Everyone knows that when in Paris, it is almost customary to people-watch while sipping on fresh coffee in a street side café, enjoyed best with a range of accompanying pastries, including flaky croissants and macarons, followed by a stroll through the artfully-designed Parisian streets, indulging in a crêpe to two. Or three. Or…you get the gist, I have no willpower when it comes to dessert.
But when in Paris, you don’t want to waste your time on crap, excuse the pun, from any vendor. Choose wisely so you’re not stuck with chalky Nutella and overripe bananas slathered on rubbery pre-cooked soggy crêpes. After a recommendation from a close friend to try “the best crêpes” at Breizh Café, we decided to wait till we got there to finally have a crêpe in Paris. Plus, we were too lazy to eat roadside in the humid Parisian heat!
After a tour of the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral, we proceeded to stroll into the popular artsy neighborhood of Le Marais. A popular historic district, previously an aristocratic district of Paris, the Marais today is one of Paris’ main localities for art galleries, including the Musée Picasso (the Picasso Museum) and an abode to trendy restaurants, cafes and fashion houses.
Walking for over 20 minutes in 33-degree Celsius heat in Paris may not have been my brightest idea, but I did score a new pair of chic shoes. However, the city isn’t the friendliest to wheelchair users because, in some places, the curb had no dropped ramp to cross the road, making the walk to the café seem even longer.
After running to the Breizh café once we spotted it across the road, the hostess told us the café is full and we needed a reservation to get a table. Oops! But she pointed us to their épicerie (grocery store) next door, where we almost had the place to ourselves. L’Épicerie Breizh Café’s wooden shelves were piled high with bottles of apple cider, tins of salted caramel, sardines, sea salt, Bretton butter and jams. In the center, was a huge block counter, where all patrons dined communally.
Unfortunately, for me, it wasn’t too wheelchair friendly but the food and pleasant servers, who would waltz in and out of the shop with plates of food, were worth it!
As we browsed through the menu, a few other patrons joined us on the communal dining table.
Breizh means ‘Brittany or Bretagne’ in the Celtic language of Brittany, from where the owner Bertrand Larcher hails. Having begun his career in the catering industry in 1987 in Geneva, Switzerland, Larcher and his wife then settled in Tokyo in 1995 before opening the first crêperie – Le Bretagne – the following year before opening others across the vibrant Asian city. Then he opened his first crêperie in France, in Brittany, his hometown in 1998 which he then sold in 2005 before opening others across the globe. The iconic Parisian Breizh Café was opened in 2005 and today is featured in the Michelin Guide 2017 and 2018 editions.
Paying homage to all things Bretton, the café serves up everything from unfathomably good Jean-Yves Bordier butter to the incredible artisanal selection of cider served in rustic clay pots. Beautifully presented dessert crêpes and organic galettes (savory crêpes made with buckwheat flour) filled with a host of quality ingredients, from the traditional – unpasteurized gruyère, farmers eggs, ham, artichoke hearts – to the more adventurous – seared duck breast, shitake mushrooms, salted cod, smoked herring and herring roe are the café’s trademark. But what makes it unique is the mix of French and Japanese culture as seen through the use of algae butter, wasabi salad dressing, soy sauce and yuzu (a yellowish, round citrus fruit with fragrant, acidic juice, commonly used in Japanese cuisine).
Wanting something substantial so that I could carry on exploring the city of lights, I was intrigued by the galettes. While Mom and Dad decided to play it safe by ordering from The Classics section – a buckwheat galette with farmhouse butter from Bordier Creamery, Diva and I were more adventurous and ordered the Maraîchère galette from the Breizh Café House Specialties from the Farm section. Crispy edges with a soft bite, the paper-thin galette wrapped market-fresh vegetables such as spinach, zucchini and peppers, a sunny-side up egg and raw milk comté cheese (a type of gruyère cheese). As the rich egg yolk seeped through the galette, the galette was unadulterated perfection with the gruyère’s sharpness adding complexity to the dish. Despite being full and at a risk of falling into a terrible food coma in the French heat, Diva and I got a dessert crêpe to share (one that I definitely had more than half of). Topped with whipped cream, decadent chocolate sauce and caramelized almonds, this crêpe was sensational. My taste buds felt as though I was in heaven. I mean, I have no words. Just make sure you go to Breizh Café for their galettes and crêpes if you are ever in Paris.The slogan of Breizh Café, ‘La crêpe autrement’ rings true – it is indeed the crêpe done differently. And by different, I mean superior. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Breizh café is located at:
109 Rue Vieille du Temple
L’Épicerie Breizh Café is located at:
111, Rue Vieille du Temple
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah