busy Carrefour de l’Odéon. “It’s an easy place for lunch with kids,” Tafanel says.
L’Avant Comptoir du Marché. Part of chef Yves Camdeborde’s empire of food-centric wine bars, this outpost is located in Saint-Germain’s traditional covered market. “Natural wines and pork are in the spotlight at this lively tapas bar,” Tafanel says.
Ambassade de Bourgogne. Tafanel often stops in this hushed but friendly bar for a quiet glass of wine before dinner. “They serve wine and regional dishes from Burgundy in a vaulted stone room,” she notes.
Moicani. “This small, hidden boutique is my favorite place for pants, but they also carry amazing sweaters and jackets from Trussardi, Fabiani Filippi, and their own house brand,” Tafanel says. History buffs take note: The shop is located in a building on the Rue de l’Odéon that, from 1921 until 1941, was the home of Shakespeare & Company, Sylvia Beach’s iconic bookshop that closed after Beach refused to sell a volume of Finnegan’s Wake to an occupying Nazi officer. (A separate, unrelated Shakespeare & Company remains open today across the street from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame.)
Lafaurie Odeon. Saint-Germain-des-Prés local Emile Lafaurie opened this flagship store in 1992. “This shop is for men, but the colors and fabrics are so gorgeous that many Parisian women go there for their shirts as well,” Tafanel says. “I like to buy an extra one in a large size to use as a night shirt for sleeping. They’re very comfortable.”
Atelier 144. “This shop has been here forever and is the best place for men’s and women’s hats,” Tafanel says. “It’s one of very few remaining hat shops in the city.”
Curling. Sourcing fabrics from many of the same textile suppliers as designers such as Loro Piana and Solbiati allows this tailored French ready-to-wear brand to offer high-quality pieces for men and women at a more accessible price point. “They have very nice jackets and sweaters here,” Tafanel says.
Philippe Model. Known worldwide for fashion-forward athletic shoes, Philippe Model offers designs for men, women, and children in a pink-walled shop that was painted by Model himself. “This is where I get all my sneakers,” Tafanel says.
Georges Rech – Apostrophe. Though not well known to most Americans, Georges Rech and Apostrophe are two of France’s most revered brands. “This is another amazing place for jackets,” Tafanel says. “I can find beautiful pieces for both casual days and nights out.”
Ines de la Fressange Paris. “Ines use to model for Chanel; she’s very elegant and has very nice taste,” Tafanel says. “I can find everything here, from accessories to pants to shirts. Be sure to go to the back of the shop, where you’ll find unique and numbered pieces that were made in the workshop with stocks of vintage fabrics.”
Virtuoso travelers who stay at the Esprit Saint Germain receive a welcome cheese plate and bottle of wine, breakfast daily, and more.