British cafes win favour in Paris
A traditional English breakfast at Marcel. (Kim Laidlaw Adrey)
French restaurants have always been de rigueur in London, but this gastronomic relationship has never really been reciprocated on the other side of the channel. However the recent openings of a few great British cafes in Paris have confirmed a new culinary trend: English food is now all the rage in the City of Light.
It all started with Rose Bakery -- the bastion of the UK cafe scene in Paris -- which kicked off the trend for casual, homely fare with a British accent back in 2002, when their first branch opened in the south Pigalle area (46 rue des Martyrs, 9e, 01-42-82-12-80). Using organic and locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, the menu features innovative salads, seasonal tarts, cheese scones and even boiled eggs with marmite soldiers. The cafe was such a success that a Marais outpost opened in 2008 (30 Rue Debelleyme, 3e, 01-49-96-54-01) - and somewhat ironically, there is now even a branch in London.
Le Bal Cafe (6 Impasse de la Défense, 18e, 01-44-70-75-51) is a recently opened English eatery attached to the cultural centre Le Bal. With two ex-Rose Bakery chefs in the kitchen, it's no wonder that top-notch traditional British fare is the order of the day here. The casual setting on a quiet mews attracts the weekend crowds for its traditional British breakfast and lunch classics, including kippers on toast, Ploughman's lunch and kedgeree. It’s also a great place for tea and scones -- or Stilton and sherry -- after a wander around the latest exhibition at Le Bal.
Marcel (1 Villa Léandre, 18e, 01-46-06-04-04) is one the latest Anglophile additions to the capital, offering simple British-inspired fare and selling a selection of imported goodies such as Marmite and golden syrup. The small and sleek corner space gets packed out quickly at weekends, drawing in locals with classics such as fish and chips or a full English breakfast.
Although they might attract the odd homesick expat hankering after some Marmite on toast, these English cafes in Paris are primarily filled with a cosmopolitan crowd and are embraced by locals to the point where it’s hard to get a table at the weekend. What’s more, the food is so good that tourists - even those on a weekend break from London - should put them on their list of places to visit while in town.
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.