Before the weather took a nosedive (The Local reported that it has been the rainiest month of May since 1873), I was celebrating the opening of the ultimate Parisian neighborhood café by engaging in the consummate Parisian pastime, apéro hour. La Fontaine de Belleville, the first café extension from the roasters behind Belleville Brûlerie, is the quintessential corner hangout, adapted to today’s tastes. By which I mean that it blends quality coffee, quality craft beer, wine and spirits and simply delicious snacks like pain perdu and yogurt for breakfast, croque monsieur for lunch, and top-shelf cheese and charcuterie for evening nibbles, in a space that successfully looks both to the past and to the future with glorious effect. It’s a warm environment with spacious terrace seating, enjoyable music, and a rollicking vibe that sends the message that Parisians will never, under any circumstance, relinquish their bon vivant tendencies. But most importantly, it sees the gap between the specialty coffee world and the Parisian café idiom close just enough so that devotees of both can feel satisfied.
Operating as a café since 1915, the café had a firm identity and a loyal set of regulars. The Belleville trio David Flynn, Thomas Lehoux and Jeff Marois didn’t want to radically alter its visual footprint or character so they gave it a bit of sprucing up, applied a few personal touches (like the custom hand-lettering on the windows, door, and terrace tables by London-based designer Ged Palmer, glass chandeliers that echo the fixture in their roastery, and custom rotin chairs for the terrace), but preserved all the worn bits and bobs that firmly anchor the café as a bridge between old and new.
I’ve already made it my local for post-work beers (Deck & Donohue and Outland on tap) and snacks (jambon de boeuf!). Last week, I was seated next to regulars from the former café who whispered to one another about how impressed they were by the update — “thank goodness the terrace is still here”, they agreed. I foresee that terrace playing host to many of my calm summer mornings and long summer evenings with friends.
La Fontaine de Belleville
31-33 rue Juliette Dodu, 75010