2 Classic Cafes – Paris and London

The cheap and traditional cafe has been in terminal decline in the west end of London for some time now. And there is a real dearth of inexpensive and uncrowded places to sit down for a coffee later on in the evening. Bar Italia may have its fans but I’m not one of them – I prefer to go to Valentino at 13a Greek Street. It is very small but relatively inexpensive and uncrowded, and seems to be used more for take out coffee than by people stopping to consume their fare. I’ve never tried the food but I’m told it does what it says on the box: i.e. lines the stomach. Valentino doesn’t have a particularly classic interior – and the bad picture by the TV sometimes annoys me – but it is a good resting place if you want to be able to hear yourself speak during Soho’s manic night time melee. The TV is usually tuned to a classic music radio channel and isn’t too loud. The coffee is also a lot better than at the other relatively obvious less crowded candidates for an evening pit stop in the area.
For around seven years when in Paris I’ve often found myself going to Louise, 8 rue Croix des Petits Champs, near The Louvre and The Ministry of Culture building. The food is straight-forward but very good and reasonably priced for Paris (which often surprises me by managing to make London seem cheap by way of comparison – for example, has anyone got any ideas as to why toothpaste is so expensive in France?). What I like best about Louise is the classic cafe interior which is 1960s in design, although it looks to be in way too good a shape to actually date from back then. There’s a nice curved counter which usually has oranges piled up on one side and these match the orange lamp shades hanging from the ceiling – and of course because it has a sixties vibe the other dominant colour is brown. The service is very friendly, with the waiters as well as Louise and her daughter Lilly taking time to speak to everyone (in good English or perfect French depending on your language skills). We could really do with somewhere like Louise in Soho…
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-12-01 15:39:41 +0000

The Window Coffee Shop on Magdalen Street is very good-run by Haley it is a relatively new addition to the Norwich scene and also House on Saint Benedicts Street is good too. For a while I liked Nude in Hanbury Street in Spitalfields but then I got to finding the staff somewhat arrogant and rude and the coffee ridiculously strong. I will certainly check Valentino out if I haven’t before, the name does not ring a bell! Bar Italia I was always fond of and I once bumped into Derek Jarman there which was exciting as I was a film student at the time.

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-12-01 15:40:48 +0000

I do not know Paris particularly well as I have only been there a couple of times.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-12-01 16:46:30 +0000

I haven’t been to Norwich in years so can’t comment on any cafes there… But I do like my coffee ridiculously strong and only drink espresso anyway…. For some reason back in the day when I saw cultural industry types in cafes it was more likely to be all of Elastica or some other band rather than UK film directors – must be the places I hang out!

Comment by Stu Murphy on 2012-12-01 16:56:19 +0000

There’s never any cafes open later than 8pm in Glasgow, which is unfortunate. Just pubs and bars, where I could probably get a coffee, but it’s not the same, is it?

Comment by Roger Muir on 2012-12-01 17:48:57 +0000

London for pubs and Paris for cafes and never the twain shall meet!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-12-02 00:29:42 +0000

The French House still in Soho perhaps Roger? Although it isn’t to my taste.
@ Stu Murphy Coffee in an empty pub can be similar to coffee in an empty cafe – but it isn’t the same if it is a pub full of people getting boozed up….

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-12-02 12:38:03 +0000

I remember I once tried an espresso in Italy. I could not drink it, the taste was indescribable! I am a softie who likes her coffee milky…

Comment by Jacques Garcia on 2012-12-02 12:52:35 +0000

I hope you can’t see the Ministry of Culture building from Louise – it is indescribably ugly!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-12-02 13:40:24 +0000

I’ve never particularly noticed the Ministry of Cuture building from Louise as it isn’t actually on the same street – but I have taken in how unattracitive it is on my way there….
@Lucy Johnson – well I’m strictly old school and believe whisky and coffee are best without mixers….

Comment by Dipsy Roberts on 2012-12-02 14:32:06 +0000

I don’t mind not having milk but I do see adding a blend to make an Irish coffee as an improvement! It’s one of the best ways I know of being a ‘secret drinker’.

Comment by Milton “Friedman” Keynes on 2012-12-02 15:55:48 +0000

Toothpaste is expensive in France because they don’t have discount chemists and pound shops selling it off cheap.

Comment by Michael Roth on 2012-12-02 16:44:22 +0000

Even talking about coffee keeps me up at night

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-12-02 18:17:06 +0000

Lucky for you coz talk is cheaper than coffee!

Comment by Oompa Loompa on 2012-12-02 19:52:18 +0000

I did a search for Orange Valentino coz I’m into fashion desingers with rub off fake tans and ended up here. And there’s nothing about designer Garavani Valentino here! Why do search engines always let you down?

Comment by Dirty Mac on 2012-12-02 20:59:35 +0000

Bah humbug – Europe is rubbish. If you were in the USA you could be reviewing the steamy service at sexpresso bars where the service is topless and generally wears nothing more than shoes and panties. Now that’s how I want my coffee served!

Comment by Barry Bondage on 2012-12-02 23:53:36 +0000

And until I read this I thought “Louise” was a twice recorded b-side by the 1970s UK punk band Satan’s Rats, who later morphed into pop plonkers The Photos with Wendy Wu. Nice to know that in Paris they name cafes after obscure Brit-punk b-sides!

Comment by Gerald Jansch on 2012-12-03 00:37:06 +0000

My first crush was on a girl called Louise – she didn’t share my feelings for her and I think she really liked girls rather than boys. Nlow I’m in my thirties and still single but I often flog myself off at night thinking about Louise although I’ve no idea what happened to her since we left school.

Comment by Walter Evans on 2012-12-03 01:44:22 +0000

While we’re on the subject of classics what about a blog about classic traffic accidents? They are after all much more exciting than classic cafes!

Comment by Polly Gelding on 2012-12-03 16:32:14 +0000

Greek Street never seems very Greek to me – shouldn’t it have a debt and finance crisis right now?

Comment by Peter Parker on 2012-12-03 23:15:54 +0000

And returning to (non-Greek) classics, is there a classification for classic blogs yet?

Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-12-04 12:14:12 +0000

It’s all Greek to me!

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