Sunday, 10 March 2013


10 of the best cafes in Paris
Amélie's Paris … Cafe des deux Moulins was where the film character worked as a waitress. Photograph: Alamy

The number of French cafes has steeply declined over the past few decades, as the country's celebrated cafe culture has battled against legal and societal challenges – most recently a smoking ban, but also a general reluctance to adapt to a younger clientele. Yet in Paris, where the romantic's idea of a good time is to while the afternoon away on a sidewalk table, nursing a petit noir (an espresso) and observing passers-by, cafes are still a long way from oblivion. Every Parisian has a favourite haunt – one that may have no distinguishing feature besides being around the corner from his apartment or workplace – and nothing will make you feel local like finding one of your own. But in the meantime, here's a selection of notable spots that place a particular emphasis on the ambiance and the quality of the coffee.

The Café des 2 Moulins' claim to fame came in the form of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's instant classic film Amélie, which used it as the heroine's charmingly vintage place of employ. Ten years after the film's release, tourists still pop in on their pilgrimage tour of Amélie's Montmartre, but it has largely gone back to being a comfy neighbourhood café – minus the tobacco counter, which has been nixed in favour of more sitting room. The scatter of tables and bright red chairs on the sloping pavement is the perfect vantage point from which to observe the lively street market.
• 15 rue Lepic, 18th, +33 1 4254 9050. Métro: Blanche

Just a block from the Comédie Française theatre and the Louvre, this century-old coffee shop stocks more than 20 varieties of single-origin beans and house blends, freshly roasted and gloriously aromatic. It also operates as a quaint salon de café, where you can sample the coffee of your choice (about €3) with an optional slice of cake provided by an Austrian pastry shop across town. The cosy window seats in the upstairs room are particularly enviable.
256 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st, +33 1 4260 6739, Métro: Pyramides

Although Parisians have (depressingly) taken to Starbucks like ducks to water, coffee buffs prefer to quench their thirst for American-style coffee establishments at Merce & The Muse, an East Village-hip coffee shop run by a young American expat in the upper Marais. Exacting about the quality of her beans (ordered from Copenhagen's Coffee Collective) and the technique to brew them, she has attracted a loyal clientele who sit stylishly around the low communal table with a real latte (€4) and a homemade carrot muffin.
• 1 bis rue Dupuis, 3rd, +33 9 5314 5304. Métro: Temple

A refuge for coffee purists just across the river from the Ile Saint-Louis, La Caféothèque ("the coffee library") was created by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan who prides herself on offering the world's finest coffees, imported in direct trade from small plantations. The beans are roasted daily in the big yellow roaster out front, filling the air with irresistible aromas, and are brewed by trained baristas, using an espresso machine from famed Florence maker La Marzocco.
• 52 rue de l'Hôtel de Ville, 4th, +33 1 5301 8384, Métro: Pont Marie

The stone walls and wooden floorboards at Café de la Nouvelle Mairie have borne witness to countless idealistic student conversations, close as it is to the Sorbonne, the lycée Henri IV and the Ecole Normale Supérieure. More recently, the sidewalk terrace that looks out on to a tiny square has become a gathering point for the artsy characters pouring out from the Universal Music offices across the street, and on the tables you're as likely to see cups of coffee as glasses of natural wine (starting from €4) from the well-curated chalkboard list.
 19 rue des Fossés, 5th, +33 1 4407 0441. Métro: Cardinal Lemoine


Le Comptoir du Relais is best known as chef Yves Camdeborde's deservedly touted restaurant, where he serves an excellent taster menu on week nights (for which it is very hard to score a reservation) and Basque-inspired bistro dishes the rest of the time. In the afternoon, between lunchtime and dinner, the Comptoir also operates as a cafe, and its small terrace is the perfect spot to sit and drink while watching the bustling carrefour de l'Odéon.
• 3 carrefour de l'Odéon, 6th, +33 1 4427 0797. Métro: Odéon
Coutume Café was recently opened by a passionate French-Australian duo, whose ambition is to speed up the revival of the Paris coffee scene and wean Parisians from the substandard, acrid robusta most cafés still insist upon. Their high-ceilinged lab-cum-cafe is a coffee geek's dream: beans are roasted on site and brewed in just about every contraption known to man – including a Japanese siphon, a steam-punk cold drip machine that produces exceptional coffee in 24 hours, and the first "Strada" Marzocco espresso machine in Paris.
• 47 rue de Babylone, 7th, +33 1 4551 5047, Métro: Saint-François-Xavier
Serial restaurateur Thierry Costes and street artist André Emmanuel have created this pocket-sized hotel, located in the happening Pigalle area. The restaurant on the ground floor is open all day, and outside of the crazy meal hours it is a pleasant, quiet place to have coffee or a Perrier-rondelle (sparkling water with a slice of lemon) – especially if the weather allows you to sit in the lovely courtyard garden out back, with its greenery and mini-pond.
• 8 rue de Navarin, 9th, +33 1 4878 3180, Métro: Saint-Georges
le petit chateau d'eau
A stone's throw from the place de la République and the Canal Saint-Martin, le Petit Château d'Eau is one of those old cafes that have retained a friendly and unaffected feel to them, despite the gentrification of the area. The original fixtures are still there – flowery wall tiling, leatherette banquettes – and regulars can be seen at the zinc bar, gulping down an espresso before work or a glass of wine after, and tucking into the humble French fare offered at meal times.
• 34 rue du Château d'eau, 10th, +33 1 4208 7281. Métro: Jacques Bonsergent
If it feels like you're on top of the world, it's because you are: La Mer à Boire overlooks the Parc de Belleville, one of the highest points in Paris, which offers a gorgeous vista of the cityscape all the way out to the Eiffel Tower. At the first sign of balmy weather, the large paved terrace is in high demand with the young local crowd, but inside is just as nice: the bright orange cafe offers free Wi-Fi, and serves as a gallery for cartoonists and graphic novelists, as well as a concert hall for young musicians on weekend nights.
• 1 rue des Envierges, 20th, +33 1 4358 2943, Métro: Pyrénées

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