For a special occasion and a truly Parisian experience
There are time is Paris when you would be forgiven for thinking that there are more tourists than inhabitants. This is especially the case on the corner of Saint Germain where Les Deux Magots, the Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp all stand within metres of each other. But are all these venerable institutions, mandatory for any self-respecting tourist, actually worthy of their reputation? And remind me, what was their reputation for?
After once being burned for nearly 30 euros ($40) at Café de Flore (two hot chocolates, two cakes), we were expecting the worst at Brasserie Lipp as well; high prices, rough service… every tourist has their Paris nightmare story of nasty waiters and tepid food. We decided to try and keep an open mind about Brasserie Lipp, but things did not get off to a good start.
Firstly, a sign on the door said « Correct attire is required for luncheon and dinner. Shorts are not allowed ». As I was wearing jeans and training shoes, I wasn’t sure they would even let me in. Once inside, nobody seemed in a hurry to greet us; we were pretty much ignored for a few minutes, despite having reserved ahead. Finally, a suited man came and asked how he could help. Despite the fact that the no smoking tables are upstairs, we had heard that it’s best to ask for a table downstairs, as the décor is much nicer. The man asked us if we smoked, and we replied that had reserved for downstairs. « You haven’t answered my question, » he replied without the hint of a smile. Things were not going well. After explaining a little more, and being made to feel a little small, we were led to a table in a room off the back of the restaurant.
Finally sat down, we started to look over the menu, which dourly said « Brasserie Lipp, no salad as a meal ». I found this all a bit negative. Then I got told off for taking photos (apparently, the monied customers don’t like it). I explained that I was only taking shots over people’s heads. The waiter looked dubious. I tried my best smile. No dice.
Had we made a terrible mistake? We plunged into the menu and decided what to eat. The prices are on the high side, but understandably; the restaurant is nearly 130 years old and has seen many famous customers, from Hemingway to Jean-Paul Gautier. Almost every important politician has been seen there at some time.
Ordering went well. The waiter was less frosty and seemed to approve of our choices (thank goodness). The avocado and prawns was scrumptious, as was the house tarama. They were both quite large portions too.
No sooner had our plates been spirited away, than the main course arrived. The cod brandade was extremely hot, and as tasty as it was greasy. My tuna salad (apparently you can have it as a meal as long as it’s not the only thing you order) was copious and tasty. Getting through the main courses, delicious though they were, was not easy. We were stuffed.
However, duty called – no dessert was not an option. With no more millefeuille left (it’s best to ask them to save you some as soon as you arrive), we opted for the rum baba and ‘Catarina’, basically a slice of chocolate cake. Both were light and succulent.
At the end of the meal, we took a look around the restaurant and decided that the less-than-warm welcome was easily worth it; Brasserie Lipp is a spectacular place to eat, with huge mirrors, beautiful old tiles and shiny, worn woodwork. The great food is definitely worth the high prices, the service is impeccable and a lot of the clients really seem to make an effort to dress up. For a special occasion and a truly Parisian experience, we think that this is one place that deserves its reputation.
151, Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris
Tel : 01 45 48 53 91
Crédit Photos : JasonW