L’Onzième could put the Marais out of business. These days the trendsetters known as "Bobos" (short for "bourgeois-bohèmes") are swarming Paris’s 11ème arrondissement, east of the Marais and west of Père Lachaise Cemetery, for cool fashion, cutting-edge cuisine, and nightlife that rocks. The early siren song for this crowd of successful designers, architects and actors was the district’s rambling woodworker’s lofts ripe for renovation, and in the last few years they’ve sparked a wave of ahead-of-the-curve eateries, high-spirited fashion boutiques and "bio" wine shops.
We found a cache of organic and biodynamic wines, many under $10, at Le Verre Vole (38 Rue Oberkampf, tel. 01 43 14 99 46), located on a stretch of rotisserie chicken stands and mom-and-pop bakeries. A few blocks away on Rue de la Folie-Méricourt, voguish boutiques are sprouting like wildflowers. At Mixing Club (42 Rue de la Folie-Méricourt, tel. 01 43 55 02 74) artist Sebastian Libbrocht transforms secondhand castoffs into gallery-worthy household accessories. Markethic (44 Rue de la Folie-Méricourt, tel. 0872 192 879) offers rare Third World
products like South American chocolates and Iranian rose oil at fair-trade prices, and the art gallery cum wine shop La Cave de L’Insolite (50, Rue de la Folie-Méricourt, tel 01 533 60 833), which translates aptly as "the strange one," sources a rich trove of "bio" wines. Surrounding this loft-like cellar is an eclectic collection of 19th-century glassware, lavish culinary tomes, Japanese sculpture, and the odd dinosaur bone. Its food-savvy staff will hunt down the best pairing for the tangy farmstead cheese at the souk-like Marché Couvert Beauvau on nearby Place d’Aligre, slathered on a hunk of country bread from the organic artisan bakery Moisan (5 pl d’Aligre, 12th, tel. 01 43 45 46 60).
Café life is the heart of the 11ème. Media types gather at pause-café (41 Rue de Charonne, tel. 01 48 06 80 33) for homey plates of soupe d’aubergines, and at the gaslight-era Pure Café (14, Rue Jean Mace, tel. 01 43 71 47 22) for modern fusion dishes like Hawaiian poke and Vietnamese-inspired chocolate nem (egg rolls) with coffee sauce and
green cardamom. On a narrow street off throbbing Bastille Square, Cafe de L’industrie (16 & 17 Rue Saint-Sabin, tel. 01 47 00 13 53) rides a nostalgia wave with thick red curtains, leather banquette and a traditional menu of hearty leeks vinaigrette and saucisse puree a l’ancienne. The best place to mix with locals is Le Kitch (10 Rue Oberkampf, tel. 01 40 21 94 94), a wonky storefront bar plastered with ’70s magazine ads that turns into a nightly party.
Residents of the most genteel Paris precincts sometimes weekend at the design-mad Murano Urban Resort (13 Boulevard du Temple, tel. 01 42 71 20 00), sister hotel to St. Tropez’s Byblos. They come for an intoxicating dose of futuristic style: dramatic light sculptures that illuminate nearly pitch-black hallways, doors that open with fingerprints instead of keys and sybaritic wall-free loos with soaking tubs in full view of the bed. For guests who manage to leave the rooms (there’s no hope for those booked in the suites with private pools), there are high-end Cognacs, 100 international vodkas, and fine cigars at the bar engulfed in video color and sound just off the lobby. The restaurant seamlessly fuses the styles of two young chefs from contrary backgrounds—traditionally trained Julien Chicoisne from hotel Fermes de Marie in Megeve, and Pierre Auge from London’s trendy Sketch—whose outlooks merge in light, brightly flavored dishes.
L’Onzième is an enchanted quarter where the avant-garde mingles peacefully with old-time ethnic haunts. So if you hear me say I’m returning to pump up my "fashion cred" at Onze (11 Rue Oberkampf, tel. 01 43 55 32 11) with indie labels like Just In Case; or to find my inner Catherine Deneuve among the vintage lingerie at Nuits de Satin (9 Rue Oberkampf, tel. 01 43 57 65 05), don’t believe a word. I’m going back for the char-crusted rounds of Algerian bread at Boulangerie Belala (14 Rue Ternaux, tel. 01 43 55 61 24), and to Les Noces d’Or (59 Av. Philippe Auguste, tel. 01 48 50 74 77) for those Algerian pastries laced with rosewater and pistachio that made my knees weak.