L’Hôtel du Nord
Canal St Martin
102 quai de Jemmapes, 10th
M° J. Bonsergent or Republique
Tel 01 40 40 78 78
Review by Melissa Barton
In existence since 1885, the Hotel du Nord, located in a newly listed historic building, continues to enjoy its position as an iconic feature of the Canal St Martin. Arguably with thanks to the 1930’s Marcel Carné film of the same name, this atmospheric restaurant and bar welcomes tourists as well as a loyal crowd of regulars. The authentic features such as the red velvet curtained entrance, monochrome chequered floor and film memorabilia really do help you to imagine the place in times gone by. With a cosy library and a small terrace in summer, the establishment offers something for all seasons, set against the scenic backdrop of the Quai de Jemmapes. If arriving by foot from the direction of République, be aware that it is somewhat hidden behind the bridge, so don’t lose hope and assume you’re lost!
The low ceiling and candle lit tables offer something for those in search of a romantic meal for two – but of course in true French style, you’ll only ever be a metre at the most away from your neighbours! Unlike the typical smaller Parisian restaurants, there are some large tables that could accommodate up to about 20/25 people, thus making it a good venue for special occasions. I personally have brought groups of clients to the restaurant – Brits, Americans, Swedes – and all have thoroughly enjoyed.
The food is French at its base, but with international elements such as the cheeseburger – seemingly obligatory on chic restaurant menus nowadays – and the ‘salade chinoise craquante’ entrée – a must-try crunchy salad of aromatic vegetables that I go for without fail. The main dishes are primarily meat or fish based – something to note for the vegetarians, who have only one choice of main course specifically for them. Is it just me or is this generally the case…?! Although the restaurant claims to serve seasonal vegetables, it must be said that on the whole there is quite a lack of vegetables served on the side; again something I have found to be quite common in French restaurants. Prices range between €7 and €14.50 for a starter and between €14 and €29 for a main course. Desserts are between €7.50 and €9 with options such as crème brulée and ‘moelleux au chocolat’ – a traditional French chocolate sponge with soft centre (delicious à mon avis!)
The bar is a nice place to have a drink before or after your meal, however the tables there are actually used for dining so it’s likely you’ll have to stand. The selection of wine is good and the mojitos are amongst the best I’ve sampled in Paris (beaten only by Ave Maria – 1 rue Jacquard, 11th). The proprietor of L’Hôtel du Nord also owns the Chacha club at Etienne Marcel (www.chachaclub.fr), a possible option for some post-dinner dancing – but beware of their not-so-friendly door policy.
The staff are really friendly; an eclectic mix of people, none of whom are snooty or cold, as you might expect from a fashionable Parisian place. The music too is a big mix of generally feel-good tunes – the manager took great pride in telling me just how much music he has at his fingertips! The atmosphere of an evening is lively and informal, although it can’t really be denied that the 30-something crowd are still rather chic and perhaps a little ‘bobo’. Best to leave the trainers and casual wear for a Sunday lunch here rather than a Saturday night.
L’Hôtel du Nord is a great choice for a mid-price meal, in a welcoming setting, with friends or an ‘amoureux’. Definitely book before you go in order to avoid disappointment – and a walk back to the metro!
Open daily from 9am until 1:30am; you can dine in the restaurant between noon and 3pm, and from 8pm-midnight. As you would expect, weekends are particularly busy and booking is recommended to ensure a table in the bustling, raised dining area.
British born and bred, Modern Languages graduate Melissa returned to Paris to work in fashion production in September 2008. Making it her one-woman mission to sample every crêperie in town, she works off those Nutella-banane calories wandering the streets of Paris in search of new additions for her little black book. She enjoys people watching, Velib’ing, clothing bought for €1 and a good glass of kir ‘entre amis’.