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Le Marche aux Enfants Rouges – Paris


This market in the North Marais was a gem of a find. It is the oldest covered market in Paris dating back to 1615. Slightly on the scruffy side, the food is nevertheless worth finding. The entrance is not immediately obvious and, when we went, was covered with scaffolding.

Le Marche des Enfants Rouges

The curious name of the market hails back to the 17th century when a nearby orphanage had the children dressed in red jackets.

Although there is some traditional market shopping to be done – fruit, veg and flowers – most of the stalls sell food to eat on site at little tables or to take away. The choices range from Caribbean cuisine to Japanese bento boxes, via Italian, French at L’Estaminet, organic roast chicken, brunch diners and – my absolute favourite – Moroccan.  There was a long queue for this stall that had a range of dishes that looked magnificent. I watched in awe while a man deftly made pastillas, flipping the pastry this way and that to encase the chicken or pigeon filling.

Pastilla Making Paris

There was a gigantic bowl of couscous with a variety of tagines. The lamb looked particularly fab with prunes, dried apricots and figs and nuts.

Lamb Tagine, Marche aux Enfants Rouges

Two chicken tagines, kofta topped with fried eggs, a lovely fresh Moroccan salad, vegetable tagine, merguez sausages, chicken kebabs and Moroccan bread. Then there was a range of pastries and mint tea. Oh my!

It was noon, a good time for lunch I thought, and we had found a perfect spot with a great vibe and even better food. I was salivating over the choice, tantalised by the lamb tagine or was it to be the chicken with olives?

Chicken Tagine Paris

We inched closer to the front of the queue and it was then that my men let me down. Badly. ‘I’m not hungry, mum,’ declared my younger. ‘Me neither’ said the older. ‘Nor am I’ admitted my husband. I was incredulous and really cross. ‘What do you mean ‘’not hungry’’ ‘, I protested. ‘You are always hungry. How can you not be hungry when we have found such wonderful food?’ They had been snacking all morning on baguettes that they had bought along the way. Now that I needed big appetites to feed with a wide range of delicious dishes they were refusing to eat at all.

Traiteur Marocain Paris

At this point we reached the front of the line and a decision had to be made instantly. I chose a chicken pastilla and a few merguez sauasages. I contemplated buying the tagines as a take away dinner but knew that we had an afternoon of walking ahead of us. I felt childish about feeling so cross with my men for not being hungry but was equally frustrated at not being able to feast on such plenty. We sat down at a plastic table and suddenly the merguez sausages disappeared and everyone wanted to taste my pastilla which was far and away the best of its kind I’ve ever eaten.

Pastillas at Traiteur Marocain, Paris

I berated myself for having misread my men and knew that I should have just gone ahead and ordered and they would have polished it all off. By then I could not face another queue and it was time to move on.

An hour later the men were suddenly hungry and ushered me into a creperie, where they tucked into galettes with ham, cheese and egg followed by large ice creams. I sulked over a bowl of soup. I’m not proud.

A few days later we returned one weekday afternoon to the Moroccan stall. The food was still there but the atmosphere was absent. We bought several pastillas to eat for lunch the following day and sat in the sun for a while sipping organic carrot and ginger juice from the organic stall, Le Coin Bio. It was pleasant but very quiet.

Take a Seat at Marche Aux Enfants Rouges, Paris

This is a market best visited at the weekend for brunch or lunch or during the week at lunchtime. I realised for the umpteenth time that special moments just appear unplanned on holidays and cannot be revisited.

Le Marche aux Enfants Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement. Mon – Sat 8.30 – 7.30 ; Sun 8.30 – 2.