Le Bal Café
6, impasse de la Défense, in the 18th Arrondissement.
01 44 70 75 56. Wed–Sat, 10 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sun, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
If France and England have a tense history, you wouldn’t know it after eating at Le Bal Café, a new spot where lines of Parisians seem more than happy to scarf down scones, kippers and kedgeree.
Hidden at a tiny impasse near place de Clichy, Le Bal is an exhibition space housed in a former bordello and ballroom (thus le bal). The café has been open since September. Whether you come for the art and stay for the food or vice versa doesn’t matter: there’s no shame in either.
Two alumnae of Rose Bakery are running the kitchen, and the menu is an appealing assemblage of cross-channel specialties. Start brunch or afternoon tea with the aforementioned scones, flaky and not too sweet. Consider the Welsh rarebit or kippers (smoked herring) on toast. I kept it simple with an English breakfast of fried eggs, seriously good bacon, roasted tomatoes and toast, and was not disappointed; this is not the sloppy hash-slinging you find at many brunches, but thoughtful cooking with plenty of fresh touches.
I saw parsnip soup, tête de cochon and boudin noir on the lunch and dinner menus, along with a pork chop and a roast palombe (wood pigeon)—a nod to game season. It’s worth saving room for dessert, whether you opt for a puckery lemon curd tart or a cheesecake that could define the genre. And speaking of cheese, if you’ve never tried Montgomery’s cheddar, you should, and can, at Le Bal.
The room is basic black and white with yellow highlights, and light-filled, thanks to a wall of windows looking out onto a playground across the passage. There are a few seats at the counter, from which you can watch some of the best espresso in Paris being made.
There’s no need to limit yourself to coffee and tea, though; the front of the house is run by two former staffers of Willi’s Wine Bar, and the short list is interesting and affordable.
In a nutshell: Le Bal Café gets brunch—and pretty much everything else—right.
Price check: Small plates and starters, 3.50–8 euros; larger plates and mains, 8–16.50 euros; desserts, 5.50–6 euros.
If you like the sound of Le Bal Café but find yourself in the 6th or the 8th:
Bread & Roses
7, rue de Fleurus, in the 6th.
01 42 22 06 06.
25, rue Boissy d’Anglas, in the 8th.
01 47 42 40 00.
Mon–Sat, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.