When I think of le petit dej, the first thing that springs to mind is tartines with butter and jam, a black coffee and maybe a croissant au beurre.
Breakfast doesn’t tend to be the main event in France, after all, a heavy breakfast would mean no space for the boeuf bourguignon or the steak frites for lunch. But as a Londoner who is obsessed with brunch, I was pleased to see how well established the brunch trend is in Paris, where I spent part of my year abroad. Not only that, but the French have coined a Franglais verb which encapsulates the tradition aptly: bruncher.
It’s said that brunch originated in the UK in the 19th century and in the US in the 1930s and the breakfast-lunch tradition has rapidly been spreading around the world ever since. But every cuisine has put a slight twist on the traditional Anglo-American brunch, each creating its own idiosyncratic version.
In France, bread is, of course, still a crucial part of brunch, but the baguette is often exchanged for a New York sourdough and the classic black coffee is exchanged for a latte. Unlike the traditional petit dej, brunch is not for those looking for something frugal. It’s a hearty meal, but most importantly, it’s a sociable meal. And if there’s one thing which the French always get right, it’s making dining a collective affair.
So where are the best places for brunch in Paris? Here are my top suggestions, mostly from the Montmartre area, where I lived:
1. Marlette – rue des Martyrs – 9th Arrondissement
An adorable café located on one of the most gourmand streets in Paris, this café is perfect for those who love eggs for breakfast. The coffee is smooth and velvety and is served with a madeleine on the side. The café also has outside seating which is perfect for when the sunny weather comes to Paris and you can even purchase some of their viennoiseries in the café whilst you’re there. Perfect for a stop-off point on the way to Montmartre.
2. La Bossue – Buttes Montmartre – 18th Arrondissement
A small, cosy, charming café situated next to rue Lépic, La Bossue is a true Parisian gem that’s easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully. The aromas of fresh patisserie will entice you straight away and it’s the perfect stop-off point if you’re heading up to the Sacre Cœur. The brunch is closer to a more traditional French breakfast, serving brioche, croissant, scrambled eggs, granola, and orange juice: you’ll feel at home straight away.
3. Papilles – rue de Rochechouart – 9th Arrondissement
Described as le café bobo-brooklynien, and located in the trendy area of Pigalle, Papilles is a must-visit for anyone looking for an American-style brunch. I had the fluffy pancakes with fried egg and maple bacon, and it was unbeatable! The décor is very hip and trendy, adorned with dried flowers and velvet sofas, and they serve brunch all day long. What’s not to love?
4. Café Foufou – rue Oberkampf – 11th Arrondissement
Probably one of the most Instagram-able cafés I’ve ever been to! I had their poached eggs with avocado and smoked salmon on sourdough and it was delicious. The fruit salad looked amazing, and the French toast looked truly decadent. It’s also just a short walk from the Marais, so it’s the perfect location for those looking to do a bit of shopping afterward. Everything is served on picture-perfect plates and the café’s motto, merci la vie, gives you a taste of the café’s laid-back, chilled philosophy. You won’t leave disappointed!
5. La Recyclerie – Boulevard Ornano – 18th Arrondissement
By far the quirkiest brunch place on my list. Located just a short distance from the flea market in Saint Ouen, La Recyclerie is located on a disused railway called La Petite Ceinture. Not only does it serve food but it’s also home to a whole menagerie of animals and over 200 species of plants. Its ethos is all about sustainability, no waste, and recycling. There are only two options for brunch: vegetarian and vegan, and the food is all seasonal and freshly grown. There is something different served every week, so you never quite know what to expect – nevertheless, it’s always delicious and filling. Everything is stripped back and simple: there’s no table service and the leftover bread is given to the animals so as not to go to waste.
It’s fair to say that the Anglo-American brunch has become a robust tradition in France, and especially in the capital. So why not try it out? Allons-y!
Have you tried any of these brunch spots? Do you have other favourites to add to the list? Please share to comments below.