Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

The Paris district of Pigalle is naughty but nice

My kind of place: The filth-to-fab Parisian district has undergone significant gentrification.
The cabaret Moulin Rouge, as seen from the entrance of the Metro station Blanche, in the revitalised Paris district of Pigalle. iStockphoto.com
The cabaret Moulin Rouge, as seen from the entrance of the Metro station Blanche, in the revitalised Paris district of Pigalle. iStockphoto.com

Why Pigalle?

After the liberation of 1944, the quartier of Pigalle – atop Paris’ ninth arrondissement, north of the Seine and bordering Montmartre – was renamed “Pig Alley” by Allied troops, so prolific were this district’s raunchy nightlife options.

Though Boulevard de Clichy retains a kinky slew of shops, neon-lit joints and velvet-curtained cinemas all the way to Moulin Rouge, almost all other traces of Pig Alley have vanished. Instead, a new American-imported moniker, SoPi, has come to encapsulate South Pigalle’s modern, gentrified identity, as have upscale boutiques and buzz restaurants.

Still more recently, Paris’s hottest cocktail scene has taken hold in Pigalle via successive big-name openings, attracting the city’s trendies in their skinny-jeaned droves. And, as of this year, there are also luxury hotels, thanks to the arrival of two head-turning boutiques. From triple-X to five-star: Pigalle’s transformation is complete.

A comfortable bed

The five-star accreditation comes courtesy of Maison Souquet (www.maisonsouquet.com; 0033 1 48 78 55 55), a former pleasure house converted by Jacques Garcia. It’s a sensory, awfully glamorous haunt: see the plush red-velvet armchairs, intricate art deco lounges and 10-metre heated pool below gold-leaf ceilings. The 20 rooms or suites all have different themes, including Hortense and its peacock-print headboard. Doubles cost from €300 (Dh1,213).

Offering “bed-and-beverage”, the 37-room Le Grand Pigalle (www.grandpigalle.com; 0033 1 85 73 12 00) offers subtly beautiful decor in the form of textured wallpapers and golden pineapple door-knockers. The top-floor 601 has Sacré-Cœur views from its bathroom. Doubles cost from €200 (Dh809).

Find your feet

From Place Pigalle, head south-east to the foot of Avenue Trudaine for KB Cafeshop (www.facebook.com/cafeshopsouthpigalle; 0033 1 56 92 12 41), where AeroPress coffee and warm pear-and-almond muffins are scoffed by students, suited types and pencil-behind-the-ear architects. Arrive early to get a pavement seat. From there, trot down Pigalle’s chief artery, Rue des Martyrs, examining its patisseries, bistros and chocolate shops. The newest is Mesdemoiselles Madeleines (www.mllesmadeleines.com; 0033 1 53 16 28 82), specialising in the popular French fancies.

At the bottom, turn right, and admire classic Nouvelle Athènes architecture on the quieter Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, pausing on the quaint Place Saint-Georges before gasping at works by the eponymous symbolist master in Musée National Gustave Moreau (www.musee-moreau.fr; 0033 1 48 74 38 50.

Finish on the cobbled Rue Chaptal, where Musée de la Vie Romantique (www.paris.fr; 0033 1 55 31 95 67) offers period paintings and afternoon tea in a garden cafe.

Meet the locals

Pigalle boasts all sorts of delicatessens, but ignore pricey, tourist-targeting ones on Rue de Martyrs in favour of Causses (www.causses.org; 0033 1 53 16 10 10) and its locavore, farm-shop vibe. Or for fresh bread, try Rue Milton’s new Humphris (www.heurteloup.net).

Book a table

Pigalle is packed with restaurants, but the place to try is Buvette (www.ilovebuvette.com; 0033 1 44 63 41 71), an offshoot of the New York original. Always full, this “gastrothèque” majors in Gallic-inspired small plates. An average small plate costs €7 (Dh28).

Homely Les Rillettes (www.lesrillettes.fr; 0033 1 48 74 02 90) is the place for some quiet, quality “cuisine de grand-mère”. Try a cassoulet of confit duck topped off with grilled Cantal cheese. On average, mains cost €22 (Dh89).

Shopper’s paradise

Pigalle has two fashion streets: Rue Clauzel and Rue Henry-Monnier, both close to Rue des Martyrs. The former’s case is strengthened by the eclectic L’Oeuf (www.loeufparis.com; 0033 1 40 16 41 39), which boasts its own South Pigalle range.

Cheerleading for Rue Henry-Monnier are the local designer Vanina Escoubet (www.vaninaescoubet.com; 0033 1 42 74 31 42) and the vintage-loving Célia Darling (0033 1 56 92 19 12). Away from couture, inspect home accessories over a chai latte at the multi-concept Le Rocketship (www.lerocketship.com; 0033 1 48 78 23 66).

Don’t miss

Le Rocketship borders Place Gustave Toudouze, one of Paris’s prettiest squares, yet is something of a secret. Sip a pot of Darjeeling at the peacock-pink Kastoori (www.kastoori.fr; 0033 1 44 53 06 10), generally reckoned to be the city’s best Indian restaurant, or wolf down an organic egg mayo sandwich at Tea Folies (www.teafollies.fr; 0033 1 42 80 08 44), while admiring the cobbles, plane trees and a small, dark-green Wallace fountain.

What to avoid

SoPi might be a commonly written term, but don’t say it out loud: you’ll get frowningly ignored or, worse, laughed at.

Getting there

Etihad Airways (www.etihad.com) has twice-daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Paris, code-sharing with Air France. Return flights cost from Dh3,715, including taxes.


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Updated: August 6, 2015 04:00 AM



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