All-Paris of the Roaring Twenties frequented the brasserie for its unbridled and lavish evenings. Then the restaurant on the left bank remained, over time, the HQ of artists of the Montparnasse district.
The large sun-drenched terrace awaits the first customers. Everything is calm on Boulevard du Montparnasse, this Monday in July. Tourists are absent; Parisians already on vacation. Only a few regulars from the neighborhood come to greet around a coffee the handful of employees, in livery and masked, who provide service at the Coupole that morning. The emblematic brasserie on the left bank - next to the Rotonde and the Dôme - where the Tout-Paris of the Roaring Twenties rushed to eat and party, resumed service on June 15.
Admittedly, the 750 covers are no longer served these days between noon and midnight. And the basement dance hall, where people still wiggled in costumes from the 1920s, 30s or 40s before the health crisis, is temporarily transformed into a dining hall for employees. But the sumptuous Art Deco decoration and the soul of the largest intramural restaurant of the 1930s are still there. "Two years ago, work was started to refresh the brewery," says Pierre Daridan, the operations manager. The work has made it possible to reopen the terrace, as it was originally. Here, facing the boulevard, artists, intellectuals, thugs and demi-mondaines gathered, wearing hats, to sip a glass of champagne.
On December 20, 1927, the bubbles from the 1,200 bottles opened for the inauguration were not enough to quench the thirst of the 2,500 handpicked guests. Artistic Paris was there: Joséphine Baker, Mistinguett, Man Ray, Cocteau and even Blaise Cendrars. Aragon, a bit tipsy, has even been escorted by the police! After this memorable evening, the success of the Dome was immediate.
"It must be said that the two bosses, Ernest Fraux and René Lafon, had heard a painter say that the restaurant which would be decorated by artists from the neighborhood would be a hit," says Emmanuelle Corcellet-Prévost, guide lecturer specialist in the Dome. When they bought this nearly 1000 square meter coal warehouse, and saw this forest of bare pillars, they did not hesitate long. »Fashionable painters (most of whom have been forgotten), some of whom are students of Matisse and Fernand Léger, immortalize the Roaring Twenties on the 33 pillars now listed in the inventory of Historic Monuments.
Sumptuous decor and unbridled parties
A period fresco, in the far right in the restaurant room, shows Joséphine Baker surrounded by ostrich feathers, in a frenzied dance. Affixed to one of the pilasters, the work of Victor Robiquet recalls how the review leader and singer of the Roaring Twenties was one of the regulars in the Dome. In the basement dance hall, whose reputation soon surpassed that of the Rotunda, she often performed until the early hours of the morning. But history has especially remembered his visits with his cheetah, Chiquita, kept on a leash. The feline came regularly with her mistress to the Dome. The frightened customers even asked the boss at the time to convince her to leave her "pet" at home.
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The two Auvergnats also rely on a sumptuous Art Deco decoration: the splendid mosaic floor and the immense glass ceiling lights of the restaurant are original. Just like Green Lap - an even more noble material than marble - which still dresses the base of the pillars. The decor is set to host sumptuous parties ... and unbridled! Champagne flows freely, we swing on the dance floor where in the large central basin (now gone) young women end the evening naked ...
Beauvoir, Sartre, Gainsbourg or Coluche: the artists' haunt
After the war, the day of the Liberation of Paris, Hemingway comes here to celebrate the victory. Like him, artists continue to frequent the brewery. Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre have their habits there, table 149, at the back of the restaurant. They bicker over tablecloths stories: Jean-Paul prefers cotton, Simone paper so that his artist friends can doodle during the meal.
Giacometti chews on customers, Matisse comes to drink a beer in secret from his wife and Coluche, whose mother is a florist on the boulevard, flirts with his future wife. Gainsbourg sips a "102" while Jane wiggles at the dancehall. And Renaud devotes, in 1975, a song to the Parisian brasserie: "When the evening comes, I like to go drink / A glass of alcohol in the Dome / To make the gringue to all these crazy people / To all these crazy people too much frivolous ".
In the 1980s, the charm no longer operated. The artists shun the Dome, suddenly invaded by tourists. The brewery then went from hand to hand, from the Flo group to the Albert Frère financier before being bought by the Bertrand group in 2018. Since then, the costume parties have been revived once a month, the menu has been simplified around the fruits of seafood and lamb curry, the house specialty.
This July day, the trays of oysters, crab claws and shrimps are a hit. And the tables, reinstalled to comply with sanitary measures, still fill up. But where are the artists? "They are still coming today," reassures Pierre Daridan. We often see Gad Elmaleh, Anny Duperey and, one of our biggest regulars who always sits at the same table, Jean-Paul Belmondo. "
The recipe for Indian lamb curry, served since 1927
Since the 1920s, when dishes from all over the world were in fashion, successive chefs have perpetuated the subtle balance of La Coupole's specialty. "You have to sear the lamb shoulder in a little olive oil," explains Jérôme Léoty, chef for three years. Then add a mixture "based on curry, coconut, green anise, red pepper, cumin, garam masala and other spices, the quantities of which are kept secret".
For ten minutes, sear the meat over medium / high heat before simmering for at least an hour with tomatoes, onions, cilantro… Once the meat is decanted and the sauce is rectified, an Indian chef de rang in ceremonial dress comes to serve customers in the dining room. But with the health crisis, the "curry man" - as it is called here - will not return until September.
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