Whenever I think of Nicolas Hontanx I think of delicious French food. Why? He’s French and had worked, managed and co-owned various restaurants in Paris over the years, including my favourites. He’s spent time in the US where he even worked at the Four Seasons in Boston and studied hotel management/hospitality in Lausanne. In his spare time he loves playing drums with his band and many times can be found playing in one of the salsa bars in Paris.
Nicolas was all too happy to take on Ask a Local this week; afterall who wouldn’t want to hear his take on the famous City of Love, Paris?
Describe Paris in five sentences.
Paris is gorgeous yet full of ugliness. Paris is old yet dynamic. Paris is ruthless, yet full of promises. Paris is corrupt, yet filled with hope.
Paris is a fine lady who’s really a whore.
What’s the best thing about living there?
Beyond the same decorum one will meet going through the same streets, along the same buildings on a daily basis, year in and year out, lies the obvious certainty that everything is changing, that new energies are emerging, that, in sight of one might actually see, the city and all its diverse neighbourhoods, are slowly but gradually changing. It may be like this anywhere in the world, but in Paris it is just special to see.
What your favourite time of year in your hometown for you? Why?
September is my favourite because of the nice cooler weather plus Parisians are more relaxed after their summer break.
Is there one place visitors should not miss seeing?
Definitely the underrated Parc de Belleville. If you choose to walk through it going downhill, it offers a spectacular view of all of Paris’s famous monuments at once and also for its “bobo” (bourgeois/ bohème) touch.
What’s your favourite local dish?
Locally made Jambon de Paris with homemade mashed potatoes.
Do you have a favourite local place to eat/drink you would share with visitors?
It’s impossible to give just one in Paris! Ha. I may have one in each arrondissement though. Since visitors come to Paris for our food, here are a few of my favourites.
- Juvenile s in the 1st,
- Le Garde Robe in the 2nd,
- Le Comptoir du Relais in the 6th,
- L ‘ami Jean in the 7th,
- Casimir in the 10th,
- Vivant in the 10th,
- Le Repaire de Cartouche in the 11th,
- Le Baratin in the 20th.
All intentionally mentioned here as they offer French based specialties. Of course, the list goes on as for Chinese, Japanese, North and West African, American, Argentinia, Indian – all brilliant restaurants.
How about a favourite local coffee/tea shop?
Australian owned Coutume in the 7th arrondissement for their house roasted coffee.
What three local words every visitor should know?
- “Bonjour” – Hello
- “Merci” – Thank you
- “Attention, pickpockets à bord!” – Careful, pickpockets on board!”
Why should someone visit your city?
Because it’s Paris!! Everyone should visit Paris at least once in their lifetime. It’s the city of love to so many but to us locals it’s home and we like to show it off to visitors. We are French afterall!
What advice would you give someone visiting your city?
Watch you back pockets. With so many visitors to Paris, and as safe a city as it is, there is obviously this downside. Back pockets are easy to be stolen from and people tend to keep from money to credit cards to their mobile phones in them.