Monday, 29 June 2009

Le Rostand (et autres addresses sur le 6th)

Situated in a privileged position across from the Jardin du Luxembourg, Le Rostand oozes money, though in a respectful, understated way. The café’s interior is grand yet slightly faded, its clientele genteel, but rarely ostentatious. On a visit this past winter, I saw women of a certain age wearing their fur coats indoors, Bonpoint-attired children sharing cake with their equally well-dressed parents, a few professorial types holding court and some students (the Sorbonne is not far away) buying 3 euro espressos, thus earning a table for the afternoon.

The cafe takes its name from Edmond de Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac. While this was likely not an intentional homage (rather governed by the fact that the cafe sits on a square dedicated to the writer), the association is nonetheless a fortuitous one, as both the café and the neighbourhood like to trade on their intellectual heritage. All but the most successful writers and artists have long since decamped to the city’s cheaper northeastern arrondissements. Yet the lure—for visitors and, to some degree, the French themselves—of St Germain’s mythical past remains, even as the quartier is becoming better known for luxury clothing boutiques than for philosophical debates.

Le Rostand’s food is serviceable but expensive, the coffee better than average, the gentlemen’s loos (I’ve been told) still Turkish-style and the maître d’ one of the grumpiest I’ve encountered. The terrace is a sun-trap, though given over to smokers, and the people-watching is arguably better inside. If you were planning to go to de Flore, come here instead.

Le Rostand
6 place Edmond Rostand 75006
Daily, 8 am-2 am
Metro: RER Luxembourg or Odéon

Other local stand-outs:

Gerard Mulot

Their macarons, while credible, are not a match to those of Pierre Herme, located just a few minutes’ walk away. But a slice or two of their wobbly, delicate quiche—favourites include wild mushroom and smoked duck breast—and a bruleé-topped tarte orange will make an ideal alfresco lunch. Pack some wine, and bring your beautifully-wrapped packages to the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg. Just don’t sit on the grass.

76 rue de Seine
Closed Wednesdays
Metro: Mabillon

Mariage Frères

Hidden on a tiny street near the Seine, this branch of the famed tea shop and salon is nearly as charming as the Marais original and far less crowded. Spend a few minutes looking at the tea memorabilia in the basement.

13 rue des Grands-Augustins
Daily, 10:30am-7:30pm
Metro: Odéon or St Michel


I’ve written about this gelato shop before, but I should note that the special for this past month was an extraordinarily creamy granita made with wild strawberries. The rest of summer promises other limited-edition fruit sorbettos.

81 rue de Seine
Daily, late morning-midnight
Metro: Odéon or Mabillon

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