In the famous words of Audrey Hepburn in the film Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea.” In the 70 years since the film was released, the French capital has lost none of its allure, but in the last two decades has become one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world.

For the food-loving traveller, its gastronomic evolution means the offerings go far beyond the traditional bistro and brasserie, and many restaurants and food experiences are intertwined with its ecological evolution. There are rooftop farms and kitchen gardens, and a wide choice of vegan and vegetarian dining options. There are also food tours and restaurants that open your eyes and tastebuds to new flavours and cooking styles. And better still, all you need to do to get there is hop on a train.

Eurostar has long been the easiest way to get to Paris, yet its appeal in recent years has been its low impact on the environment. Not only does the journey by train result in 93% lower carbon emissions than flying (4kg compared to 57.8kg per passenger) but the dining service holds the highest 3-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The bonus for the food lover is that the meals served in Business Premier and Standard Premier have been created by star chef Raymond Blanc.

As I sip a glass of ice-cold champagne and watch the Kent countryside whizz by, I tuck into a bracing leek vinaigrette starter that beats any bistro version I’ve tried, followed by an equally delicious fish dish and dessert. Despite the confines of eating from a tray, the flavours set a high bar for what is to follow.

Nature Urbaine is the world’s largest urban farm and spans 14,000 square metres – the size of two football pitches.

Paris’ Mayor Anne Hildalgo is transforming the city and its green policies such as new cycle paths and green spaces, yet food sustainability remains a challenge for a city of 2.2 million people. With so little space to grow its own food, Paris has looked to its rooftops to garden. Nature Urbaine is the world’s largest urban farm and spans 14,000 square metres – the size of two football pitches - on the top of the Salon d’Expositions exhibition hall in the 15th arrondissement.

In summer, it flourishes with hydroponically grown fresh produce, such as strawberries, tomatoes and aubergine. The produce is supplied to the adjoining rooftop restaurant Le Perchoir, and other restaurants in the area, to which they deliver on foot. Nothing is wasted, either, explained Project Manager Eugénie Mercier, “We work with a charity organisation called Rebelle who take the ugly produce, or what we can’t sell, and turn it into jams and chutneys.” At Le Perchoir, meanwhile, the produce is woven into its sophisticated menu, so tomatoes are served – for example – in a burrata and pear sauce, with shavings of fennel and pickled pears. Even its other ingredients are chosen with care; the mezcal for its cocktails is imported from Mexico by carbon-neutral shipping, and suppliers are asked to reduce their packaging or deliver in reusable containers.

The rooftop farm at Nu-Paris

Paris’ many celebrated rooftops and structures have long been part of the city’s ecological efforts; since 2005 the Eiffel Tower has been partly powered by wind turbines on its structure, while beehives have been on the roof of the Opera Garnier since 2014, with the honey sold in the gift shop (current renovations have paused production in the short-term).

Hotels are also making the most of their lofty spaces. At Brach, a Philippe Starck-designed hotel in the 16th arrondissement, the rooftop is given over to their potager garden, which is also used to host events and cocktail parties. There’s even a hot tub that can be booked by guests. When I venture up there on a bright morning, the views of Paris’ silver-grey rooftops and the Eiffel Tower are spectacular. After browsing the various raised beds, brimming with apple trees, raspberry canes, bay trees and rosemary – which are all used in the hotel’s stylish restaurant – I sit in the sun with a coffee breathing in the scent of the herbs, while the hens housed in the large rooftop coop cluck in the background.

Paris’ rooftops offer up a huge variety of dining options, too. The most famous of all is Le Tour d’Argent, renowned for its pressed duck and spectacular views of the River Seine, which reopened in September after a long refurbishment. Away from the classic bonnes addresses, there are myriad opportunities to try other kinds of French cuisine with a side-order of incredible views. Dar Mima is a new restaurant on the rooftop of L’Institut du Monde Arabe, itself an architectural wonder with a façade that features an extraordinary geometric pattern of 240 mashrabiyas. Made from photoelectric cells and mobile apertures, they control the amount of sunlight coming into the building depending on the sun’s brightness, which helps it manage its energy usage.

Tables at Dar Mima

On the top floor, the sumptuous restaurant Dar Mima is decorated with wood marquetry, hand-painted frescoes and engraved ceilings, and offers a menu of Middle Eastern classics, such as couscous - a dish that is regularly voted by the French as the nation’s favourite. However, it’s the side order of Lebanese batata harra potatoes that completely wins me over, along with the smoky baba ghanoush and the chicken tajine, flavoured with fine slices of confit lemon. After lunch, I wander leisurely through the rooftop garden, which is planted with almond, jasmine, lemon and palm trees, and gaze out onto the superb view of the Seine’s two islands, the Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, where the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral stand proud. As I head back to the Gare du Nord the next day, it seems to me that there’s only one way to characterise the last few days spent seeing a different side of the city: Paris is, and always will be, a good idea.

See a different side to Paris 

Take a cheese tour

Paris by Mouth’s excellent tours have been showing visitors the best of the capital’s culinary scene since 2010. While many tours focus on different neighbourhoods, their cheese and wine tastings allow you to discover the best of France’s cheeses and wines without travelling any further. Tour leader Jennifer Greco is a true cheese expert who manages to bring to life the different regions’ best cheeses, their flavours and stories. As she takes you on a tour de fromages, she matches some more than memorable wines to accompany them.

Taste Sub-Saharan African cuisine

Paris has long had communities from Sub-Saharan Africa living in the city, yet its cuisine is only just having its moment in the spotlight. Chef Mory Sacko, whose parents come from Mali, won France’s first ever Michelin star for west and central African cuisine for his restaurant MoSuke in 2020. Meanwhile in the Chateau Rouge and Goutte d’Or districts (18th arrondissement) has a number of places to explore such as the restaurant Mama Kossa, for dishes that incorporate flavours such as plantain and ndole. Also visit the concept store Little Africa Village for art, jewellery and crafts.

Hotel Lutetia in Paris

Two-Michelin-starred dining in a Paris mansion

If you’re looking to push the boat out in a big way, Le Clarence, nestled in a stunning 18th-century townhouse just off the Champs Elysée on Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could very well be the best port of call. Owned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president of Domaine Clarence Dillon (which produces top bordeaux Haut-Brion), he’s brought the same sensations of visiting the château to the heart of Paris. Cheffing comes compliments of one Christophe Pelé, who worked at top Paris fine dining establishments Ledoyen, Lasserre, Pierre Gagnaire, and Le Bristol before helming the kitchens at Le Clarence when it opened doors in 2015. Not long after, he was awarded two Michelin stars for his innovative, pioneering tasting menus.

Vegan and vegetarian cuisine

Although France has long been a destination that proves difficult for vegetarians and vegans, the city is embracing the plant-based diet revolution. Restaurants such as Le Potager de Charlotte serve a fully vegan menu, while food markets such as Le Marché des Enfants Rouge in Le Marais offer many different stands with vegan options. Meanwhile, other restaurants are increasingly including one or two vegetarian or vegan dishes on their menus.

Movie star rooftops

At the Hotel Lutetia on the legendary Left Bank, its rooftop suites are among the city’s most impressive hotel rooms. Its Eiffel Suite has a view of the nominal Tower from every window, and has the feeling of a little apartment. Once you go out onto the rooftop – complete with a dining suite to invite your friends for dinner – you get a spectacular 360-degree view that includes the top of the Pantheon, Saint-Sulpice church and the Sacre-Coeur. Other suites have been designed by and in honour of some of the world’s most revered stars: Francis Ford Coppola, Isabelle Huppert and Josephine Baker.