Sitting outside on the cobbled terrace of this brightly-painted café, it feels more like being in Provence than the heart of Paris. Yet on one side of this quiet pedestrian square is the Seine, and on the other the bustling bars and boutiques of the fashionable Marais. L’Ebouillante started life almost forty years ago when a local artis with the nom-de-plume Gali, had his painting studio here, and was always entertaining friends, gallery owners and other artists by serving tea outside. They eventually persuaded him to open a proper ‘salon du thé’, with a menu of what were then exotic dishes, with recipes he had picked up on his travels. Everyone’s favourite, the Tunisian ‘brick’, a wafer-thin crispy crepe stuffed with cheese, vegetables or meat, is still on the menu.
Today, what with local bureaucracy, no one could open up this kind of alternative café, but somehow L’Ebouillante has survived. Gali disappeared to live in the countryside some time ago, but still owns the place, and left the friendly Roberto Terragni and Geraldine Campbell in charge. They have preserved the bohemian spirit, serving healthy, often vegetarian, cuisine, and there are still monthly art exhibitions upstairs in the old studio. Plus, each year the café organises its own Prix de la Peinture. It is worth noting that the excellent-value €15 set menu, with dishes like pumpkin soup and pike-perch poached in a grapefruit sauce, not only changes every day, but stays the same price in the evening too, definitely a rarity in Paris.
6 rue des Barres
|Opening hours:||Daily 12noon-10pm (summer); 12noon-7pm (winter)|
|Transport:||Metro: Pont Marie|
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I've often wandered past this place, and thought how lovely it looks, but it's always been too packed for me to try it. Finally went on a Monday night (but the place was still super busy). The quiche was delicious, and also tried bissap (hibiscus juice) for the first time - really refreshing for a warm summer evening. The staff were all really charming - though completely rushed off their feet!