Brooklyn ambiance and not a tourist in sight. Benoit Castel’s boulangerie in the 20th arrondissement may not be in the center of Parisian action, but it’s well worth the trek. And not just for the unlimited weekend brunch.
For starters, the spacious loft-like space is a welcome change from the tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafés in more central neighborhoods. It means that those who crave Castel’s pillow-shaped pain du coin, his signature bread, or other delectable pastries from his 11th-arrondissement outpost, can now enjoy them along with a drink at one of the rustic vintage tables in Ménilmontant.
Surrounded by raw brick walls and cement floor, Castel and his team can be spotted whipping up soups and tarts in the large open-plan kitchen. In a corner, an old wood-burning oven harks back to the location’s history, which used to house Ganachaud, the boulangerie that relaunched artisanal baguettes in the 1970s.
During the week, the boulangerie doubles as an informal office for laptop-equipped locals, who drop by for coffee and viennoiseries, quirkily served on cutting boards in lieu of trays, or a sandwich (or salad) and dessert for lunch.
For a more consistent breakfast, there is a €9.90 formule that includes a hot drink, fresh fruit juice, pastry, baguette, and Castel’s jam, which can be purchased to take home as a souvenir too.
If planning to come for brunch, make sure you come early (no reservations) and on an empty stomach. The €29 all-you-can-eat buffet brunch offers a cornucopia of French comfort food in the guide of hearty quiches, scrambled eggs, baby potato salad, artisanal charcuterie and cheese, all accompanied — of course — by a selection of Castel’s delectable breads. If there’s still room, indulge in French grandma-style desserts like chocolate fondant, clafoutis, and rice pudding. After all, the slopes of Parc de Belleville are only a short calorie-burning stroll away.
Benoit Castel – 150 rue de Ménilmontant, 75020. Metro: Saint-Fargeau. Tel: +33 (0)1 46 36 13 82. Open Wed-Fri, 7:30am-8pm. Open Sat 8am-8pm and Sun 8am-6pm. Brunch is served Sat and Sun 10:30am-3:00pm. No reservations.
Written by Elena Berton for HiP Paris. All photographs courtesy of Benoit Castel. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, Tuscany, Umbria or Liguria? Check out Haven In.