The Spot – hangouts you should visit at least once in your life.
Brasserie Lipp might just as easily been listed in our recommendations of great places to eat in Paris. Its menu that remains true to the Alsatian specialities first served when Léonard Lipp opened it in 1880 is indeed one of the reasons that fashionable Parisians still flock here in droves. But, Lipp is far more than a top-notch eatery: it is an institution. And, even though you would really be missing something if you didn’t try the wares emanating from the kitchen, you don’t actually have to eat here.
Lipp still proudly insists that it is a brasserie not a restaurant; a place to take a coffee or have a drink and engage in conversation and debate with friends or simply brush up one’s skills as a flâneur and watch the ebb and flow of the human tides on the Left Bank. As such, be warned: don’t phone up and try to reserve a table unless you want to hear a famously rude waiter laughing at you down the phone. Lipp doesn’t do reservations. They’ve told you already. They are a brasserie.
The interior is a beautiful mishmash of the original Belle Epoque tiles and florals and the mirrored 1926 Art Deco refit, all acquiring a patina of age. In short, it is any location manager’s ideal for an interior summing up the quintessence of Paris. And this is unquestionably matched by the pedigree of the clientele. From the first bands of Left Bank intellectuals and artists to colonise this rather unassuming establishment on the Bld. Saint-Germain, to a list of patrons that reads like a who’s who of Parisian history throughout the twentieth century, Lipp has remained a staunch favourite with writers, thinkers, artists, designers and politicians who have found a place to commune with peers away from the limelight and pompous stances of more grand ventures. To list them individually would take up far more space than is available here: basically, if they lived in Paris and did something interesting, they came here. So, if you look a little surprised because your visit to Lipp finds you seated next to a famous fashion designer or a heavyweight French politician, you’ll probably be the only one staring wide-eyed because the regulars are entirely used to it.
There are other famous Parisian cafes, restaurants and eateries dating from the same golden era of the nineteenth century as Lipp that have understandably cashed in on their heritage by throwing their full weight behind a marketing machine catering to tourists. In truth, some remain great places to visit, managing to prevent the commercialisation from interfering with the essence of their establishments. But Lipp has never even considered such folly. Quite aside from the fact that it has never needed to, its clear that it remains under the watchful eye of those who understand the old adage that if something isn’t broken it doesn’t need fixing.