Lunch at Café de Paris

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Lunch at Café de Paris

Simple, certain, solid, and unchanging.

There’s something fabulously unfashionable about Café de Paris, a pocket-sized eatery a short walk from Geneva’s main train station.

From outside, it looks a little dated – a typical European-style brasserie, located on an otherwise unassuming street, that appears to have seen better times. Over the years, many hungry souls will have tarried outside, wary of sauntering inside and committing the sin of paying for a bad lunch. Many will have simply carried on down Rue de Mont-Blanc, in search of better-known and more expensive culinary options in the Rond-Point-de-Rive and the Bourg-de-Four.

But tarry awhile, as Café de Paris is an institution in this part of the world, and rightly so. There’s nothing pretentious going on here at all. Lunch is the same deal for everyone: a delicious steak dish lathered with a kind of mystery-butter sauce heavy on the cream and parsley, served with curly frites and washed down with wine, a few choice desserts, and coffee. And that’s it. No special, no starters, no vegetarian option.

And yet it’s full. Every day. Sometimes all day along. “They’ll be busy all afternoon,” a good friend observed during a particularly bibulous lunch on a cold February day. A veteran British banker and journalist, he’d been a patron of the café for the past 20 years, popping in en route to the ski slopes of Verbier and Chamonix. “It hasn’t changed in any way,” he said as we ate. “It’s my kind of plain eatery, and who needs all that experimental gastronomy when you can just eat something so simple and satisfactory.”

And really, that’s all you need to know about Café de Paris. It’s popular – and has been since its first opened its doors in the 1930s – partly because the only dish it offers is very good, but mainly because in a world filled with noise and chaos and so much damned choice, it remains simple, certain, solid, and unchanging.

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