Discover the quirky traditions of Parisian cafés: from dining in absolute darkness and the quirky 1920s of the mythical Orient Express to a curious mix of Franco-Vietnamese culture and offering famous writers a free a glass of Pouilly-Fumé every day for a year.
Café de Flore
Café de Flore is steeped in French literary history, with some quirky traditions still in full swing.
The venue is associated with The Prix de Flore, a prestigious French literary prize founded in 1994 by Frédéric Beigbeder. The purpose of this prize, judged by a panel of journalists, is to reward young French-language authors for their talent at a yearly presentation in November, at the Café de Flore in Paris.
What’s interesting is that the laureate of the Prix de Flore is entitled to drink a glass of Pouilly-Fumé, a delightful white wine from the Loire region of France, at the Café de Flore every day for a year. This is in addition to the 6,000 Euros main prize, and the laureate’s name is engraved on a glass for all eternity. Marguerite Duras is one of the famous writers to have been awarded this prize.
Le wagon bleu
The fabulously nostalgic “Blue Wagon” in the 17th district of Paris is built inside a 1920s train carriage from the mythical Orient Express, imitating all its quirky 1920s traditions.
This is reflected in the Art Deco style, with gorgeous wooden paneled walls and neat tables of the 1920s train—even the original overhead luggage rack and original signs from 1901 remain.
The 1920s Orient Express also lives on through the menu choices—you can eat French classics like steak frites and Corsican dishes like figatellu rôti (roasted Corsican sausage). It’s praised for its tapas and Corsican specialties (cold meats, cheese, donuts with Brocciu), castagniccia, and costa verde.
In terms of pricing, thankfully it’s much cheaper to visit than the real Orient Express. Lunch is very reasonable at €11 (dish of the day and coffee), but otherwise, it’s around €30 for three courses at night. There’s a welcomed happy hour every day from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. (pint at 5 euros, mojito at 5, cocktail of fruit juice at 4).
Mystery Cuisine – Édouard et Thu Ha
Mystery Cuisine is a unique gourmet restaurant in the hands of Franco-Vietnamese couple Edouard and Thu-Ha, who serve up a quirky fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine and culture. They take you on a “gastronomic and theatrical journey” with a mysterious series of surprising and unusual but tasty dishes.
Located close to the Palais-Royal and Louvre Museum in the gorgeous 1st district of Paris, the restaurant will even order a Vietnamese tuk-tuk for you to end the night savoring a French cigar in the local surroundings.
Because their quirky mix of Franco-Vietnamese culture demands a lot of careful planning, the venue can only welcome a few guests at a time. There are only three tables seating just twelve people, so book quickly to avoid disappointment. It’s a little more pricey than the other venues, with set dinner at 159€—added extras going up to 219€—but promising a truly unique experience.
Among the mysterious dishes, you can taste curious platters like le foie gras poêlé à la fraise et perles d’épices à la truffe (strawberry foie gras with pearls of spice), or le velouté de homard maison à la mousse de coco (lobster with coconut mousse). This can be followed by a delightful dessert trio (sélection du Chef) and son infusion aphrodisiaque to finish.
Dans le Noir?
“What if you lost sight temporarily, and a door was opened to an amazing world in which our senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell were suddenly awakened, helping us to realize that we might all be “handicapped” of some of our senses.” It doesn’t get any more quirky than dining in absolute darkness.
Dans le Noir? was founded and financed in Paris in 2004 by Edouard de Broglie, helped by the Paul Guinot Association for the Visually Impaired. The concept is so quirky it’s been copied throughout the world. And recently, Ethik Event has been developing innovative concepts dealing with deafness, such as Café Silence.
After more than one million visitors, Dans le Noir? has become one of the disability’s largest positive awareness operations in Europe and the world. Not only does Paris’ Dans le Noir demand total darkness, but also, that only visually impaired waiters and waitresses be employed.