There is a huge Moroccan community in Paris thanks to France’s colonisation of Morocco. This loss of independence may have been a tragic period in Morocco’s history however it does mean that you can get some top notch Moroccan food in Paris. One of the stalwarts of the Moroccan dining scene, L’Atlas is located just across the road from Institut du Monde Arabe.
Complimentary olives and potato
Walk into L’Atlas and you are transported from Paris straight into a scene straight out of Arabian nights. A fountain stands in the entrance and the whole restaurant is decorated with intricate white stucco arches. It is almost as if a snake charmer will appear around the corner at any second. For warm nights there is also the option the outdoor terrace on the pavement of St Germain de Prés. Here’s the rub though, despite the amazing decor I visited on a Tuesday night and the restaurant was fairly quiet and so completely lacked in atmosphere. I should also say that L’Atlas is not a great restaurant for wine aficionados as the wine list is fairly limited and Moroccan wine dominates. Since L’Atlas is a Moroccan restaurant I can understand this emphasis however generally Moroccan wine really pales in comparison to French wine so it is best to pick from the much smaller French selection on the list.
Still there are lots of reasons to eat at L’Atlas. The excellent nibbles are one thing. There is no real need to order an entree because as soon as you are seated you are given a serve of olives and some lightly spiced potatoes. Instead, I would advise sating your appetite with these and saving yourself for the mains and in particular the selection of tagines. There are lots of options for vegetarians or seafood lovers in comparison to most restaurants in Paris, however it is hard to go past the lamb tagine with quince.
Served in the traditional conical shaped dish along with a serving of cous cous on the side the tagine is sizzling hot. Pieces of slow cooked lamb release a heady aroma and the addition of quince sweetens the tagine almost to the point of being saccharine. That’s before you even start to explore the dessert menu which is a complete sugar rush. Order the Moroccan pastries and you will be presented with a selection of pastries made with sweet and flaky filo pastry and stuffed with dates and other goodies. A selection of sliced fruit such as kiwi fruit and orange pieces on the plate taste almost savoury in comparison.
If you are in Paris and you feel like a respite from French food (and no matter how good French cuisine is, if you are there for long enough you will) L’Atlas is a great option. My only hesitation is the lack of atmosphere on my visit however let’s face it I was in Paris in August when tumbleweed is known to blow down the streets of a city deserted by holidaying Parisians.
Details: 12 St Germain de Prés, Paris, France (Ph 01 44 07 23 66) Metro Maubert-Mutualité
Gourmet Traveller Tips
I stayed at hip hotel Mama Shelter, a Phillipe Starck designed wonder out in the 20th. Housed in a converted garage each room has a slick imac which you can watch DVDs on, TV or use the internet, there are Kiehls toiletries in the bathroom and basically it is designer heaven. Rooms from €89.