Brunch, now a common—and commonly overpriced—offering in cafés and eateries throughout Paris, has made a nice home for itself in three distinct establishments on the western side of the hill of Montmartre: a café, a bakery and a restaurant.
As all businesses in this part of Montmartre, these three attract both residents and tourists. That’s a good sign seeing that from the plateau at top of the hill, where everything is devoted to tourism, you wouldn’t think that anyone actually lives in Montmartre. Montmartre is, in fact, a large, dense residential zone bordered by Boulevard de Clichy, Boulevard de Rochechouart, Boulevard Barbès, Rue Custine and Rue Caulaincourt.
This short list of notable brunch places concerns only the western part of that zone. Outside of brunch-time, you need only witness the buzz in the cafes on Rue des Abbesses or on Rue Caulaincourt in winter to understand how residential Montmartre truly is and what sociable characters inhabit this part of the 18th arrondissement.
Le Café Qui Parle, 24 rue Caulaincourt, 18th arr. Metro Abbesses or Blanche. Tel. 01 46 06 06 88. Serving brunch on 10am-4pm Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Reservations not taken. Otherwise a café and a restaurant. Closed Sun. evening.
A bountiful buffet and tableside service for beverage, all at a few euros less than most brunches in Paris, makes this one of the top choices anywhere in Montmartre. That explains the line that forms outside by noon, or even by 11:30am. Come before 11:30 or after 2 to avoid a long line.
If no seats are available you can always pick up some good sweet or savory offerings at the excellent Goutran Cherrier bakery across the street at 22 rue Caulaincourt.
After brunch, consider a stroll nearby in the atmospheric Montmartre Cemetery, final resting place to Degas, Berlioz, Offenbach, Nijinsky, Truffaut, Stendhal, Zola, Dalida and 22,000 others.
Coquelicot, 24 rue des Abbesses, 18th arr. Metro Abbesses or Pigalle. Tel. 01 46 06 18 77.
Coquelicot, meaning poppy (you will see red poppy flowers everywhere), is primarily a bakery though it also acts as a café. The high quality bread at Coquelicot is a good reason to stop here. Since it’s primarily a bakery it is, of the three places noted here, the least attractive for a lengthy sit. Unlike the other two on this list, however, there’s an easy way to beat the weekend brunch crowds: come for brunch during the week. You can reserve or just stop by. Coquelicot also serves a various types of simple breakfast, a wise choice for the weekday traveler.
In addition to the tables outside and on the ground floor there’s plenty of (tight) seating upstairs.
This reputable moderately-priced restaurant, otherwise serving a range of Paris classics, proposes a pleasing Sunday brunch. Decent though not exceptional as far as brunches go, but the place is appealing for a long brunch sit, without the constant bustle of the two mentioned above. And on the approach to this restaurant Rue Tholozé has a great uphill views toward the windmill of the Moulin de la Galette, the open-air dance bar subject of Renoir’s famous “Bal du Moulin de la Galette” in the Orsay Museum.
Kudos to owner Ludovic Janssens for being such a friendly and accommodating owner when I brunched here. He was willing to remake the pancake batter when I told him the pancakes were too thin, which he quickly saw was true. Most owners in Paris would have simply invited me to pay the bill and leave. Pancakes are typically served as part of the dessert portion of brunch in Paris and, even at their best, tend to be less fluffy and contain less flour than their American counterparts.
A typical brunch in Paris runs 17-26 euros and naturally much more in luxury hotels and fashion-conscious restaurants. Le Café Qui Parle and Coquelicot are in the lower end of that range. Le Petit Parisien, which is a restaurant, is mid-range.
© 2011, Gary Lee Kraut
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