Wed 25 May 2011
47, rue de Babylone, in the 7th Arrondissement.
Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
There are plenty of famous Paris cafés, but not many of them are actually known for their coffee. Inferior beans, dirty machines and sterilized milk are the standard.
But over the past several months, it has suddenly become easier to find a perfectly pulled espresso or well-done drip, thanks to the passionate coffee crafters at cafés like Le Bal, in the 18th Arrondissement; Kooka Boora, on the rue des Martyrs; and Coutume, in a quiet part of the 7th, not far from Le Bon Marché.
Coutume is not a typical Paris café. It’s a bright and airy space, with unfinished walls and a white-tiled counter. There are only a couple of tables on the sidewalk, but the whole front of the place opens up, bringing the outside in. In the back, behind a plastic curtain, is the roaster, emitting smells of burned caramel.
The beans are roasted on premise, and 4 brewing methods are employed: espresso, conical drip, siphon and cold drip, a process that takes 24 hours. If you don’t know what any of that means, just ask. These guys love to talk about what they do. Your coffee will likely be made by Kevin, an American barista who came over just to work at Coutume. Tom, an Australian, works the floor. Antoine, French, tends to the roasting.
The coffee is the big draw at Coutume, but it’s become one of my favorite spots for a light lunch when I’m in the neighborhood, which is often enough. The attention to detail and freshness carries over into the colorful menu of organic salads and soups.
I gravitate toward the salads, lively and bright with herbs. The marinated salmon is served with a light potato salad, laced with dill. A heap of bulgur hides strings of zucchini, thin coins of carrot, and is topped with tender marinated chicken and a scattering of sesame seeds. There are freshly squeezed juices and natural sodas available—including one of my favorite citronnades—plus a few wines by the glass.
Of course, sweets are a natural accompaniment to coffee. The pastries in Coutume’s case come from the nearby Pâtisserie des Rêves.
Those salads are around 10 euros, but the best value is found in the set formulas: The 7 euro breakfast includes viennoiserie, orange or grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed!), and a hot drink. The 11 euro lunch includes a soup, small salad, cold drink and hot drink.
But it can add up, particularly if you stay here all afternoon, like I often do, lingering over some work or reading. In that way, Coutume isn’t so different from other Paris cafés after all.
In a nutshell: Coutume is a Paris café for serious coffee lovers and great for a light lunch, too.
Price check: Plan on spending 10–15 euros on lunch. Coffee drinks from 2–8 euros.
If Coutume sounds good but you’re hungrier, visit Le Bal Café. Read the review.
Le Bal Café
6, impasse de la Défense, in the 18th. 01 44 70 75 56.
Wed–Sat, 10 a.m.–11 p.m; Sun, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.