The ‘brasserie’. The ‘bistro’. The ‘cafe. ‘The ‘restaurant’. The very names of dining establishments are rooted in French culture and language – which gives you an idea of just how seriously the French take their food.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Alsace, in the northeast corner of France, gave Paris not only its celebrated beers but a whole new type of dining establishment in which to imbibe them: the brasserie. In the earlier era the word had simply meant brewery. Then, charcuterie and hearty plates of simple fare got added in order to offer the working man some sustenance along with his tipple.
The brasserie became a popular meeting place, a place to catch up on the local news and grab a well-earned drink and a bite to eat. Unpretentious, relaxed and friendly, it’s little wonder it spread right across France over the 19th and 20th centuries.
Although a simple formula, the brasserie enjoyed widespread success, not least because it was completely classless. Here, the stiff, hierarchical strictures of French society got banished at the door. Politicians rubbed shoulders with shopkeepers; actresses dined next to duchesses; and writers, artists and intellectuals treated their local brasserie like home.
After artists and writers made brasseries chic, their owners glammed up the décor – adding stunning tiles, glass, murals and plush velvet seating in the first decades of the twentieth century. However, the unadorned pleasures of the hearty menu and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere never changed. Today, in any French city, the local brasserie is a bright, buzzy, friendly place, with great food, great wine and great company. Just like Verres en Vers.