Edible Montreuil

Don’t get excited: Paris has no Brooklyn. Due to short-sighted urban planning in mid-century, Paris is cinched into its ring-road, le péripherique, like a dress it wore sixty years ago and never removed. The sheer impracticality of crossing this eternally congested ring-road has long prevented, in les banlieues, development of establishments Parisians might consider destinations. For Parisians, you’re either within city limits, or you’re way, way out. 

Montreuil| parisbymouth.comNonetheless, there is among Paris’ overlooked suburbs one that beckons aesthetes and tastemakers from time to time: Montreuil, less the city’s cooler younger brother than its kooky Marxist uncle. The historically Communist town benefits from its position along Métro lines 9 and 1, and from proximity to the vibrant cultural scenes of Paris’ eastern arrondissements. Alternately picturesque and depressingly vacant, Montreuil is one of those curious places that seems perpetually poised for a mini-renaissance. Now, with a nudge from Paris’ increasing taste for craft beer and natural wine, one seems more likely than ever.

Montreuil is home to two dashing new microbreweries, a natural wine pizza place, and a wine bar whose selection rivals any within Paris proper. The town also retains characterful holdovers from its political and artisanal heritage, like a Communist bakery, and the city’s premier fish-curing company, which maintains an unfathomably discreet retail outlet on a street with no other commerce whatsoever.

If you plan spectacularly well, it’s almost possible to visit all these places in a day. If not, you might find it’s not such a chore to return. In Paris proper a visitor’s greatest challenge is not finding the finest wine or the most exotic macaron – it is finding a speck of authenticity in a city whose character is defined by its self-awareness as a global tourist destination. But just a few Métro stops from Paris, one can access a place that evinces no awareness whatsoever of global attention, for there is (almost) none.

PARIS BY MOUTH PICKS

Deck & Donahue

DSC04144Deck & Donohue in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com
71 rue de la Fraternité
93100 MONTREUIL
Métro: Robespierre
Tel: 09 67 31 15 96

Alsatian Thomas Deck met Philadelphian Mike Donahue while studying abroad at Georgetown a decade ago, and the pair improbably nurtured their idea for a Paris-based microbrewery throughout Deck’s career in finance and Donahue’s career brewing for such craft beer stalwarts as Maryland’s Flying Dog and San Francisco’s 21st Amendment. Deck & Donahue finally realised their project in spring of 2013 with a bright, gallery-like brewery and tasting room on rue de la Fraternité in Montreuil. It would be no stretch to say that the duo immediately vaulted to the forefront of France’s fledgling craft beer market, with their precise, flavourful organic-grain beers attracting the interest of wine-focused restaurants like Septime and Aux Deux Amis alongside Paris craft beer havens like La Fine Mousse and Les Trois 8. Deck & Donahue offer free tastings at their brewery on Saturdays from 11am – 3pm. If you can’t make it out to Montreuil, their beers are also available at Le Siffleur de Ballons (75012) and L’Epicerie du Verre Volé (75011), among many other fine addresses.

Alimentari

Alimentari restaurant in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com
Alimentari restaurant in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com
6 place du Marché
93100 MONTREUIL
Métro: Croix de Chavaux (9)
Tel: +33 1 48 97 09 21

Let it be admitted that Alimentari, a natural wine and pizza place, does not serve world-stopping pizza. The crust is pedestrian, and the toppings are a bit salady and unexotic. But take the opportunity to dine on the peaceful terrace tables the restaurant sets up on the marché de la Croix de Chavaux on an early evening in warmer months, and order a bottle of natural Beaujolais-Villages from Karim Vionnet with your pie, and see if the world doesn’t, for a moment, stop. Owner Said Messous is a low-key local tycoon who also owns a slew of other establishments in Paris and Montreuil, including the popular Bar du Marché across the place from Alimentari. His hobbyist’s interest in natural wine is most evident in the selection at Alimentari, which offers a range of accessible, pure-fruited vins de soif from France and Italy. As of earlier this year Alimentari’s pizza has also been available at its new Paris location on rue Jean-Pierre Thimbaud (75011).

L’Amitié Rit

L'Amitie Rit in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com

120 Avenue du Président Wilson
93100 Montreuil
Métro: Mairie du Montreuil
Tel: 09 54 83 17 71

Proprietor Thierry Dubourg quit a career in film production in 2010 to open his far-flung wine bar on a quiet corner in Montreuil. His astounding wine selection exceeds, in breadth, quality, and value, most of Paris’ natural wine destinations. It includes broad ranges of rare bottlings from cult winemakers like Claude Courtois, Eric Pfifferling, and Jean-Claude Chanudet – which latter vigneron, notably, refuses to sell wine to Paris. A destination more for drinking than for dining, L’Amitié Rit offers cheese plates and charcuterie at all times, plus a more substantial menu on Friday nights. With it’s low-key, welcoming ambience, L’Amitié Rit has managed to avoid the snobbishness that has become unfortunately common in Parisian natural wine bars. The bar also hosts biannual natural wine tastings, the flyers for which speckle Paris restaurant windows with the bar’s trademark naked-lady iconography.

La Montreuilloise

La Montreuilloise in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com DSC02930
97 rue Pierre de Montreuil
93100 Montreuil
Métro: Mairie du Montreuil
Tél : +33 (0) 6 81 22 65 87

Owner Jerôme Martinez took over this indie brewery in June 2013 with a singularly quixotic business plan: his own brewing experience being minimal, he figured he’d continue his education by promoting the La Montreuilloise brewery as an atelier for fellow brewers – on its website, enthusiasts can apply for a half-day beer internship where they brew their own personal microbrew. The official La Montreuilloise beers are as sweetly eccentric as Martinez himself. Taking a controversial cue from France’s natural wine scene, Martinez eschews temperature control for his fermentation, meaning his beers taste radically different at different times of year. Additionally, he’s quite liberal with additional flavour components, like the chocolate in his stout and the raisins in his red ale. The brewery itself takes some detective work to find – one has to follow a maze of signs from the streetside deep into a slightly forbidding warehouse complex, but is assured of a warm welcome once inside, where beer tastings and direct sales are available on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. For those unable to make the trek, La Montreuilloise beers are available in Paris at various addresses including La Petite Cagette (75011) and Hop Malt Market (75011).

ALSO NOTEWORTHY

SAFA – Montreuil Saumon

SAFA - Montreuil Saumon | parisbymouth.com
130 rue de Rosny
93100 MONTREUIL
Métro: Mairie du Montreuil
Tel : 01 42 87 20 20

Montreuil is the historical home of Paris’ premier salmon curing operation, SAFA Montreuil Saumon, established by a Polish family in 1926. The actual fish-curing now occurs in a larger facility in Choisy-le-Roi, but owner Stéphane Rocher still maintains a tiny retail outlet on rue de Rosny, offering pots of delectable sea urchin tarama and salmon roe, alongside the company’s specialities, wild-caught Baltic salmon and France’s first certified organic farmed salmon. The company’s products can also be found within Paris at Le Grand Epicierie du Bon Marché (75007).

La Conquete du Pain

La Conquete du Pain in Montreuil | parisbymouth.com
DSC02906
47 rue de la Beaune
93100 MONTREUIL
Métro: Croix de Chavaux
Tel: 01 83 74 62 35

Idiosyncratic local bakery La Conquete du Pain continues the distinctly Montreuilloise tradition of contemporary Communism. What does it mean to be a Communist bakery ? In practice, it means the bakery is staffed by its ten owners and two apprentices, who meet every two weeks and take all business decisions collectively. It means that Communist literature shares shelf space with the stuffed animals provided for the amusement of local children. Sandwiches are named after prominent theorists (Marx, Engels, the anarchist Bakunin), and tea is free. This author, a capitalist pig, might also note that it means the bakery is insensibly closed on weekends. A baguette I tried was harder than forced labour. But inconsistency is perhaps a function of there being so many bakers involved; I have friends that swear by La Conquete du Pain. For those who wish to taste the bread of collective ownership within Paris, La Conquete du Pain’s bread is also available at tiny new organic grocer Le Zingam (75011).

4 Comments on Edible Montreuil

  1. Indeed you could have mentioned ICI MONTREUIL (and not Montreal), L’alhambra or “Le Chinois” for the music, Les mûrs à pêches for the nature, La cave est restaurant for great food and wine with ok prices.
    Looks like you have done only 10% of the city… but this is nice to see a review of our great town. And last but not least, I would have pointed out how cool the people are there.

  2. Hi, nice article but a little bit cliché-oriented. You cannot talk about Montreuil without mentioning 3 things: 1. The peaches. Before being a communist town, Montreuil was known as THE place where the best peaches were produced. In the XVIIth century, the system used there was unique, as the peaches were set to grow against white walls, which gave them maximum of sun exposure, hence a very sweet and unique taste. Some parts of those walls, ‘les murs à pêches’ are being saved by associations. 2. The cinema, Montreuil is the place where Georges Méliès lived and built the first cinema studio in 1897 and was a pioneer in visual effects. Everybody knows his short film with the moon receiving a rocket in its eye and crying. It has been filmed in his studios in Montreuil 3. The artists. The town is full them: actors, movie directors, singers, sculptors, painters, graphists, musicians, etc. and have a ‘Journées portes ouvertes’ week-end in September to discover them and their arts all over town. And you’ve also missed the best pizza restaurant in Montreuil: Casa Lovi, just on the other side of the Place du marché where you have been, facing the metro entrance. As well as numerous good restaurants: the South African one in rue Robespierre, the Camaraos del rios (Cameroun), and La Grosse Mignonne (which was the name of a peach variety) both in rue Marceau, and others.

  3. Ah, travel writing, plus ça change…
    That’s bullshit in the first paragraph re the périph, but the perfect kind of bullshit to get a nod out of people who think they know Paris, but don’t really know it.
    It is nearly impossible to do travel writing without sounding like a tool to anyone who knows the subject. But that’s not the audience, is it?
    Bravo!
    -Monsieur Prick

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