Café Paris: a name that immediately conjures up images of days spent outside on Austurvöllur, people-watching and swigging cold beers al fresco. While the old Café Paris occupied prime space and foggy memories, the new Café Paris has jolted the corner awake with its brand new renovation and an all-day menu that promises to live up to its bistro-esque name.
We sat down for a chat with the new management. They’re a young team, albeit one with experience from Snaps, Matur og Drykkur and Jömfruin, headed up by Jakob E. Jakobsson, chef Atli Ottesen and restaurant manager Sigurlaug Dröfn.
We were curious if at any point they considered renaming the restaurant. “It was a big decision to decide to keep the name,” says Jakob. “We knew we were going to change the restaurant entirely, but we spoke to ad professionals, and found that this name has a value. After all, it has been here since 1993. It’s not something you discard easily. We looked at everything, and we decided to scale it up, make it nice, take it back to the origin and reopen as Café Paris.”
The new Café Paris is definitely its own place. The once dark walls are now awash with light, the restaurant bright and airy; a cheery bar hugs the open kitchen, and one enters through a timber vestibule reminiscent of Balthazar in New York.
When we met at 10am, the place was already starting to fill up with diners. Jakob likens it to a train station. “We have two entrances—this is a walk-through place, a drop-in place,” he says. “We don’t take reservations.”
Bakeries have traditionally been the bastion of breakfast in Iceland. You’d be hard pressed to find a place that opened its doors early and served a hot breakfast, let alone a perfectly made eggs Florentine. The spinach is wilted ever so slightly with some shallots; thick-cut slices of ham rest atop a dense brioche, topped with a textbook six-minute egg (David Chang would approve) and hollandaise.
“We’ve had a lot of tourists coming in for breakfast,” says Jakob. “We’re getting a lot of guests from the neighbouring hotels,” adds Sigurlaug. “Some come in every day.” It’s a good sign considering they’re foregoing hotel breakfasts to do so. The breakfast menu veers towards the French-American—an already popular chicken and waffles served with hot sauce could be just the cure for that weekend hangover.
“We have an open kitchen and a larger prep area downstairs,” says Atli. “That’s where all the magic happens. We do all the stocks and sauces in-house.” He lays down a hulking stack of buttermilk pancakes, topped with caramelised bananas. They’re light and fluffy—everything an American-style buttermilk pancake should be. The accompanying puddle of caramel takes on the banana flavour, further proof of the kitchen’s deftness.
There’s a clear love for detail that permeates the new Café Paris. The pancakes are sprinkled with thick slivers of toasted almonds, the menus are easy to read and laminated with brass corners, and the mimosas generous with the sparkling wine and made with freshly squeezed OJ. Reykjavik has a new contender in town, and it could be the next local favourite.
Café Paris is open from 7:45am to midnight.