Thomas Lehoux is one of the stars of the Paris barista scene, and after working in many of the best-known coffee bars here, he finally opened his own café in September 2012. Ten Belles is perfectly located just off the funky Canal Saint-Martin. The discrete pinewood storefront is decorated with plants and herbs, a few rickety stools sit on the pavement for determined smokers, and a blackboard provocatively announces – in English – that ‘drinking good coffee is sexy’. The café is invariably packed, often with a long line queuing outside. There are only half-a-dozen tiny tables, but a narrow staircase leads up to a cosy mezzanine with another three tables looking down over the bar. A classic Mazzocco espresso machine sits on the main counter, which is lined with cakes and pastries. The food is prepared in a shiny kitchen out at the back, and is handled by Le Bal Café, a cool address just off the Place de Clichy, one of the rare restaurants which takes its coffee as seriously as the wine list. Don’t be surprised to see sausage rolls, salt beef and cauliflower soup on the menu, as chef Anne Trattles is English and used to work at St John’s in London.
Lahoux came to fame organising Frog Fight events – competitions between baristas and coffee tastings with Anglo-American barista David Flynn, and today Ten Belles gets its roasted coffee beans direct from Flynn’s Télescope Café. The house brand changes following the coffee seasons, for example a blend from Ethiopia and Guatemala, and there is often a second grinder on the counter with ‘guest coffees’ such as Sweetshop espresso from London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Worth noting when the sun comes out – all coffees and food can be taken out, perfect for a waterside picnic on the edge of the canal.