Marché Saint Quentin

May 6, 2008By Paris UpdateFood Shops, Shopping

To Market, to Market, to London

The market café’s coffee can’t be worse than the abysmal brews served at the Eurostar terminal.

Food shopping in Paris can be a dispiriting affair when a crowded schedule means you don’t always have time to trot from one neighborhood to another to see your favorite individual shopkeepers and stand in line. The alternative, though, is to stand in the generally longer line at the cramped local Monoprix supermarket and wait as the catatonic staff go through the motions. Not much of a choice, you will agree. Recently, though, I’ve been riding a wave of optimism after a couple of exciting discoveries almost on my doorstep, around the corner from the Gare du Nord, where Bertie the Gastrohound and I often trot to meet my girlfriend Katherine when she arrives on the Eurostar.

The Marché Saint Quentin is one of those spectacular covered markets of which there are now all too few in Paris. We found it in full swing late on a Sunday morning and were astonished at the sheer variety of stalls, ranging from someone who does clothes alterations to a dry goods store, flower shops and a welter of high-quality fresh produce (some organic) and meat and fish stands, all aimed at the not-too-well-heeled denizens of the tenth arrondissement and so with nothing posh about them.

Katherine, who doesn’t like what she calls “side” (a Yorkshire-cum-Australian synonym for snootiness), was so emboldened by the kindness and unforced good humor of most of stallholders that she scampered off and came back proudly brandishing a couple of bunches of spring turnips and a saucisse sèche that she had bought unaided – something of a first as her French is still mostly untested. The market also has two specialist stalls, one selling German groceries, with a big range of bottled German beers, and another heaped with Portuguese products, including dried cod and chorizo.

The market is definitely a place to restore your faith in the essential goodness of human nature and, because of its proximity to the Gare du Nord, ought to be an obligatory stop for anyone heading off to England – it’s so much more real than the desperately empty high-end outlets in the boring Eurostar terminal. And the café set in a prime central position in the market certainly could not serve worse coffee than the abysmal brews available at the terminal.

The Caves Bardou, on the other side of the intersection, facing the market, should also be a final stop before a Channel crossing. This Ali Baba’s cavern of wine, spirits and other gastronomic goodies has stood on the same corner since 1907, with a two-year hiatus between 2003 and 2005, when it reopened with its present knowledgeable crew. For a wine merchant strategically placed between the Gare de l’Est (trains to Germany and points east) and the Gare du Nord and its Eurostar terminal, prices are remarkably understated, and the staff does not equate quality with price. Again, there’s no contest between this and the limited offerings at the terminal itself. Travelers are advised to leave plenty of space in their bags…

Marché Couvert Saint Quentin: 85, bis Bld Magenta, 75010. Paris. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Caves Bardou: 124, rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, 75010 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 34 31 83. Métro: Gare de l’Est or Gare du Nord. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

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