Les Deux Magots, a Parisian ‘literary café’ popular since the 19th-century and famous for being the haunt of writers, artists and intellectual giants of the 20th-century. Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway; Jean-Paul Sartre, James Baldwin; Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso; James Joyce, Richard Wright and Julia Child were all amongst the who’s who of its patrons. No doubt this enviable reputation has made it a favoured tourist destination. Perhaps that’s why I had avoided coming here for such a very long time. ‘It’s too commercial, don’t you think?’ I often replied to whomever was surprised that I had never been there.
Finally, on my eighth visit to Paris, I decided to tie up some loose ends and experience for myself Les Duex Magots.
First Impressions Of Les Deux Magots
To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed when Kent and I ‘found’ Les Deux Magots. From the facade, it looks almost no difference to most Parisian cafés; canvas awnings, rattan and bentwood chairs… I suppose the only giveaway would be a larger-than-most outdoor dining section, well this place is constantly in demand. Having Louis Vuitton right next door and Armani opposite, across Boulevard Saint-Germain, hinting at ‘this being a major tourist destination’. Or perhaps I should not be so sarcastic.
Walking inside, navigating the tables, ‘here they are!’ Les Deux Magots de la Chine, overlooking all, quietly mounted on the upper wall. They were somewhat bigger than I had imagined, beautiful Tang San Cai tri-colour and in great condition too!
For some reason that day I chose to sit on the outdoor terrace under the canopy. Now I look back, I wish I had ventured indoors as I think the atmosphere would be better for reminiscing about a bygone era. ‘Definitely next time.’ I promised myself. The waitstaff, much to our surprise, were unpretentious and friendly. Kent started with a glass of chilled beer, Kronenbourg 1664; whereas myself, a glass of French rosé.
Kent’s Lunch – Brochette De Boeuf
Kent was torn between Charolais Beef Burger and Beef Brochette. He ended going for the brochette which came as a plate of grilled beef skewers – meat on a stick, always a Kent favourite; together with black pepper sauce, a potato gratin and green salad. Although this meal looked rustic, he was very pleased with Monday’s Special, declaring it: ‘Very tasty! The meat is tender and juicy.’ While I was only halfway through my dish, Kent had already polished off his plate, and was now eyeing off everything around him.
My Light Meal: Salade Périgourdine
When I see Salade Périgourdine on the menu I will often order it, simply because I love duck and the heart of a Périgourdine Salad is duck. Here’s what made my salad a bowl of goodness: smoked duck filet and foie gras resting on a bed of lettuce and green beans. The vinaigrette dressing was well balanced. The only change for me, not exactly to my pleasure was that it used tomatoes instead of figs.
Overall, Kent and I enjoyed our lunch. Unlike some ‘touristic diners’ we experienced in Paris, Les Deux Magots was rather reasonable for quality and price, if admittedly on the high side. It’s a bistro restaurant not fine dining and despite the fame, the ambience is pretty laid-back. An ideal place to spend time idly observing people. We spotted a few locals having meals, sipping coffee; reading newspapers just like they were at home. It’s not hard to tell who are the regulars and who’s the visitor, their cameras will reveal it to you. I wonder what went through their minds when watching Kent and myself snapping away the whole time during our meal?!!
Is Les Deux Magots Overrated?
‘Is Les Deux Magots overrated?’ That’s a question I’ve since been asked. Well I can’t speak for those who come here to tick the ‘I’ve had coffee at the same place where Picasso got his coffee’ box. But I do have some reservations, though my disenchantment comes from high expectations… hoping to channel period Paris vibes from a time which no longer exists. The only real remaining trace from that glorious artistic past are those two Chinese statues, who gaze serenely from their high position, and famous patrons in those black and white photos.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a good time, we did and Kent loved it. Actually, we left a few things undone. Given the chance to eat here again, I will choose an indoor table and also order their renowned hot chocolate. Neither of us made a selfie with the legendary deux magots… Oh well, another thing to do next time.
Is that Papa Hemingway?
‘Ernest Hemingway?’ If there’s any place you might expect to spot a Hemingway imitator, would it be here, at the front door of Les Deux Magots? Kent did manage to wrangle a portrait of an appropriately lubricated ‘Hemingway’. ‘Merci, it’s for Street Fashion Sydney!’. He was kind of fun this lookalike figure and had created for us a glimpse of Paris past, brought our Les Deux Magots fantasy alive and enlivened our day. ‘Thank you Papa Hemingway!’