Paris as the City of Love has become a cliche, almost, but even the most hardened cynic will find it difficult not to fall for its charms.
At every turn, there is a romantic Instagram-worthy spot - a graceful Art Deco metro entrance, a corner bistro with matching red wicker chairs, a busker with an accordion serenading passers-by with La Vie En Rose and, of course, the Eiffel Tower popping up unexpectedly above grey Haussmann buildings. There is also dog poop lurking every few hundred steps on the pavement, but let's not destroy the illusion.
If you want to say "Je t'aime" without hordes of tourists intruding, avoid those love locks on the bridges across the River Seine and head to these five romantic dining spots.
1. LE TRAIN BLEU (WWW.LE-TRAIN-BLEU.COM)
For a trip back in time
If you are looking to make a grand gesture or perhaps pop “The Question”, then Le Train Bleu is your top pick.
Tucked rather incongruously above the hustle and bustle of the Gare de Lyon train station, the restaurant is a most romantic moment frozen in time – 1901, to be exact, which was when it opened.
Overwhelmingly opulent and a sensory overload of gilt, the cavernous interior is dripping with crystal chandeliers and almost every possible surface is smothered with frescoes.
The food comes with a similar wow factor (with prices to match; the Valentine’s Day set menu is €140 or S$215 a person).
The flambe dishes, in particular, are showstoppers. Consider this a once-in-a-lifetime splurge.
2. CANARD ET CHAMPAGNE (WWW.CANARDETCHAMPAGNE.COM)
For the odd couple
Duck and champagne are an unlikely combination, but it is a brilliant coupling at this modern-meets-traditional bistro.
Choose from French classics such as duck confit and seared duck breast or go for the satisfyingly meaty duck burger, all made with free-range organic ducks.
Pair it with the bubbly sourced from small producers in the country.
Getting to the restaurant is a romantic journey as you have to traipse through a secret passage to get there.
The Passages des Panoramas, the oldest covered passage in Paris, is a maze of shops selling wine, vintage books and collectible stamps, and the area probably does not look much different from when it was built 220 years ago.
3. UN THE DANS LE JARDIN AT THE MUSEE DE LA VIE ROMANTIQUE (MUSEEVIEROMANTIQUE.PARIS.FR)
For the total romantic
This is the ultimate romantic rendezvous - a museum devoted to Romanticism, complete with a darling tea room.
Highlights of the museum include plaster casts of literary figure George Sand's right arm and her lover Frederic Chopin's left hand.
After a leisurely tour of the paintings and sculptures of the Romantic era - entry to the permanent collection is free - retreat to the tea room.
There, in a shoe box-sized glasshouse, you are sheltered against the elements and perhaps even the realities of life, as you sip tea and nibble on delicate organic pastries from Rose Bakery.
If you are lucky, you may be able to snag the only two seats in a little balcony nook, where you can utter sweet nothings to each other in private.
4. HUITRERIE REGIS (HUITRERIE-REGIS.COM)
For a dose of aphrodisiac
The food of love is not, well, music. It is oysters.
Slurp up these aphrodisiacs, freshly shucked and super succulent, in this intimate oyster bar the size of a postage stamp.
Feed each other the molluscs driven up daily from Marennes-Oleron, the famed oyster fields in the south-west of France, or choose from seasonal offerings such as clams, sea urchin and shrimps.
To put you in the mood, wash it all down with some champagne.
The place is always packed, so turn up the moment it opens, as it does not accept reservations.
Alternatively, you can canoodle at the bar while you wait for a table and watch the oyster shucker at work. This is about as fresh as it gets.
5. LE CHALET DES ILES (CHALET-DES-ILES.COM)
For those willing to go the distance
This restaurant in the middle of a lake takes "off the beaten track" to a new level.
In the day, during the warm seasons, you can get to it by renting a rowboat (€12 an hour) and spend a couple of idyllic hours rowing on the lake with your beloved before and after lunch.
If you do not fancy working up a sweat, there is a free barge with a boatman to take you across the water, which is no less poetic.
Time your arrival at sunset for maximum effect.
If that is not romantic enough, the restaurant is decorated like a cosy ski chalet, with dark woods, dim lights and plush velvet seats.
There are small plates on the menu, such as salmon tataki and foie gras, which are perfect for sharing.
• Suzanne Sng is a former Straits Times journalist based in Paris as an independent editorial consultant.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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