On an impersonal avenue in a fancy Paris neighborhood is a historic café. At lunchtime it is frequented by politicians, businessmen and high-ranking government officials, at dinner by its habitués, many of them locals.
Discreet, elegant and with an excellent cuisine, Café Max is probably one of the few places in the French capital where you feel like you’re back in time, where you find a graceful, refined Paris, with a cuisine that is not meant to be refined but impeccable and faithful to its origins.
“Haut Lieu de La Resistance”
In the past named Café Hélice, Café Max was a “Haut Lieu de La Resistance”, a key place for French resistance. During the Nazi occupation, the place belonged to Eugène Germain, known for having been one of the great pilots of the First World War. Here he organized parties for the occupying Germans where women who spoke fluent German were present, their role was to listen to the conversations of the enemies and then transmit them to the resistance. Among the young resistant who frequented the café, there was one, a friend of Jean Moulin (martyr of the French resistance), named Max, this unknown young man will give the restaurant its name.
Fréderic Vardon is the owner of Café Max, who is a chef himself. When he bought the restaurant from its former owner, he wisely did not want to change anything. He left the dining room as it was with the black walls and the portrait of François Mauriac by Bernard Buffet, he left the beautiful red velvet sofas, the old zinc counter and the winning team that worked there before. In the kitchen, the experienced and virtuous chef Régis Letourneurs, resident for over 18 years, has kept his menu and his own style and now has an even larger network of good producers and artisans from Vardon. In the lounge the spectacular maitre Julio that with his kindness and good advice (it is essential to listen to his recommendations) makes the experience even more enjoyable.
As a starter we ordered two of the house’s signature dishes, the eggs mayonnaise, and the veal tonnato.
The eggs came well filled and mustardy and accompanied a tasty green salad. The veal is also good, very fine and soft meat, generous sauce, capers and parmesan slices, finally a good veal tonnato, just like that.
We followed Julio’s recommendation and had lamb, it was one of the dishes of the day, the cut was the selle d’agneau, the upper part of the thigh, more exactly, it is the front quarter that connects the leg to the ribs. A tender part, deliciously greasy and tasty, a reduction of the stock made with the bones and trimmings of the meat, vegetables and wine, this tasty sauce that came to bind and sublimate the fine sautéed green beans with onions and slices of tomatoes à Provençal. One of the best dishes I’ve eaten this year and one of the best lambs in a long time.
Pêche Melba as Escoffier loves it
I’ve been wanting to eat a Pêche Melba for years and when I saw its name on the menu, I had no doubt that this would be the right time and place.
Pêche Melba is a dessert of peaches and raspberry syrup with vanilla ice cream. It was invented in 1892 or 1893 by French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel in London to honor Australian soprano Nellie Melba.
The one I had at Café Max fulfilled my expectations: fresh peach, raspberry syrup and a vanilla ice cream served in a La Rochére-style glass bowl.
Café Max is a unique place and I recommend it for those who miss or want to know the good Paris of the past, being well treated and eating the classics of French cuisine prepared with the best ingredients. Something rare for nowadays.
Monday to Friday: from 12:15 to 14:00 and from 19:30 to 22:00.
Closed Saturday and Sunday
7 avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007 Paris
Subway: La Tour Maubourg