I like a trendy hotspot as much as the next blogger, but it’s always more rewarding to discover a place that is un-cool, un-trafficked, and uniquely yours. La Maison, tucked away on the Place St. Ferdinand in the 17th, is one of my closely guarded Parisian secrets, but as I’m feeling particularly generous today, I’m willing to share.
I first ducked into this place on a brisk autumn morning in 2008. I had a few minutes to kill and I sat down at the zinc bar, unaware that I was about to experience pure rapture in the form of a café crème—and I don’t even like coffee that much. When I do drink it, I’m very particular about how it should be prepared, and La Maison did not disappoint: The coffee and milk were presented separately—as they should be—so that you can mix them yourself. The coffee was strong and the milk had that smooth sweetness that you only find in Europe. I’m not ashamed to admit that I finished all of it, and I remember thinking that I could probably live on milk alone, as long as it was this milk. Is that embarrassing? Regardless, it was one of those, “So, this is why I moved to Paris” moments.
I became a regular at La Maison, which I soon learned had much more to offer than just an exquisite café crème. The waiters (a pleasant mix of old school French guys and novices who will someday be old school French guys) dress in traditional black-and-white garb and manage to balance French brusqueness with an arch sense of humor. When I managed to make one of them crack a smile, I always felt like I’d won a gold medal.
Tourists are few and far between at La Maison, as it’s located on the discreet Place St. Ferdinand in the 17th. It’s a true residential neighborhood—but a posh one—so while La Maison is very much a “family” restaurant, its décor and ambiance reflect the zeitgeist of the quartier: understated elegance. Around noon, the crowd is composed of local businessmen, ladies who lunch, chic bourgeois families, and me—at the zinc bar—in heaven.
Vintage cafe. Photo: thestylishhouse.net
My last visit there took place on one of Paris’ rare snowy days. My friend and I slipped into the cozy leather banquettes and took in the scene. To my left, a young couple with an incredibly chic toddler (how is it that even French babies manage to intimidate me?), and to my right…. Bernard-Henri Lévy? I did a double take, but that hair and signature white shirt were unmistakable. Yes, it was BHL—a well-known philosopher and the darling of Left Bank intellectuals.
Before long, we were digging into perfectly prepared balsamic lentil salad, turbot with winter vegetables, and a nice Côtes du Rhône (yes, I drink at lunch). The waiters glided around us, subtle but efficient, locals came in and out, snow fell, everything seemed right in the world, and I felt almost Parisian. Sipping wine next to BHL will have that effect on you…
28 Place St. Ferdinand, 75017
Open: Mon – Sun, 7am – 1am