11th Arrondissement (Bastille)

Le Pure Cafe


14 Rue Jean Macé,


The "heep-ster" atmosphere at lunch is abso-lutely intolerable (unless you happen to be one, in which case turn on your laptop and start smoking your brains out), but the freestanding, monumental horseshoe of a zinc at Le Pure Café has got to be seen. (Au Petit Fer À Cheval on the Rue Vieille du Temple is always singled out for its U-shaped zinc, but this is merely a rarity. A freestanding U-shaped zinc is the Golden Fleece.) Le Pure Café is cruddy, which, some would argue, is intrinsic to the zinc experience, but it’s cruddy-stylish rather than the cruddy-neglectful you get elsewhere. So many products and decorative painting techniques have been developed to imitate the look of grimy, yellowed bistro walls that it’s impossible to know if Le Pure Café’s, which bottom out in handsome pistachio wainscoting, are the real thing. Based on the façade of ancient stripped wood and windows etched with urns and garlands, you enter expecting to have a nice, vintage time. But inside, the glass amphorae hanging from the ceiling are by a contemporary lighting designer whose name you are supposed to know, and instead of andouillette, the menu trumpets grilled cuttlefish with sesame seeds, rhubarb compote, and spiced bulgur. (A "tatin" of goat cheese and tomatoes is the closest Le Pure Café gets to engaging with tradition—not very close.) Around teatime the crowd becomes mercifully mixed—young couples with babies and, this being a zinc, the local drunks.