Brasserie Glamour at La Coupole in Montparnasse

   1883  
Brasserie Glamour at La Coupole in Montparnasse
A visit to La Coupole on the Boulevard Montparnasse is always an event. A platter of seafood, piled high on a bed of ice, swoops by on the arm of a black-and-white clad waiter. The interior’s painted pillars and Art Deco style can be glimpsed from the terrace and I’m swept back to the Jazz Age, when crowds gathered here to dine, to drink and smoke, perhaps to listen to music and dance. For when it opened in 1927, La Coupole was an immediate crowd-puller. Seafood at La Coupole. Photo credit: Marian Jones Montparnasse was popular with writers, musicians and artists, many of them Americans who’d arrived in Paris to escape Prohibition. They loved the area’s café culture, centered around the Rotonde and the Dome which had both opened at the turn of the century. Two brothers-in-law, Ernest Fraux and René Lafon, who worked at the Dome and tried, but failed, to buy it, decided to open a new venue instead. They bought the only available premises, a rather unpromising wood and coal warehouse at 102 Boulevard Montparnasse, near the junction with Boulevard Raspail, and began thinking big. Food at La Coupole. Photo credit: Marian Jones Architects and decorators were hired to transform the vast empty space and create an Art Déco interior where everything – the tiling, the furniture, the lighting, the tableware – was custom made. The 33 supporting pillars would have to stay, but there were plenty of artists who’d just left Montmartre for the cheaper, edgier district of Montparnasse who would decorate them with painted frescos. Legend has it that they worked in return for free drinks, although evidence suggests that some at least billed the owners for their work. Either way, excitement about the new venue was building, especially when several thousand invitations were sent out for the opening night party on December 27th, 1927. The interior of La Coupole. Photo credit: Marian Jones It was said Le Tout Paris (all of Paris) came and there were indeed more than 2000 guests who finished the 1200 bottles of champagne by midnight, then partied on until the small hours. Illustrious guests included the artist Man Ray and the writer and film director Jean Cocteau which certainly enhanced La Coupole’s reputation. So perhaps did the fact that the police were called at 5 A.M. to send the last stragglers on their way.
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Lead photo credit : The exterior of La Coupole. Photo credit: Marian Jones

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.