Le Procope - the First Parisian Café?
P'Niche has to admit that we ate like royalty on our last family trip to Paris. From a floral forward brunch at Pinky Bloom Paris to a delectable feast at the popular Parisian classic, Au Pied de Cochon, we closed out our week long trip with a historic and gourmet adventure at Le Procope.
Let's take a P'Niche peek to learn more about this café, which boasts being the first of its kind in Paris...
Wait, was it really the first café in Paris?
Well, when we look at other eateries like La Tour d'Argent and À La Petite Chaise, we can never be 100% sure, but it might be! That said, it was labeled as a historical monument in 1962, so there's that.
Ok, it's time to hop into the P'Niche Time Travel Machine - let's gooooooo!
We've arrived in Paris' Saint-Germain-des-Prés Quarter in 1686.
While not the royal seat under Louis XIV, Paris was nonetheless a bustling city and thriving under the king's reign.
Her beauty and opportunities attracted many from all over Europe to her cobblestone streets and alleyways.
Moving into town was an Italian: Procopio Cutò, (AKA: Francesco Procopio Cutò or Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli) (February 09, 1651 – February 10, 1727).
While he viewed himself as a modern day Procopius (renowned Byzantine scholar and historian), he quickly "Frenchified" his moniker to Monsieur François Procope.
Interestingly enough, Procope first took his apprenticeship under and Armenian immigrant (one Monsieur Pascal), who specialized in lemonade and coffee in his little kiosk, located on rue de Tournon (off the Jardin du Luxembourg.) Pascal skipped town and moved to London, leaving Procope to his devices and next steps.
He moved on over to rue des Fosses Saint-Germain, (still within the 6th arrondissement) where the restaurant is still located. Do note, however, the name of the street has changed and is currently called rue de l'Ancienne Comédie.
Interestingly, the charming location has two entrances, the second opening into the courtyard of Commerce Saint André.
What made the new location unique was that it still offered it's original lemonade and ice cream, but also offered... coffee.
Coffee (introduced to Paris in 1644 by Pasqua Rosée at her café on the nearby Place Saint-Germain) really took off upon the opening of Le Procope. Quickly, the steaming caffeinated beverage was a smash hit and brought everyone in to have a taste.
One such enamored coffee drinker was Voltaire. The historian, philosopher, and writer drank up to 40 cups of coffee each day at his Procope writing desk, while working. Forty cups of coffee!
Even his physician pleaded with him to lower his intake, lest his health suffer.
You can still see Voltaire's desk in the Café Procope! More on that in a bit...
Another famous friend who (often) visited was Benjamin Franklin. It is believed that he drafted the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (which had France recognize the USA as a free and independent country and promoted trade between us) within these walls before passing it to the King of France for signature.
The Salon Benjamin Franklin still exists on the second floor as a tribute to him.
Moving forward to the French Revolution, Le Procope became the hangout for the enlightened of the time.
Even the symbolic Phrygian Cap was first displayed in Le Procope.
Remember how Le Procope has two entrances? Fun fact, in the far point of it's back alleyway, the guillotine was first "tested" (on sheep, which would then be cooked and served). Yum?!
Rival writers (and close friends) Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas were often seen at Le Procope sitting, writing, and discussing the meaning of life with many of their other famous literary and musical buddies.
P'Niche has to wonder if any drafts of Les Misérables or the Three Musketeers, etc. were written, shared, and/or read aloud at the Procope. Le sigh!
The famous and intriguing names that enjoyed time at Le Procope are simply too long to be listed, but of course, one of the eatery's most famous stories, is when Napoléon Bonaparte left his (iconic) hat as a payment for a meal, when he was a lieutenant. Our guy's hat is still proudly displayed on the main stairway of the café.
Many artifacts (and replicas) from so many points in French history are on display at Le Procope. It would be impossible to share the list here. Why, even the wallpaper dates back to 1830! You simply must tour through history when you are there. The lovely staff expects (and encourages) you to do so.
Maybe grab a historic item or two to toss into the P'Niche Time Travel Machine as a dashboard souvenir? (Teasing, teasing...)
The meal you can expect to enjoy is traditional French cuisine with a flirty wink to Italian cookery (in homage to their founder).
Le Procope also offers a wallet friendly "Revolutionary Menu," which is a three course prix-fixe meal with a starter, a main, and a dessert.
We enjoyed every bite.
We will definitely return...
So, as we jump back into the P'Niche Time Machine to head home, is Le Procope the oldest café in Paris?
Well, yes! And, no. But, also - kinda...
The café did close its doors in 1872, when the space was converted to an artist's club. Fast forward to the 1920s, it then became the Restaurant Procope and finally, for marketing purposes, wisely went back to Le Procope.
What was old is new again! The time hiccup does not take away from the incredibly rich history in P'Niche's eyes, that's for sure...
Ready to head to Le Procope to check out to the revolutionary meal for yourself? Wonderful!
13, rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006
Métro: Odéon (Line 4)
P'Niche PSA - Place your order and then stroll through the space (and history)!
What do you say, P'Nicher - have you added Le Procope to your Paris eatery calendar? Let us know in the comments below et â bientôt!