The great red awnings of La Coupole on the boulevard Montparnasse immediately catch the eye. At this ultimate Parisian brasserie, the oysters and seafood are in a class of their own, just like the extraordinary and varied clientele. This famous establishment was the place to be in the early twentieth century, and greats such as Dalí, Picasso and Man Ray were regularly spotted there.
Sitting outside at a pavement table with a cup of excellent coffee or a cool beer is a great way to watch Parisian life. Upon entering the restaurant, it is immediately clear why it is known as the Art Deco gem of Montparnasse: dozens of tables are placed amid a décor of superbly painted pillars and cubist mosaics. This popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations but the wait for a table is well worth your while.
The concept for La Coupole came from Ernest Fraux and his brother-in-law René Lafon who wished to build the greatest restaurant in Paris. La Coupole opened its doors at the end of 1927 and its interior has barely changed since then. Distinctive characteristics of the Art Deco style are omnipresent, such as the frequent use of colour and a mix of materials like wood and glass. The many pillars were covered with remarkable paintings by the best artists of the era, including Marc Chagall and Louis Latapie. The dome in the middle of the restaurant is more recent: in 2008, four artists were commissioned to paint one quarter of it each. The space under the dome used to be occupied by a large fountain in which many famous people have cooled their feet. In its place is now one of the masterpieces by French sculptor Louis Derbré.
La Coupole is still favoured by celebrities. On the restaurant’s website you can find an alphabetic list of all their famous guests. The photographer Robert Doisneau, for instance, was often seen at table 87, and Pablo Picasso frequently dined here with colleagues from the art world. Simone de Beauvoir used La Coupole as the setting for her novel L’Invitée (She Came to Stay).
With so much beauty to look forward to, you could almost forget that you actually came here to eat. Fortunately, the menu is as well furnished as the interior. The choice of fish, among the best in Paris, is on display in the restaurant itself. Chef Jean-Philippe Bourgueil knows how to surprise his guests time and time again. Shrimps in puff pastry with fresh spices, an Indian curry with Label Rouge lamb, tender tongue... each dish is a balanced mix of originality and tradition.