It had to be my favorite (slightly jaded) commentating vagabond of food and travel, one Anthony Bourdain, who reminded me that I forgot to ever pen my quintessential experience of a café in Paris I never even had on my initial itinerary.
It took a French friend of mine, a little Paris Fashion Week exhaustion, and a parched mouth, to lead me to what is apparently an infamous Parisian haunt of the stars.
While in Paris, my days began early.
Easily refreshed from my usual morning grogginess by the view of locals starting their days en Vogue upon balconies, and an Airbnb fortified with breakfast essentials, my mornings began well.
It’s Paris Fashion Week, so I do eventually stop savoring the muted bustle I can witness from my 6th-floor apartment, and hop into the shower, drag my city-stomping feet into delicious Proudly South African garb, and make my way to my first showcases.
I have friends in France, by the way…one of the better facets of living in Cape Town being the melting pot that brings people together from far and wide.
While I conclude my showcase attendances of the day and head back to my Airbnb to freshen up, my friend takes a train from Lyon to Paris, to meet me for the afternoon.
It’s excited cheering and fashionable catching up from then onward. We didn’t want to end the good vibes, which then leads us from cocktails, lunch, and sightseeing, to a different part of Paris for more alcoholic beverages and my friend insisting I immerse myself among fashion-loving glitterati who are on break from fashion week events too.
It was to be the most enjoyable saturation into Parisian café society.
So, for my 4th day in France’s capital city, I am introduced to Café de Flore – at home in the previously bohemian nook of the Left Bank.
Consider this café a landmark establishment in Paris’s Saint-Germain arrondissement (neighborhood), that’s suited to a business brunch, as well as a much-needed nightcap!
Of my exploration of this area, at the prompt of my friend, I discovered how – aside from the fascinating café itself – this was a place steeped in history, including having been the home of celebrated and infamous philosophers and writers (think Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre).
The success and elevation of the red-boothed café itself runs somewhat symbiotically with the arrondissement, which is rated as one of the most sophisticated in France’s capital – even with its creative and colorful history. People making their way to Saint-Germain can, among its abundant wares and experiences, find some of the finest wines to sip with aplomb, as well as gin specialists too.
It’s a place of equal opportunity for beverage quality and measured revelry.
As I would learn while perusing the menu and researching amid my post-travel blues, Café de Flore and its polished brass railings has always stood steadfast in drawing in the arrondissements residence of the time – from creators to appreciators of literature, art, philosophy, and more.
It has also drawn in the more conventional stars; the likes of which include Karl Lagerfeld, Tarantino and De Niro.
Its debut goes as far back as 1887, and the café’s website logs its journey of opening, and closing, changing owners’ hands, its early Art Deco period, as well as its unending commitment to reflecting the times and café culture, in great and historic detail.
For those that couldn’t care about history, know that their menu offers up classic food and beverage choices, with consideration for contemporary palates and ingredient terrior.
The setting (see their 30s-style decor & sidewalk popularity), and considering their international and multigenerational clientele, along with a more European menu (try the quiche, Duck Confit or Croque Madame) and a vast wine list (so definitely toast with their Kir Royales) with varieties leaning more towards French, makes Café de Flore a perfect pit stop for those hoping to experience all the praised bits of French culture, but with even more accessible flair!
I won’t lie: the prices are up there, as even an espresso goes over €5.
However, factoring in this spot in your trip, is a must – if only for a delicious drink and nibble, the chance to celeb spot, and to be in a place that takes on a different ambiance depending on what time of the day you drop into the café on.
“there’s also a vibrant after-dark scene. In other words, there’s no wrong time to visit.”Todd Plummer, for Conde Nast Traveller
You may eventually hate yourself for falling for its wiles as you squeeze into one of the archetypal café tables lined around the building – alongside models, shopping mothers at rest, and celebrity stylists – but you’ll kick yourself after a trip, should you never have visited.
In summary: A memorable, pricey, and quintessentially Parisian café experience.
I could near taste the privilege of the café’s famous company.
Fortified by cocktails, to keep exploring the city…