Having lived in Paris for five years, I have experienced a full spectrum of highs (euphoria) and lows (disillusionment) of expat life. And throughout those emotional dips I’ve observed the local evolutions – the highs and lows – of the city itself.
Kedgeree – typical British dish
Perhaps the most noticeable evolution has been in food and drink with the warmly welcomed arrival of foreign talent. Ethnic fare and American diners and burger joints aside, the Anglo food curve has largely been dominated by the reigning hipster brunch institution, Rose Bakery, which opened back in 2002. But Rose is no longer the only canteen on the Paris food scene cooking up high-quality, authentic English dishes, as evidenced by the recent spate of Anglo-inspired eateries.
The most talked about of late, Le Bal Café, was immediately moved to the top of my must-try list after I read Erica’s stellar review of their cappuccino. Commended not only for their coffee but their no-frills traditional English brunch menu, I rallied up some out-of-town guests and my Frenchman and bolted north to test it out.
Tucked in charming alleyway behind the noisy Place de Clichy in the 18th, Le Bal Café is the product of former Rose Bakery and St. John’s Bread and Wine Franco-British chefs and sits just next to Le Bal, an ultra-cool exhibition space and gallery (entry: 4€, accessible from within the café). The café’s minimalist décor and bright, natural light from the tall windows looking out onto a cozy terrace and public playground keeps the focus on the food. Rest assured, however, this is not your typical ‘museum’ café. Pancakes and fried eggs and bacon are on offer but so are dishes you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Paris.
Welsh rarebit, scones with butter and jam, kippers with toast and lemon posset go down smoothly with freshly squeezed juices and tea. Our British brunch guest highly recommended we try kedgeree (flaked haddock, boiled rice & parsley, hard-boiled eggs and light curry), a dish she knew well and later confirmed was prepared just as it should be.
The famous crumble
As we cleaned our plates and asked for the dessert list, our waiter crossed off the sold-out desserts from the giant chalkboard featuring their menu. Thankfully, we claimed the two remaining grainy and indulgent apple crumbles we spotted moments after arriving.
The crumble, devoured.
Everything was a delight but what really won me over was the cappuccino. Exquisite taste, perfect foam to milk ratio, and served with a smile from one of Le Bal’s bilingual baristas. Finishing off the meal with an espresso and a promise to return soon, I left convinced that some of the city’s best food isn’t French at all. And you know what? That’s just fine.
Le Bal Café
6, Impasse de la Défense, 75018
Métro: Place de Clichy
Open: Wed – Sun, noon – evening
- Erica Berman reports on Le Bal Café and others in her Paris coffee roundup
- Kim from I Heart Paris reports on other hip eatery Grazie
- Your Spring Paris fashion staple, courtesy of Badaude: the trench.