Café de Flore is a grand café in the old style, which, together with near neighbour Les Deux Magots, is a fixture of Paris’ Left Bank. Situated on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, Café de Flore dates back to 1885 and provides a taste of café life from early to mid-20th Century Paris. Popular with tourists and locals alike, it is, for me, part of something quintessentially Parisian, the stereo-typical grand café par excellence. Fortunately for me, Café de Flore actually lives up to my (potentially exaggerated) expectations.
The coffee is good and there’s a range of food from breakfast through lunch to dinner, along with a range of pastries. If coffee’s not your thing, there’s tea, hot chocolate, soft drinks and a very impressive array of drinks from the bar, including a whole page on the menu dedicated to champagne (this is, after all, France). The only potential downside is the price: for a city with a reputation for being on the expensive side, expect to pay twice as much in Café de Flore as you would elsewhere in Paris. Of course, you’re paying for the experience and that little touch of class, which, for me, is well worth it!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Let’s get something out of the way to start with: you don’t come to Café de Flore for the coffee. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the coffee. In fact, my café expresso (as it’s styled on the menu) was very fine; not, in my book, a true espresso, but reminiscent of the coffee I experienced in France 20 years ago. Very generous in size (you can order a double for €1 more), it is more akin to a long black in volume. If all this sounds critical, it’s not meant to be; in fact, I really like Café de Flore’s coffee. It’s smooth, strong and equally enjoyable as is or as a café au lait in the morning.
Of course, you come for the experience and a touch of class, complete with black waist-coated waiters in floor-length white aprons and prices to match. I try to visit Café de Flore at least once during any trip to Paris, either in the afternoon for coffee and cake (this trip) or for breakfast, which, while expensive, is not outrageously so. This is particularly true when compared to some other Parisian cafés where you might only pay half as much, but get nothing close in terms of quality or quantity.
There’s plenty of seating options: Café de Flore has three outside terraces, a downstairs salon and another on the first floor, although I’ve yet to crack how to get to sit up there (and lack the nerve just to walk in!). The main terrace is an enclosed area between the salon and the Boulevard Saint-Germain, while there is a further terrace on the Saint-Germain pavement with a canopy for protection from the rain. The third terrace is a semi-enclosed area on the Rue Saint-Benoit side with another canopy for a rainy day.
Normally I sit out in the main terrace, a glass construction which is shielded from the sun by the generous canopy. I find that the other two, often open to the elements, are too noisy and too smoky for me. However, for this visit, I decided to sit in the salon, which is just as well since there was no space outside and, as it turned out, precious little inside. In my many visits to Café de Flore, it’s always been busy, but this was the busiest I’ve seen it.
Seating is at small two or four person tables which can be pushed together for larger groups. Inside, the space is divided up by padded red leather benches. Although it can be crowded, it feels quite spacious, with two of the walls given over almost entirely to windows and the third, opposite the main door, to large mirrors. The final wall, to your left as you come in, is concealed by a large counter, behind which is the kitchen. In the corner is a spiral staircase leading up to the upper salon and the toilets.
I wouldn’t call Café de Flore relaxed or relaxing. There is a constant bustle of the waiters and an impressive background hum of conversation. Unsurprisingly there is no music. However, for a touch of class, and as the quintessential Parisian café experience, it’s well worth it a visit. Just ensure you save up before you go!
|172 BOULEVARD SAINT-GERMAIN • 75006 PARIS • FRANCE|
|www.cafedeflore.fr||+33 (0) 1 45 48 55 26|
|Monday||07:00 – 02:00||Seating||Tables, Tables Outside|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 02:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 02:00||Service||Table|
|Thursday||07:00 – 02:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||07:00 – 02:00||Wifi||No|
|Saturday||07:00 – 02:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||07:00 – 02:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||No||Visits||2009, 2011, 2012, 23rd May 2013|
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I’m sure I’ve made my thoughts on Parisian coffee clear. But what I also really appreciate is the Left Bank milieu. The idea of sitting outside and drinking an espresso whilst reading Sartre is very powerful, and it’s for that that I enjoy Paris. Also, the revolutionary air that seems still present, despite the fact that city is so elegant and sophisticated.
You’ve not shared your thoughts with the Coffee Spot before. Have you seen my “rant” on attitudes to Parisian coffee? I’d be interested to know what you think.
Sorry, I meant I’ve made them clear on my blog. I did see your ‘rant’: it was very measured. And I think I agreed and disagreed with you in roughly equal measure!
Go on, give us a link (if it’s a specific article). Save us all having to look through the entire blog (unless that was your cunning plan!).
Ah sorry, you commented on the article where I did a little slating of Paris coffee so I thought you’d seen it. It’s here if you’d like to recap! http://nocoffeeleftbehind.com/2012/09/29/seven-lessons-learned-paris/
I remember now… Oops. Thanks for the reminder. And the link 🙂
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