The brasserie is typically a French restaurant with a relaxed setting, open seven days a week. Traditionally characterised by fast all-day table service, a typical décor of marble tables, mirrors and hanging lights, and having an unchanging menu, served all day. Whilst the setting is relaxed and informal, the waiting staff are professionally dressed, and the décor should exude class.  Food on the menu will vary from more high-end dishes such as langoustine to a classic signature dish, such as ‘steak frites’.

Brasserie also means ‘brewery’ in French so in France brasseries often brew their own beer, and beer was more typically consumed in brasseries, rather than traditional restaurants where wine was favoured. However, over the decades wine has become a more preferred beverage in the brasserie world. Often served in ‘pichets’ (which look like a cross between a vase and a jug) or, of course, by glass and by the bottle, wine is considered the classic brasserie drink and most offer an extensive wine list to accompany an extensive food menu.

The brasseries of Alsace and of Paris

The brasserie is an establishment that is meant to be glamourous yet affordable; a perfect place for a date, a special occasion, a business lunch or just a quick steak and a glass of wine after a long day. Typically offering fancier ‘haute cuisine’ dishes on the menu, but also affordable options like stew and steak haché (a French hamburger).

In Paris and in larger French cities you would also find many ‘brasseries alsaciennes’, which were opened by people of Alsace before the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. One characteristic of these brasseries that has endured, mostly in some of most historical brasseries, is the choucroute on the menu. Choucroute is the Alsace version of sauerkraut, and also considered emblematic of local Alsatian cuisine.

La Belle Epoque

Brasseries in Paris started becoming fashionable among more elite crowds during La Belle Epoque, also known as the period of time between the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and the start of the first World War in 1914. This era was considered a time of peace, economic prosperity and artistic revolution. The memory of this epoque became idealised in the collective French memory, causing great nostalgia for this era for a long time after.

At this time, Paris came alive with joie de vivre; the nouveau-riches emerged alongside the bourgeoisie and Parisian elite due to their financial successes from industrialisation. Art Nouveau spread across the city (and the rest of Europe) through its architecture, furniture, decoration and more.

Cabarets, music halls and bistros thrived; this is after all the time where landmark venues such as the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère became mainstream. The concepts of haute couture and haute cuisine became national institutions and legacies during this time.

Post War Brasseries

After the First World War, Parisian brasseries once again became iconic cultural emblems; the socialites and artists of 1920s and 1930s Paris frequented brasseries that had been wonderfully embellished and renovated to art deco style. This is now the more usual historic brasserie design; rows of leather seats, mirrors along the length of the restaurant, no table cloths on the wooden or marble tables (this is a typical bistro feature), lots of tables pushed close together, hanging lights, and fast service.

The brasserie of today

In France local brasseries are always busy, bustling places where people socialise or pop in alone for a bite to eat, a glass of beer or wine.

In most French towns and larger villages, you will usually find a central brasserie that everybody knows. It might be on the edge of the main market square or on a popular street corner. There will probably be several.

In Paris, the historical brasseries are now tourist attractions but so many of the informal restaurants in the capital bear the name brasserie and continue to uphold the tradition.

At Côte, our brasseries are a modern take on Parisian all-day dining. We are passionate about French cuisine and have sought to bring a little of that rich brasserie culture and tradition to the UK.