The legend of Balzar

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A brasserie with wit!

The Latin Quarter...a timeless hub of both knowledge and schoolboy antics. An endless stream of professors and students trading classroom for barroom. This is whereLe Balzarwas founded in 1890, between the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, and Paris' renowned medical and law schools. The country, which was at the height of the Belle Epoque, radiated prestige. In the heart of the fashionable artistic and intellectual part of Paris, Le Picard, Amédée Balzar served up beer from the tap of his newly opened bar at 49 rue des Écoles. Located close to the greatest literary cafés of the day, such as Soleil d'Or, Vachette, Taverne du Panthéon, and Café de Cluny, it quickly became the bar of choice for students who were strapped for cash. There, they proceeded to challenge the philosophy of their time and remake the world.

A few years later, Amédée Balzar took a well-deserved retirement. He sold his bar to the owner of the impressive Brasserie Lipp, Marcelin Cazes, who entrusted the building's renovation to his architect, Louis Madeline. A devote Art Deco enthusiast, he restored Le Balzar to its former glory. Now, opalescent globe lights shine softly above a subtle, stylish tile floor and rough-hewn wooden tables, setting off the sober elegance of the dark wood panelling and moleskin benches. Scattered about the walls, striking posters and paintings immortalize the 1930s, such as Partarrieu's cubist hommage to the brasserie. Immense mirrors take up both walls, reflecting each other infinitely and opening up the space. When you look up, these ingeniously designed mirrors bend in at the top of the walls, delighting curious patrons who wish to consider the food at a neighbouring table at their leisure.

Mrs. Marcellin Cazes turned the bar, called Le Petit Lipp, into a main fixture of the Left Bank. With discreet indifference, Le Balzar respected the anonymity of its famous customers and inspired visionaries. Politics, science, medicine, literature, history, and law were always on the menu. Architects and philosophers challenged each other again and again over two plats du jour. During the Cold War, tobacco smoke mingled with the ceaseless conversations that Sartre, Camus and Beauvoir had at Le Balzar. André Malraux found inspiration for his next speech while pouring over the entrée menu. Jacques Toubon and his wife spoke together of both politics and painting. Lost in thought, Jean Tulard mused about the heyday of the Napoleonic Era over dessert. Vaclav Havel and Mario Soarès came here from the Sorbonne or the Collège de France to talk about the latest conferences. Louis Malle and Johnny Depp have each savoured our buttered skate and chocolate profiteroles after a film. Never disturbed by the surrounding pomp, youth, laughter or cosmopolitanism, Le Balzar remains a haven for the soul—a place of humour, science, hope, and the future.

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