20 March 2012

far-sighted: télescope, 75001

... And now for the opening of a laudable venture that Paris actually needs: an elegantly simple coffee-geek café called Télescope, tucked away by Palais-Royal on rue Villedo. It's the debut project of David Flynn, formerly barista at the 18ème's Bal Café and La Caféothèque before that, and Nicolas Clerc, a photographer turned coffee enthusiast. Today will be their first day open to the public for business.

The space is tiny, well-appointed, feels a bit like a seat in a Scandinavian lighthouse. Just four or five tables and a spacious bar, upon which will be offered an array of pastries. I suspect at least some of the latter will be sourced from among the gang of talented expat baker chicks who seem suddenly to be everywhere.(Ofr Galerie, La Candelaria, Brunch Bazar, etc.) In the mornings there will be tartines and toast, and the café's intake from on-premises sipping will be buttressed by a wholesale operation. 

No, Flynn and Clerc don't plan to serve any wine. But Télescope remains wholly relevant to this blog, because I can't write without coffee. And since it's the city's first conveniently located coffee bar, Télescope stands to be my main supply of responsibly-sourced, masterfully-roasted, afficionado-approved coffee, something which, despite the testimonials of every dreamy-eyed tourist, remains a total rarity in Paris. 

When I say "afficionado-approved," I'm referring to afficionados other than myself, in whom I am happy to trust. I have what can best be described as a reptilian instinct for good coffee. Despite the enthusiastic encouragement of many highly caffeinated friends, I remain reluctant to evolve any further, even into the cro-magnon era of coffee appreciation. This is because I am already very finicky about wine, food, cocktails, literature, fashion, and pop music. The more interests one adds to this painful miasma of sense-memory and cultural prejudice, the more one risks becoming a kind of parody of discernment, a walking issue of Monocle,* never invited to anything except beheadings.

So, yes: trying to limit my geek interests these days. My criteria for coffee is no more demanding than the basic, rather wine-ish understanding that it ought to taste more of the bean character than of the roast. This sounds simple, but it forms the basis for a sort of Old World / New World divide in coffee bars, with the former - the storied cafés of France, Italy, and Spain among them - being rooted in a more 20th-century roaster-centric conception of coffee, while the latter - think Blue Bottle, Ritual, Intelligentsia, Monmouth, etc. - are arguably more concerned with transmitting the flavors of the coffee, rather than creating them. 

On the basis of no more than this idea, I pretty much dismiss as uninteresting or outmoded all the coffee bars of Paris, with the exceptions of Caféothèque (too fusty, prices too high), Le Bal Café (inconveniently located, also not really a coffee bar, more of a restaurant), Coutume (rive gauche, enough said).

This parade of parenthetical flaws in the competition is why I'm so delighted about Télescope. It's a thoughtful, quality-driven enterprise that manages to feel refreshing and contemporary without embracing the gargantuan, overdesigned London approach. I hope they succeed and become a blueprint for others.

* Do you know what Tyler Brûlé's favorite sort of paving material is? His preferred choice of dishrag? His pick for best city for unisex hair-removal salons open on public holidays? Ask him about these things, should you ever run into him. 

5, rue Villedo
75001 PARIS
Metro: Palais Royale or Pyramids


  1. Hilarious post. I will definitely check this out! And with regards to your third question, it's bound to be some city in either Japan or Sweden with an unrecognisable name.



  2. A link to this post arrived when I was having lunch around the corner, so I decided to pop in to a post-lunch caffeine kick. Great place. The guys are super friendly and the espresso is excellent. I might give Kooka Boora a slight edge in flavor, but Télescope will be the next stop after a bowl of noodles on rue Sainte Anne...