Located on the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés, directly across from two other famous cafes – Café Flore and Les Deux Magots – Brasserie Lipp captures the essence of yesteryear with its gleaming brass fixtures, large mirrors, painted art deco ceilings, and tulip light fixtures. Brasserie Lipp reminds you what Paris is all about – convivial, lively, beautiful, seductive, savory, smart, intellectual, curious and fun — all wrapped together to bring you a memorable evening with friends, a lover, a spouse, or even, I dare say, alone.
When we went to Brasserie Lipp for dinner we decided to go to the local taxi stand on Avenue Bosquet near our apartment in the 7th arrondissement, close to the Eiffel Tower. We lived too far to walk (4 kilometers away), but the taxi ride itself is maybe ten minutes away maximum. As taxi drivers in Paris are a curious bunch – they rarely stop for you if you flag them down but, by law, cannot refuse service if you demand service at a taxi stand. This can lead to some funny scenarios where taxi drivers will drive away from a taxi stand if they don’t like the looks of you, or think you are just not worth the fare. So we were a bit apologetic to this taxi driver when we said we were going to Brasserie Lipp, given the ride was short and the fare would be little (maybe 7 or 8 Euros). But we did not quite expect his response when we said “pour aller à Brasserie Lipp,” as the taxi driver just went berserk, and at this stage he could not refuse our service. “C’est incroyable!” (That’s incredible!) he exclaimed. He spouted off some more, in rapid French, and continued rambling. As we tried to decipher his words, we figured out exactly what was going on. It was the tenth time he had waited at this taxi stand, and for the tenth time in a row, fare goers like us asked him to take him to Brasserie Lipp! Now, that is truly incredible, and says something rather spectacular about the popularity of this place.
With its grey-haired waiters gliding through the restaurant in their smart black tie and vests, and white aprons wrapped around their waists, Brasserie Lipp offers mostly standard brasserie fare including choucroute (sauerkraut with a variety of sausages and ham), poulet rôti (roasted chicken), filet of hareng and, of course, frothy beer plus various wines and champagne. As Julia Child said: “we had a very ordinary dinner, but finished on a high note with dessert.” It is just as true today, as yesterday. Desserts like the millefeuille (creamed layers of heavenly vanilla pastry) or crème caramel are extraordinary. But let’s be honest: you don’t come to Brasserie Lipp to experience the best cuisine in Paris. You come to Brasserie Lipp to experience a flavor of Paris from the past.
That’s why Brasserie Lipp has remained such an attraction through the ages. Its clientele is as storied as its past, attracting writers, philosophers, actors, politicians, statesmen, poets, journalists and artists. French Presidents, including Francois Mitterand, Jacques Chirac, Giscard d’Estang, and Georges Pompidou all dined here. So did Ernest Hemingway, Marcel Proust, Marc Chagall, and Albert Camus. More recent guests have included Sharon Stone, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Charlie Rose and Gerard Depardieu.
When we went, we did not see anyone famous (as far as we know), but were surprised by how many Parisians were there – the clientele was almost entirely Parisian. We watched a couple in their late 60s or 70s just next to us have pleasant conversation as they held hands and looked at each other like they were teenagers. Smartly dressed, the man with a tie and tweed coat, and the woman in a Chanel outfit and a fur, appeared to be on a first date, but probably had been married for over 40 years. I love this about the French. Love not only endures, it matures with emblematic (and sincere) affection – the meal itself is almost an afterthought.
Open every day until 1:00 a.m., reservations are not required. Indeed, the restaurant claims to refuse to accept reservations except for the President of France.
151 Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés
Access: Métro : Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Telephone: + 33 (0)1 45 48 53 91