History of the Coupe-Chou


Rédigé le Lundi 30 Janvier 2006 à 18:32 | Lu 51398 fois


Three actors, Francis Lemonnier, Francis Nani and Christian Azzopardi, decided to start a restaurant to welcome performers and spectators after evening shows. With patience and persistence, they acquired and restored premises, and on 3rd November 1962, the Coupe-Chou restaurant opened its doors for the first time. French and foreign stars mingled there, and it was always busy. The combination of evening opening and a great menu proved a success. With its Louis XIII charm, the Coupe-Chou became a meeting place for lovers. The adjoining building, 11 rue de Lanneau, was purchased in 1965. At that time, it was a truckers’ bar, called the “Puits Certain” (Certain’s Well). Two years of historical research and building work, and months of searching for antique furniture and ornaments, restored its original 17th century appearance. Today, the “Puits Certain” forms the main entrance to the Coupe-Chou.

The Coupe-Chou has continued to expand into neighbouring townhouses, which are linked by staircases and narrow corridors. It is an elegant restaurant, which opens discretely onto the narrow and picturesque rue de Lanneau, on the slope of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, near to the Collège de France, the Sorbonne and Place de la Contrescarpe. Paris townhouses of the old style, with their fascinating history, provide the setting.

With its round tables, stone chimney breast, and the muted colours of its stone paved floor, the Abbot Certain room welcomes you into a warm, 17th century atmosphere. Classical music transports you to a by-gone era. In a corner, stone steps descend to the cellars and the exquisite rest rooms, from where you can still hear the gentle music which accompanies you throughout your evening. A staircase with Louis XIII curved wooden balustrades takes you upstairs to a charming dining room with dark green walls where the original wood can still be seen. A few steps lead you to the Conciergerie, a room with deep, velvet armchairs, wing chairs and pedestal tables, where you can order and wait for your meal to be prepared while sipping an aperitif and nibbling warm, savoury pastries. You then come to the Barber’s Room, with its original hexagonal floor tiles, fireplace, beams and half timbering. Take three steps more, go through a doorway, and you are in the library, where places have been laid for dinner. Cross a dining room decorated with English engravings, where a fire burns merrily in the grate, and then go out into the winter garden.

Notre Dame, the Seine, Place de la Contrescarpe, the Latin Quarter, rue Mouffetard and the Panthéon bear witness to a past which the Coupe-Chou allows us to experience in an unforgettable evening. While the cellars were being restored, the owners discovered the remains of the Gallo-Roman city. These date from the time of Marcus Aurelius, 170 years after the birth of Christ, and include pipes for warm water and a Gallo-Roman swimming pool. They also found 12th century pottery, statuettes and plaques from the Middle Ages from rue Chartière and rue du Mont Saint-Hilaire (the old name for rue de Lanneau), where the word “Saint” had been chiselled away during the revolution. These plaques hang behind the Coupe-Chou bar today.

We can picture Henri IV coming to meet his mistress, the beautiful Gabrielle d’Estrée, opposite the Coupe-Chou. Or the 13th century barber who slit the throats of his best clients with a “coupe-chou” (the name of a type of razor, which literally means “cabbage-cutter”) and the pork butcher across the road who infamously made pâté out of the victims. In the 19th century, a shepherd lived on the fifth floor with his goats. He took them to Belleville every day, and the herd climbed the stairs which led to the shepherd’s room each evening.

A stone’s throw away from rue du Mont Saint-Hilaire, rue Jean de Beauvais and rue Chartière formed a square around the well sunk by Abbot Certain in 1572. Many of the townhouses unfortunately no longer exist, but the foundations of the well can still be seen on the second level of the Coupe-Chou’s cellars.

From the 14th century these back streets have been crowded with students from nearby colleges and universities such as the Sorbonne and Collège Coqueret, where Ronsard and Du Bellay, founding members of the Pléiade group of poets, studied. Up until 1880, rue Mont Saint Hilaire, a back street, boasted 14 bookshops. This street is now known as rue de Lanneau. In 1803, the “Puits Certain” restaurant (today the Coupe-Chou) became famous thanks to Monsieur Ducray-Duminil, a restaurant critic in the days before the Michelin guide, who wrote: “Monsieur Gauchois deserves to use altars for serving his ‘Puits Certain stuffed calves’ heads’.

His own head often spins from the multitude of orders, with which he is overwhelmed. In short, everything which comes from this modest and unremarkable eatery (on rue du Mont Saint-Hilaire), where he alone cooks and where he does the honours with a simplicity and a modesty worthy of the Ancien Régime, prove Monsieur Gauchois to be a most distinguished and consummate artist.” In this part of Paris’s 5th arrondissement, the labyrinthine back streets, the uneven paving and the tall houses with their bulging façades all recall the medieval city. You are at its very heart: Philippe Auguste’s wall, which circled Paris at the beginning of the 13th century, still stands at 3, rue Clovis, massive and covered with ivy.