In a quiet corner of the 5eme arrondisment of Paris lies a hidden gem. The beautiful structure that is La Grande Mosquée de Paris is one of the largest mosques in Paris and has held its location for many many years.
Unfortunately we were there on a Friday, the religious day for Muslims, and so visitation was closed for the day. I’ve heard however that they have beautiful gardens of which we were only able to sneak a peak from the top of the staircase. Definitely must revisit!
If you continue to walk around the periphery of the structure, on the corner facing the back of Jardins des Plantes is an ornate wooden door which serves as an entryway towards a lovely arabesque-style garden. The sound of trickling water from the small fountain combined with the mosaic-designed walls and casual seating arrangment stole our hearts right away. Unfortunately it was a little too cold to enjoy sitting outside so we opted for dinner inside.
The restaurant/café is huge and there is even a hammam if you wish to treat yourself to an oriental pampering experience! The interiors were decorated quite elaborately with wall mosaics, colored tiles, oriental paintings and huge ornate bronze trays that served as table-tops. On the menu for us was an excellent pastilla – a Tunisian pastry filled with chicken, raisins a combination of delicious spices and covered in sugar (yum) – kebabs and some Tunisian desserts served with Morrocan teas. It was quite a meal and it felt so wonderful to extract ourselves from the typical Parisian brasserie experience.
Mind you the service was dodgy to say the very least. Our waiter (bless him) was totally and utterly clueless. We asked about a few badly-described items on the menu and he either read aloud the (bad) descriptions we had on the menus in our hands (!) or fumbled his descriptions like a master zig-zagger so that we didn’t understand anymore than we had before asking the question! Of-course I couldn’t stifle my giggles and thankfully he too found the situation amusing. Clueless I tell you! Thankfully the food and ambiance more than compensated for our unattentive, aloof waiter. We did get a free mint tea out of it though! ; )
Definitely definitely a must-do! The desserts are heavy but very good! You can find out more here.