Brunch at Big Love Cafe in Paris
As irony would have it, the best reviewed French toast in Paris can be found at a quintessentially hip Italian cafe. Perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising - the Italians know a thing or two about re-purposing baked goods, à la tiramisu.
Big Love resides on Rue Debelleyme. It’s a nondescript street in the 3rd arrondissement and, after noticing a sizeable increase in hanging parma hams in the windows of the local stores, I came to realise this is a very Italian neighborhood.
Rue Debelleyme is a quiet street. There are no queues outside and the familiar sound of clattering cutlery and chatting patrons - which are now characteristic to all popular brunch spots - are nowhere to be seen or heard. There’s nothing to suggest the moreish dishes consistently pouring from the kitchen of Big Love Cafe. It’s only as I push open the front door that the sounds of dozens of cheerful patrons break through to the outside world.
I’m immediately greeted with a big smile and a booming ‘buongiorno!’ from a beaming waiter. After two days of entering each restaurant and cafe and muttering a shy and barely audible, ‘bonjour’, I’m a little thrown by this flagrantly non-French greeting.
The Italian theme continues as I pass under an archway of parma hams and garlic garlands and view the endless jars of pasta, dried legumes and nuts lining walls of the narrow cafe. I inhale the familiar aroma of Italian brew as it drifts from the espresso machine tucked in the corner. I’m shown to my seat with a, ‘prego’.
I might have felt a little guilty spending one of just two mornings in Paris dining at an Italian cafe, were it not for the mouthwatering menu and the French patrons sitting to my left and right.
The menu offers a moreish selection of both sweet and savoury dishes. While many will be familiar, they are all served up with a unique French/Italian twist.
The go-to brunch item of avocado and toast is replaced by a flaky croissant paired with parma ham and spicy guacamole. Classic fluffy pancakes are superseded with crispy ham and melted mozzarella.
While I entered into a mild flirtation with many of these menu items, I settled on what I came for: pain perdu. Brioche bread drizzled with a blueberry compote and finished off with mascarpone cheese. The bread is crisp and moist, but not soaked through, while the sweetness of the blueberry sauce is pared down by creamy mascarpone. Accompanied by a pistachio mocha, I may have just found French/Italian brunch heaven.
Visiting Big Love Cafe in Paris
Location: 30, Rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris
Opening hours: Monday - Friday: 12:00–14:30 and 19:00–22:45. Saturdays: 09:00–15:45 19:00–23:00 and Sunday 09:00–15:45 19:00–22:45
Price: Brunch items range between: 7 euro and 14 euro