The Café Constant is on my list of favourite Parisian cafes. It’s not that I have visited all the thousands of cafes in the City of Light to compile a definitive list of my top ten: rather the Café Constant became a favourite by default as it’s close to where I normally stay when I visit Paris. It’s good, so if I hadn’t discovered it by virtue of its proximity I am sure I would have truffled it out with the aid of one of my trusty guidebooks.
The café is at 139 Rue St Dominique; it’s very much a neighbourhood café and is well stitched into the fabric of the area. It’s open long hours to serve: breakfast, lunch, an afternoon menu, and dinner. I suspect many tourists in search of lunch or dinner, who don’t have guidebooks, and even some who do (it’s recommended in many) look at its unprepossessing exterior and decide to give it a miss. They may walk down the road to the much shinier Les Cocottes a few doors away or to the even shinier Le Violin d’Ingres a little further on. What they probably don’t realize is that the same person, Christian Constant, owns all three restaurants. In a land where food is king Monsieur Constant has a serious gastronomic pedigree; before he decided to attempt the culinary colonization of one end of the Rue St Dominique he was executive head chef at the two star Michelin restaurant in Paris’s Crillon Hotel.
The Café Constant is the most casual and laid back of his establishments. There are two smallish rooms one down and one upstairs. To me it also feels the most authentically French in a cobbled together sort of way. There are red banquettes, plain wooden tables and simple chairs. There is not much in the way of decoration save for some pictures dotted about, a selection of Monsieur Constant’s cookbooks propped against a wall downstairs and rather incongruously a photograph (on the stair wall) of Monsieur Constant with David and Victoria Beckham (I don’t think it was actually taken at the Cafe Constant).
I have lunched many times at the Café Constant and the food has always been good, however my favourite meal to eat there is breakfast. You can just have a coffee and a croissant but I always opt for the formule express (coffee, freshly squeeze orange juice, a patisserie and a creamy yogurt). The coffee is good and the buttery flaky croissants are divine. The place is buzzy at breakfast time as locals pop in to stand at the bar and have an early morning espresso, deliveries appear every so often, and white-clad chefs arrive to start lunchtime prep.
Breakfast is often not included in the room price of Paris hotels and it can be an expensive addition to the bill if you choose to eat in the hotel, so if you are staying anywhere nearby why not amble along to the Café Constant for petit dejeuner.