Travel

Vive la Breakfast

Chefs at Holybelly, Ellsworth and more are changing the way Paris starts its day
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Cornmeal Pancakes with Mushroom Confit and Eggs

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Paris has never been much of a breakfast town.

The French typically start their day with a small bite, something light and sweet, like yogurt or a bit of baguette with butter and jam, eaten in the privacy of one's home alongside a coffee. But chefs at restaurants like La Bourse et La Vie, Ellsworth, Holybelly and Ob-La-Di are taking inspiration from their time abroad and mixing it with classic French ingredients like buckwheat, foie gras and cultured butter to invigorate Parisian breakfast. We're calling it France's breakfast revolution.

Should you be heading to the City of Light or just want some petit dejeuner inspiration, here are four breakfasts around Paris worth getting out of bed—and saving the patisserie visit until the afternoon—for.

Wake to Wine and Foie at La Bourse et La Vie
The first thing on the morning menu on Daniel Rose's new bistro, La Bourse et La Vie, is a glass of white wine. "French breakfast is meant to be a bit seedy," the chef explains. "Ideally, it's a croissant and cigarettes, but they've outlawed smoking in restaurants, so we start with wine." Beverages, like coffee with calvados, make up half the menu. American-born Rose explains, "When I'm in New York, I eat breakfast. But when I'm in Paris, I have coffee. We wanted to rediscover the French tradition."

The bistro serves excellent coffee with beans from Parisian roaster L'Arbre à Café in a cozy space that has just enough of the seductive ambiance you'd find at a classic café (original moldings from 1823, for instance) but with the polish and quality of ingredients you'd find at a fine dining establishment.

Breakfast at Holybelly | Photos: Nico Alary

Rose first started considering breakfast traditions at Spring, his formal restaurant, where he bakes banana bread to send home with diners for the next day. Offering a morning menu seemed like a natural extension when he opened up the more casual La Bourse et La Vie this fall. There, Rose's wife, Marie-Aude, who was previously a chef at Spring, is in the kitchen turning out fluffy biscuits and coffee cake alongside a series of traditional tartines topped with jam made by the sommelier's Alsatian grandmother or ribbons of nine-month-old Comté cheese (a steal at only three euros each). As the chef plans to take over Paris's legendary Chez La Vieille Adrienne and plans to open an offshoot with restaurateur Stephen Starr in an NYC hotel later this year, we can't wait to see what other breakfast options may be in store.

What to get: the tartine with a pile of rillettes made of cold roasted duck blended with duck fat or Marie-Aude's seasonal fruit tart, if it's available.

Satisfy Sweet-and-Savory Hankerings at Ellsworth
American restaurateurs Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian of perennially popular wine-focused restaurant Verjus opened Ellsworth just around the corner, and with young Canadian chef Hannah Kowalenko, they're serving a Sunday brunch that's so popular it requires reservations.

There are Anglo items on the menu (eggs Benedict on a homemade English muffin), but the most interesting dishes are French riffs on American classics. Cheesy polenta pancakes become a hybrid when served with mushroom confit and tiny quail eggs (see the recipe). "We built the menu expecting you to come in hungover, [when] you don't know what to order and you want a little something sweet and something savory, so you order a little something of everything," Kowalenko explains.

The seasonal small plates are meant to be shared—much to the chagrin of French customers who "don't tend to share and prefer courses" Kowalenko says. But that hasn't stopped the restaurant from filling up each weekend. Coffee from local roaster Coutume and stellar Bloody Marys also help to smooth everything over.

What to get: the buckwheat waffle, dolloped with maple compote instead of syrup and topped with a slab of seared foie gras, which melts like butter. In the past, the waffle has been topped with strawberries, apples and fresh plums, and soon it will be smothered in poached pears that have been sautéed in the leftover foie gras fat.

Have Eggs All Day at Holybelly
French-born owners Sarah Mouchot and Nico Alary spent years working in the Melbourne food scene. After returning home to France and failing to find an informal but excellent breakfast spot, they felt they had no choice but to open their own. Holybelly was born at the end of 2013, and the sunny, modern Canal Saint-Martin-adjacent café has been packed since day one.

Although breakfast leans American and Australian with offerings like bowls of homemade granola with yogurt, Alary still considers the food to be very French. "We work with terroir, we work seasonally and we limit ourselves to products from Île-de-France," he says. "That's our heritage . . . going to [the] market and sourcing locally."

Some breakfast items, like the granola, are served only until noon, but you can pick an egg preparation and choose seasonal sides, such as roasted tomatoes, goat cheese drizzled in honey or sautéed mushrooms, all day long. The infectiously friendly service paired with one of the best coffee counters in town means this café always has a crowd, so much so that the team recently used the August holidays to close and renovate the restaurant to add an extra 15 seats.

What to get: a pancake tower layered with fried eggs, bacon and bourbon butter.

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Get Baked at Ob-La-Di
There's nothing traditionally French about an espresso affogato, but the one made with cookie dough ice cream at Ob-La-Di is a fresh way to start the day.

Australian barista Lloyd Allison-Young, who was known for his playlists while behind the (coffee) bar at Paris's popular Boot Café, offers creative coffee selections to complement the all-day breakfast. There's avocado toast with chimichurri sauce on homemade purple potato bread and homemade granola (including a gluten-free maple fig option) for homesick expats.

And unlike many other Parisian coffee shops, the baked goods, even the bread, are made in-house. Many of the classic French cakes, like a lemon loaf cake, which would usually be made with yogurt, have been tweaked with coconut oil and other ingredients so that they maintain classic flavors but are also vegan and gluten free.

What to get: the fig and goat cheese sandwich blanketed with fresh mint (when available).

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