Back in May this year, Parisian cool kids turned out in force to mark the first birthday of Café A, the restaurant and bar housed within the old Couvent des Récollets, on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin. Equipped with an outdoor bar, hammocks, and picnic tables, the courtyard area of the one of our cafes in Paris is a hot spot for fair-weather imbibing and people watching.
Established in 2003, the old convent is now home to three organizations: the Regional Council of Architects of the Ile-de-France Region, the Centre International d’Accueil et d’Echanges des Récollets and the Maison de l’Architecture en Ile-de-France.
Throughout the week, Café A plays host to private functions, and great DJ and live music evenings run by a collective of Parisian DJs from Le Mellotron and What the Funk Paris, as well as live swing, jazz, soul and funk.
The establishment of the convent was endorsed in 1603 by Marie de Medici and Henri IV for an order of Franciscan friars, then confiscated from the church during the revolution in 1789. It became a hospice for incurables in 1802, and then in 1861 became known as the Military Hospital of Saint-Martin. Because of the hospital’s proximity to the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est, it saw a lot of action during both World Wars I and II and France’s war with Algeria, closing in 1968. It was then an experimental canvas for the art-squat collective Anges des Récollets, which became so renowned that it was licensed by the state to be at the old convent.
Straddling the neighborhoods of the slightly dicey Gare de l’Est and the hip Canal Saint-Martin, the area is rough enough around the edges to be subversively trendy, a key trait for the trending venues of la rive droite—cases in point: Le 104, Le Comptoir Général, La Bellevilloise.
The 2003 renovations by architects Karine Chartier and Thomas Corbasson preserved traces of history and original building fabric, and have returned spaces such as the chapel and café hall to their original grace and grandeur. The convent’s old chapel has a fantastic exposed timber barrel-vault roof and bunker-like walls, ensuring great acoustics for seminars and concerts.
The double-height café space is broken down by a partial mezzanine, which creates a cozy zone for an intimate apéro or tranquil working space. During the day there is always at least one creative-looking type poring over a MacBook or a iPad, and at night DJ decks are often installed for an evening boogie.
The team at Café A is super friendly and fun, and the food offered is fresh and tasty—the tartare de boeuf is my personal recommendation. Cheers, Café A, for the great party. Here’s wishing you a great year. We look forward to helping you celebrate the next birthday!
148, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin. 09 81 29 83 38.
Metro: Gare de l’Est.
Editor’s note: When you find yourself packing for Paris, don’t forget your most important and valuable accessory—your membership card to the GG2P Travel Club, which will reward you with discounts and treats at over 200 partners in Paris.
By Tara Warbrick for Untapped Paris