One of the two branches of Coutume which opened between my visits to Paris in 2013 and 2014, Coutume Instituutti is a collaboration with the Finnish Institute. Located on rue des Ecoles, the entrance is around the corner at 33, rue du Sommerard, a stone’s throw from one of my favourite Paris museums, Musee du Moyen Ages (Museum of the Middle Ages). However, during office hours, you can also get to the café through the Institute itself, via its step-free entrance on rue des Ecoles.
Since Coutume’s running the café, all the coffee is roasted by Coutume, with the usual selection on offer. There’s a small, very French, espresso menu, filter through V60 or Chemex, plus cold brew (I visited during the summer of cold brew) and tea. However, Instituutti has a quite un-French system of ordering and paying at the counter, then waiting for your coffee, the first time I’ve seen this in a French café of any sort. Having not been to any Nordic cafés, I can’t tell if this is the Finnish influence at work.
The café itself is a large, sparsely populated space, which, if I allow myself one criticism, can sometimes feel cold and clinical.
March 2018: it seems that the Finnish Institute is closed for refurbishment until the summer. Whether or not Coutume will remain as the house cafe when it reopens remains to be seen.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Instituutti is one of the strangest spaces I’ve been in. In most cafés, you enter at the front, with the counter at the back or to one side. At Instituutti, you come in behind the counter, and this is regardless if you’ve come in straight off the street or via the Institute, the only different being which side of the counter you arrive behind.
This does have the advantage that, if you like, you can stand by the door and watch the barista at work on the lovely, sleek Kees van der Westen espresso machine (the view is better from the rue du Sommerard entrance). I’m not sure what the staff would make of such behaviour, but since you’ll be between them and the door, I reckon you could get away with it. Just don’t tell them that it was my idea!
Instituutti occupies a gloriously large space with a soaring ceiling. It’s almost as tall as it is wide and it’s pretty wide. If you enter via rue du Sommerard, the back of the counter is ahead of you on your left, with the rest of the café stretching out before you. The bulk of the seating is provided by four long trestle tables running the width of the café. Each seats eight (four on each side) but could easily take twelve, so while technically communal tables, you get so much space, you could consider them individual seats. On the right there are five large windows, each with a second window above, which flood the place with light. The first three windows have their own two-person trestle tables, decorated with potted plants. There is also another table in the window immediately to your right as you come in, which means you can actually take a seat before you even get to the counter.
Despite all this seating, there is plenty of room, including a large, empty space at the far end, beyond the rows of tables. The left-hand wall, opposite the windows, has what can only be described as three black boxes projecting from it, while above the counter is enclosed space which looks like a library or study.
The interior is done out in pale colours. There are pale wooden floorboards, the walls are painted white and the furniture is a mix of pale wood and white plastic, which, combined with the high ceilings and large windows, give it a fantastic sense of space. The only contrast is provided by the dark wooden ceiling and shutters, plus the dark boxes projecting from the far wall. The atmosphere was quiet, one might even say studious, with lots of laptops and hushed conversation.
The counter, also made of pale wood, has the appearance of something you’d find in Ikea. The till is on the left, presumably to intercept you as you come in. Next come the cakes, which are separated from the espresso machine by the grinder. At the far end, on the right, is the EK43 grinder for the filter coffee.
I had an espresso was lovely. It was pulled very short, resulting in a thick, viscous drink which coated the inside of the mouth like a liquid hug. It was slightly brighter than I would have normally liked, but I could forgive it that for feeling so good.
|60 RUE DES ECOLES • PARIS • 75005 • FRANCE|
|www.facebook.com/coutumeinstituutti||+33 1 40 51 89 09|
|Monday||09:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Coutume (in-house; espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 19:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||09:00 – 19:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||09:00 – 19:00||Cards||Visa, Mastercard|
|Saturday||09:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 19:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Local||Visits||31th August 2014|
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