One of the most intriguing aspects of living in Montmartre is constantly shifting balance between residents going about their everyday life and the tourist hordes determined to see every sight and take every photo possible. The shuttered windows in my bedroom look out onto the gardens in front of Sacré-Coeur. I often find myself, on the Saturday mornings, sipping tea and watching the visitors come and go. However, if I actually want to get anywhere efficiently, moving against the flow of foot traffic can be hazardous to my health. Despite the hustle and bustle in the areas directly in line with the Basilica or Pigalle, all it takes is a five-minute walk in the opposite direction to be lost in the silent maze of narrow, twisting streets that make up the rest of Montmartre. It is a good reminder that, although it is Paris (!) to the tourists, it is just home for most of us.
Reflective of the touristy nature of the neighborhood, many nearby restaurants tend to fall in either the sidewalk café or crêpe stand category. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good croque-monsieur toasted to perfection, but most of these places offer over-priced, butter-drenched, clichéd French food to the masses. They are not necessarily where I want to be spending my hard-earned money when I decide to take a break from the soup/salad/quiche rotation I have been on in my own kitchen. Luckily for me, there are also plenty of wine bars and bistros (featuring a variety of cuisines) to explore. Overall, the list is quite extensive.
Recently, S (who generously gave us FFFFP#5) joined me to document one of my local favorites, Tapas Nocturnes. This was my fourth time at this small tapas bar, just down the road from the metro Abbesses station. I have brought friends from out of town here on multiple occasions and, most notably, enjoyed a quiet dinner here on my birthday. During winter I rarely saw the restaurant full, but now that the weather is warming and the sidewalk tables have been set out, the place seems packed each night. This is reassuring and I have stopped worrying about losing such a cozy, tasty option to the economic crisis.
Ideal for a dinner for two is their “Formule Pica-Pica”, which gives the table a choice of 6 tapas for just 27€. Our choices are in the photo above (starting from the top, in a clockwise manner): chorizo au vin blanc (spicy sausage cooked in white wine), patatas bravas (‘brave potatoes’ with spicy secret sauce), chistorra grantinées (sausages with melted cheese), boudin noir au riz (black pudding with rice), tortilla maison (house omelet) and albondigas (meatballs with roasted red pepper sauce). We also decided to celebrate poisson d’Avril by splurging on a very tasty bottle of Rioja. The wine list is relatively pricey, compared to the affordability of the food, but they also have a pretty good house red, served by the glass, half or full liter. As the days get warmer, their sangria will also be a great option.
The six generous ‘small’ dishes were plenty for the two of us to share and, although our appetites were well sated, we could not resist ordering the dessert special. A bit reminiscent of pain au chocolat, the special (whose name I can no longer recall) consisted of soft, sweet dough wrapped around layers of thin chocolate, served with crème anglasie and whipped cream. A bit too heavy and sweet for my taste, but it was a excellent finish to a delicious meal. Moreover, it complimented the remainder of the fruity Rioja extremely well.
Tapas Nocturnes has been my go-to restaurant when I am looking to go out but not in the mood for more traditional French cuisine. Although I am looking forward to exploring new places and trying more local fare, I will always look forward to returning here for good food and the fun of (literally) sharing a meal with friends.
98 rue des Martyrs