Words John Brunton
Paris foodies normally see their city as the world capital of gastronomy, where trends are set, not followed, but right now the French capital has finally woken up to the concept of Food Trucks, which are popping up all over. With long queues, and even the blessing of the Mandarin Oriental’s star chef, Thierry Marx (behind the association to promote street food – Sacré Bleu), it’s a revolution. The vans move around town all week and you need to check websites, twitter and facebook for times and location. For the moment, this is not a night-time phenomenon, as the trucks only operate over lunch and for weekend brunch. You’ll eat for around €10, as prices are cheap and cheerful - like the food.
LE CAMION QUI FUME
Le Camion Qui Fume was the pioneer of the food truck movement in Paris, and its phenomenal success has sparked a whole fleet of quality fast-food pop-ups all over town. They have even published their own cookbook. Wherever ‘The Smoking Truck’ parks, you can be sure of long queues, and when they arrive for lunchtime in a business area like Place de la Madeleine, don’t be surprised to see a couple of hundred chic Parisians politely queuing, English-style (not usually the case here), just to order a juicy cheeseburger and French fries. Well, the fries aren’t actually French either, as the Camion is the brainchild of Californian Kristin Frederick, who trained at the respected Paris cooking school, Ferrandi. He had a hunch that the French would eat fast food if the produce was high quality and the recipes creative, and their Burger Bleu is minced beef, Fourme d’Ambert cheese, and caramelized onions with a Port sauce. There are veggie burgers on the menu too.
You can’t miss this green truck with the giant logo 2F1C, and the deux filles in question are Cécile Kosman and Delphine Suarez, who have come up with a very different French recipe from the usual, American-inspired burgers and fries. Their menu changes every day, with the emphasis on fresh, healthy and essentially organic cooking. A typical menu would be a parsnip or cauliflower soup, ‘blanquette de veau’ ( a hearty veal stew that you’d normally order in a bistrot), or pasta sautéed with vegetables (yes, another vegetarian dish), followed by pear crumble or lemon tart. Everything is prepared and cooked in the van itself, and Kosman and Suarez are fast getting a reputation for raising truck food up to the levels of restaurant cuisine.
Although this little corner of Americana only opened for business a few months ago, it has already attracted a loyal clientele, in part because of its perfect locations: on Wednesdays at the Marché Saint-Honoré (75001), just by the glitzy couture boutiques that line the rue Saint-Honoré, and at the twice -weekly Raspail market (75006), favourite haunt of the fashionable Left Bank elite. Even celeb chef Anthony Bourdain has dropped by, raving about the Cantine’s desserts and what he reckons is the best Mexican food in Paris. We’re not sure if gringos really know their burritos from their tortillas, but it is difficult to resist the Cantine’s tacos stuffed with tasty pork and fiery chilli sauce, as well as classic burgers, and brunch speciality blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. The owner, Jordan Feilders, is actually Canadian, a committed foodie who gave up his office job to launch this food truck adventure.
The most original truck to drive into the Paris fast-food scene is The Refectory, a très Français take on the good old Yankee burger. Valentine Davase and her enthusiastic team are inventing a whole new world of burgers. Imagine an artisan-baked bun filled with daube de boeuf ( a beef stew slow-cooked for six hours), topped with 18 month-aged Comte cheese, beef tomato and crunchy spinach? Or try ‘Le Larry’, a steak sandwich with sundried tomatoes, grilled pine nuts, fresh basil and goats cheese roasted with honey. For the moment, prices are seriously affordable, with burgers and frites priced at €10 and the dish of the day only €6, so watch out for Le Refectory moving back and forth between the colourful street markets at boulevard Richard Lenoir (75011)and rue des Pyrénées (75020).
enq le-refectoire.com, @LeRefectoire
The latest truck on the block moves on from burgers, tacos and empanadas to offer foodies a choice of tasty panini especially created by hip young chefs. Pressing doesn’t have any permanent locations yet and often parks outside one of the restaurants whose chef is rustling up that day’s panini recipe for them - hot spots like Rino (rino-restaurant.com - 46 Rue Trousseau, 75011), Frenchie's Winebar (frenchie-restaurant.com - 5-6, rue du Nil, 75002) and Roseval (roseval.fr – 1 rue Eupatoria, 75020) - dotted around different parts of Paris so it is crucial to check Pressing’s website for their daily schedule. The varied breads are specially created for them by Gontran Cherrier in his Montmartre bakery, and Arnaud Moreau and his team of assistants prepare a mix of classic panini -ham, Gruyere cheese, seed mustard - to an exotic combo of roast veal, anchovy-flavoured mayonnaise and rucola, or a surprising dessert panini of sliced banana with lime and hazelnut biscuit, served on an old-fashioned ‘pain brioche’.