In the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in the rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, proudly sits the oldest café in Paris. Since 1686, the Procope has been the meeting place for all of Paris. If it was the café that made it famous, people come here today to taste traditional, bourgeois cuisine, which would not have displeased its illustrious regulars like Voltaire or Victor Hugo. We tell you the story of this mythical address.
The beautiful story of Procopius born with the arrival of coffee in Paris at the end of the 17th century, in 1657 more precisely. An Armenian senses the potential of this "tonic drink" and decides to sell it in a small shop in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Some time later, his Sicilian waiter decides to buy the business from him. Her name ? Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. For his establishment, the young man wishes the best. He thus bets on a refined decoration and does not skimp on luxurious details such as crystal chandeliers, mirrors and noble materials such as mahogany or velvet. Le Procope, the first café in Paris, opened its doors in 1686.
It is a successful bet since all theparisian elite soon made its café the place to go to discuss, discuss and be seen... This success was accentuated by the proximity to French Comedy theater, before moving. The actors then like to go there after the performances.
Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu or even Diderot make it their favorite address. It is even said that some pages of the latter's famous Encyclopedia were written here. The very concept of literary cafe is inspired by the life of Procopius.
It is moreover within these walls that the first ideas of the French Revolution have seen the day. Danton, Marat, Robespierre used to meet there and it is here that the Phrygian cap appeared for the first time. Later it will be Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset or even George Sand who will meet there.
The little stories of Procope are intimately linked to the Big story from Paris. Moreover, there are still vestiges of this extraordinary past. Here is the hat Napoleon that we can see. The latter left him at the cafe to pay his bill. There, these are “citizen” “citizen” signs for the toilets. Where else Voltaire's favorite table that can be admired. The building's roof and balconies have been listed in the historical monuments.
Today, the blue storefront hosts a cult brewery whose splendor of yesteryear still seems intact. The stove would date from the 17th century and the wallpaper would not have been changed since 1830! Elegance is always present in the different rooms, while the kitchen pays homage to the great classics of French gastronomy. Veal’s head, Coq-au-vin, seafood platter, mille-feuilles…
It is these traditions that the restaurant highlights with the Procope Bourgeois Cuisine Prize which rewards the best work of bourgeois cuisine. This year, it's Frédéric Anton and his pastry chef Christelle Brua who won the prize with their book Cooking at Low Prices, demonstrating that the Procopius is still part of history…
The Procope, 13 rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006.
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