Have you heard of Le Bal Café? Or perhaps Costume Café rings a bell? I’d be willing to bet you are enthusiastically nodding your head yes if you’re following Parisian coffee. They’re kind of important.
My intention, in quotes, was to visit both Le Bal and Costume during my trip to Paris. Well, turns out Le Bal serves coffee pretty much only with your meal and I couldn’t be bothered to give up a meal of baguette, cheese and grated carrot salad in my apartment in favor of a meal in North Paris. Next time, Le Bal, next time.
I did, however, make it to Costume Café and I am most glad I did. This café, located a pleasant ten minutes away from La Grande Epicierie/Le Bon Marche on Rue Babylone, is best known for their American-style brunch. They also serve some delicious coffee. I went there mid-afternoon on a rainy Friday to warm up and recharge before scouring the streets of Paris for chocolate … and art.
The people who sat next to me were American study abroad students. I heard some more a couple tables away. A british family sat down next to me. Costume Café was Anglophone expat central. I could have been disappointed that I wasn’t hob-nobbing with real Parisians, but I could do enough of that on the metro. Instead, I was excited at the prospect of good coffee and happy that foreign Paris dwellers have a third wave café nearby to remind them of home. A café that was a mix between third-wave coffee shop, European café and restaurant.
After perusing the menu and managing to ask a couple questions and understand the answers, I ordered a macchiato. There was no noisette. Luckily, when my coffee arrived in a little duralex glass, I saw realized that Costume Café’s macchiato was very similar to a New York cortado.
The main flavor of this coffee was overwhelmingly dark chocolate. I could be as awkwardly precise as to say Lindt 70%. It had a mouthfeel similar to that chocolate as it melts with a raspberry/black currant like acidity. Yes, I got that complex. It took a while.
As much as I enjoyed Costume Café, the space got me contemplating the place of the third-wave café in European cities in a surprisingly uncomfortable manner. Are these third-wave coffee shops about Anglophone cultures trying to reclaim a bit of their European past? When we open them up in other cities, are we just trying to foist a bit of our culture onto theirs? As someone who is writing an essay about Italian coffee culture, these are the kinds of things that run through my mind.
Overall, I really enjoyed Costume Café. I’d go as far as to say that I loved it. While it wasn’t one of my favorite Parisian coffee shops, it was pretty gosh darn fantastic. I can’t wait to head back for lunch. But I might take a trip to Le Bal Café first.
Do you ever return to a city to try something you missed the first time?