It’s April Fool’s Day — or, as the French say, Poisson d’Avril (April Fish), where the joke is in kids sticking as many paper fish onto the backs of unsuspecting adults as possible. The origin of this long-time tradition is unclear. It could have something to do with the New Year having once begun on April 1st; one thinking is that those who refused to acknowledge the new calendar were mocked for their old-fashioned ways. So where does fish come into it? It’s perhaps because Lent, which occurred around this time, saw fish prevalent in the markets. Those crazy Gauls, huh?
Fish is usually no laughing matter in Paris, which was a fishing village before the Romans ever set gladiator-sandal-clad foot on the land here. There are celebrated seafood restaurants all over town, harking back to this culinary heritage, but three must-try ones can be found in Saint-Germain …
This breezy bistrot, with its blue-and-white-striped awning and a terrace edged in planter boxes of beach grass, could have been dropped into Paris direct from the west coast of France. Not to be missed: a selection of the country’s best oysters, and a bowl of pitch-perfect French fries.
81 Rue de Seine 75006
L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer
Yves Camdeborde and his hors d’oeuvres bar L’Avant-Comptoir shot to international foodie fame after Anthony Bourdain’s 2012 Paris episode of The Layover. Success has seen a successful seafood spin-off just next door. L’Avant-Comptoir de la Mer follows the recipe of its older sister bar: you order your wine and tapas-style plates at the bar, choosing from the menu cards hanging from the ceiling, and enjoy it all standing up, rubbing shoulders with locals in a crowded but convivial atmosphere.
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon 75006
Fish La Boissonnerie
Behind the mosaic façade of an old fishmonger’s, or poissonnerie (‘Boissonnerie’ is a clever reworking of the old shop sign, using the French word for a drink, ‘un boisson’), you’ll find a cosy restaurant that warmly welcomes family groups, romantic couples and solo diners alike, and dishes up nourishing, flavour-filled meals (look for their latest fish soup).
69 Rue de Seine