Unlocking Paris with... Maheva

Swiss by birth, but Parisian by adoption, super talented fashion designer Maheva Ambresin has lived in Paris for 10 years and counting – working her sartorial magic at a selection of stylish French ready-to-wear brands and rubbing shoulders with the cool kids along the way. We caught up with the SoPi resident and gal about town at brand new boat Playtime for the first in our new series where we ask locals for their insider tips on what to do in the capital. Here’s what Maheva told us between dips in the pool and sips of Lillet on ice.

Where’s the best place in Paris for an al fresco drink?
Paris is known for its terraces but rather than being roadside or riverside, we all want a bit of greenery, a rooftop and some sun, so I’m afraid I’m going to say Le Perchoir, as, even if – victim of its own success – there are long waiting times and a slightly irritating clientele, the two Perchoir addresses remain the most beautiful terraces in Paris. I particularly enjoy sipping on a mojito granita and lying back on a sofa with my head in the clouds of Paris.

What are your favourite places for an off-the-cuff kind of an evening?
Unplanned evenings tend to happen after work, so I’ll head towards rue Saint-Anne, stopping by the Chez Moi boutique where Jean-Baptiste lives. You’re always welcome here to chat about future projects, to flick through books and admire the latest curiosities in store. Then Kunitoraya 2 is just a couple of minutes away and I can never resist dinner here – the waiters are too cute with their 100% Japanese shyness and the prawn tempura is incredible.
Concept Store Chez Moi

Most romantic place for a date?
Definitely Buvette. Try to nab the two places at the counter in the corner to the right of the entrance. The high stools allow for a bit of sexy leg flashing, the soft lighting hides all kinds of sins if your skin isn’t looking its best, and it’s all about small-sized sharing plates so you don’t look like a pig, and you can play with each other’s forks. Oh, and CHOCOLATE MOUSSE.
Chocolate Mousse at Buvette
Where is your favourite place in Paris to hole up when it rains?  
In my bed in a man’s arms. Or, for an easier option, L’Avant Comptoir   even if it’s standing room only, you’ll want to stay to sample the dozens of tapas-sized dishes, washed down with sparkling rosé. If Yves Camdeborde wants to adopt me, I promise that I’ll never miss a family dinner ever again.

Wine and tapas-sized bites at l'Avant Comptoir
What’s your favourite local hangout?
I’m going to give you two as I love my hood and it’s too difficult to choose. So the first – and, sorry, but it’s not at all glamorous - is Le PaprikaI go for one thing and one thing only: the owner is Hungarian and serves his grandmother’s goulash – and even 10 minutes before closing time he’ll serve you, eyes full of pride to be continuing the family tradition. And the second is Caillebotte – oh go on, and the third is le Pantruche. I call them regularly begging for a table because it’s always fully booked. Both are lovely places, with friendly staff, delicious food and unbeatable prices.

Pink Grapefruit with Tarragon Ice-Cream at Caillebotte

Thanks, Maheva! We look forward to dinner at Pantruche with you soon (if you can can get us a table that is… Otherwise we'll settle for late night goulash). Stay tuned for the next in the series of insider tips with another local unlocking Paris for us. 

La Table d'Eugène

We've been harping on about how the Northern side of Paris' 18th arrondissement is up-and-coming for a while now, singing the praises of Scandiwegian furniture shop Maison Nordik, Venezuelan areperia Bululu and hipster burger joint Le Ruisseau, to name just a few - and with the Unlock Paris HQ in this part of town, and most of our meetings held at the charming Cafe Lomi, it's an area we very much know and love. So imagine our excitement last Friday evening when we saw none other than the President of the Republic, François Hollande himself, dining at the gastronomic jewel in the crown of this neighbourhood: La Table d'Eugène. Proof that not only is this part of the 18th becoming hipsterfied - it's positively in the process of being gentrified.

Helmed by head chef Geoffrey Maillard and his sous-chef François Vaudeschamps - who have previously worked at Le Bristol, Le Plaza Athenée, Alain Senderens and Taillevent between them - the discreet Table d'Eugène has been drawing connoisseurs to rue Eugène Sue for the last five years since it opened (and is, as such, perhaps a trail-blazer for having set up in this part of town). Last September it unveiled its new decor - muted tones of beige, grey and oak - behind curtained windows cocooning patrons in its small, subtly luxurious dining room, where service is slick and the food takes centre stage. The menu is seasonal - changing every ten days - with high-quality individual ingredients sourced from small-scale producers being honored in each dish. Fixed-price dinner menus range between €55 and €99 and may feature dishes such as sea bream tartare with yuzu and daikon, or veal with truffle mashed potatoes, caramelised shallots and panfried chanterelle mushrooms, all beautifully presented and punctuated by amuses-bouches, palette cleansers and pre-desserts, and paired with wines from their superlative selection (the Pattes Loup Chablis, €48, goes down a treat). Weekday lunches are at the reasonable price of just €25 for starter+main or main+dessert, and, if you can't get a table here (book a week or so in advance) there is also a wine bar and tapas annexe, La Rallonge, just a couple of doors up, if you're looking for something more casual but still high-quality in the neighbourhood (and don't perhaps fancy rubbing shoulders with Mr Hollande). 

La Table d'Eugène
18 rue Eugène Sue, 75018 Paris
01 42 55 61 64

and for our little paparazzi moment....
François Hollande leaving La Table d'Eugène after dinner

all photos copyright Kim Laidlaw / Unlock Paris

Bululu Arepera Montmartre

Our radar is telling us that the "other" side of Montmartre - down the hill from the prime tourist photo-op territory of the Sacre Coeur -  is bubbling under as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Paris right now. We've already told you about burger bar Le Ruisseau, which is drawing local hipsters out of the woodwork, and trendy mid-century modern furniture shop Maison Nordik (check out our full round up in our piece The Other Side of Montmartre), and the area is continuing to build a solid empire of interesting, independent establishments, making this part of town a destination in and of itself. One of the area's top draws is  charmingly ramshackle Venezuelan sandwich joint Bululu - the only Arepera in Paris. In the small space, with chipboard tables and recycled tin cans as cutlery holders , a team of pretty girls with flowery headscarves in their hair explain the Venzuelan sandwiches on offer: made from freshly baked, golden, gluten-free bread, arepas are a filled with various key ingredients such as avocado, tajada (plantain), black beans, cheese and beef. Also on offer are fried plantain chips, and deliciously simple Obleas for pudding - wafer sandwiches filled with sweet Dulce de Leche - and there are a range of juices, beers and lemonades to wash it all down with. Open for lunch and supper, and brunch on weekends. 

20 rue de la Fontaine du But, 
75018 Paris
Open Weds-Fri: 12-2.30; 7.30-11pm
Sat-Sun: 12-11.30pm

all photos copyright Kim Laidlaw / Unlock Paris

Septime - now with a Michelin star

Septime is arguably one of the best tables in Paris right now as far as we're concerned - and we're certainly not the only ones to think that: the three-year-old restaurant also features on the World's Best Restaurant list (this year at number 52), won cult restaurant guide Le Fooding's "Fooding d'Honneur" in 2012, and has now received accolade of all accolades - its first (of many?) Michelin star. Chef Bertrand Grébaut concocts fresh flavour combinations with seasonal ingredients - for example, tender bonito with tart rhubarb and aniseed notes of fennel - beautifully and simply presented (there's nary a fancy coulis-squiggle in sight), with the colours and textures of superlative raw ingredients taking centre stage. Knowledgable, non-pretientious sommeliers are on hand to explain the extensive wine list, which includes interesting offerings such as orange wine (referring to its tannic robe) as well as excellent reds and whites, by the glass or bottle. The atmosphere is - in keeping with the food - devoid of all pomp and circumstance, with a pared-back, light-filled decor featuring wood, glass and grey metals a-plenty and not a single starched white table cloth to be seen. Lunch comes in at an unbelievably reasonable €28 for three courses (with two choices for each course), or €55 for a five-course no-choice menu at lunch and €58 at dinner. So what's the catch? With all these selling points, it's not easy to get a table. Log on to their website three weeks in advance for your best chances at scoring a reservation and persevere. Also keep in mind that Grébin's new restaurant next door, the seafood sharing plate Clamato, is for walk-ins only and the the equally charming Septime La Cave is just around the corner for wine, cheese and aperitif fodder - so if you have no luck getting a table at the mothership, you can at least get a glimpse of the greatness that is Septime. 

80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris
Tel: +33 1 43 67 38 29 

all photos copyright Kim Laidlaw / Unlock Paris

Tatoueurs Tatoués - Musée du Quai Branly

Britain's first female tattoo artist, Jessie Knight, at work in 1955. ©Getty Images
Paris' museum of indigenous art, the Musée du Quai Branly, presents Tatoueurs Tatoués, an exhibition devoted to the practice of tattooing, with over 300 historical and contemporary works from all over the globe on display. Curated by Anne & Julien, founders of the art magazine Hey! - and in collaboration with France's most revered tattoo artist, Tin-Tin - Tatoueurs Tatoués traces the history of body art from the ritualizing decorations of traditional societies, to a means of marking criminals, to a form of sideshow spectacle, up to its present day ubiquity. On show are a vast variety of exhibits, from samples of tattooed skin (such as a swatch from 18th century Indonesia), to archival photos of the tattooed and the tattooers (such as Britain's first female tattoo artist, Jessie Knight, born 1897), tools (including Thomas Edison's 1877 stencil gun) and tattooed silicon body parts and canvases of fantasy projects created especially for the exhibition by 30 master tattooers from across the world. The exhibition also covers the art of tattooing by region, documenting the history, role and style of tattooing in Japan, North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.  

Tatoueurs Tatoués at the Musée du Quai Branly
37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris
Open Tues-Sun, 11am-7pm (until 9pm Thurs-Sat)
Until 18th October, 2014
"Volume" tattooed especially for the exhibtion by Filip Leu 
Bamboo and ebony tattoo tools from Japan - 20th century
Tattoo artist Freddy Corbin
Letters between Sailor Jerry and Ed Hardy

Old Man Tattooing a Back, Anonymous, France, 18th Century 
"Volume" tattooed especially for the exhibtion by Tin-Tin
Plates made for Alexandre Lacassagne, France, early 20th century
France's most revered tattoo artist, Tin-Tin, was the artistic consultant for the exhibition

Artisan - Cocktails and Small Plate Dining in South Pigalle

You know how much we love small plate dining here at Unlock Paris and you might have noticed that we're partial to a cocktail, too. And then there's our penchant for the area that we like to call SoPi (that's South Pigalle, to you) with our tongue firmly lodged in our cheek. Well, as luck would have it, Artisan ticks all of our boxes: located just behind the trendy rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement, this cosy establishment serves a range of expertly mixed cocktails alongside tapas-sized dishes to share - perfect! Counter seating and a no-reservations policy create a laidback atmosphere - pitch up, pick a bar stool and order as you wish from the concise menu. Seasonally varying dishes include delights such as a jazzed-up croque monsieur with cured ham and mushrooms (€8), delicate root vegetables with hard-hitting horseradish (€7), langoustine ravioli in a sea of seafood emulsion (€10) and the pungent truffled brie (€10). For pudding, you can't go wrong with the creamy rice pudding with salted caramel and lime (€6) or the lemon creme brûlé with apple petals (€6) - both to be devoured with groans of wide-eyed pleasure. On the drinks menu are cocktails such as Be Sage (Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar, sage and Amaro, €13) or the playfully-named Are U Nuts (walnut-infused Cognac, white vermouth and chocolate bitters, €13) as well as a carefully chosen selection of wines (from €5 for a glass of Coteaux du Giennois). The high quality of the food combined with the casual dining format, coupled with a laidback yet softly-lit setting, makes Artisan a destination that's just as suitable for a romantic date as a dinner with friends - all in all, it's a winner in our books. 

14 rue Brochart de Saron, 75009 Paris
Open Tues-Sat, 7pm-2am (kitchen closes at 00.30); Sunday midday-4pm for brunch. 
No reservations. 

photos copyright Kim Laidlaw 2014.