After a recent failed attempt at trying out this much-hyped Paris brunch address (they have recently been closed for refurbishment), when I spotted on Instagram that Holybelly had reopened their doors at their new location (just down the road from their original smaller cafe), I instantly made a rendezvous with a friend to go and scope it out.
Still on Rue Lucien Sampaix, just a few minute’s walk from Chateau d’Eau Metro station in the North of Paris, Holybelly is well off the beaten track for the majority of tourists since it’s quite out of the way from Paris’s main sights, however it’s become some what of a destination brunch spot in itself for foodie types – locals and tourists alike.
Known as a bit of a hipster lunch joint, and with considerable hype on blogs and Instagram, we arrived expecting a heavily-industrial interior, a vacuous atmosphere, awkward staff, and some style-over-substance food, but we were greeted by a very friendly team, a buzzing and pleasant ambiance and food so good we were back within the space of a week.
Attracting a similar crowd to La Bossue in Pigalle, who do a brunch spread for the best part of 25 Euro, Holybelly actually works out a very reasonable 13.50 for the most expensive meal ‘Eggs and Sides’. While this doesn’t include drinks like the ‘all you can eat’ setup, I find that a couple of coffees at no more than 4 Euros each will still keep the price down compared to many brunches of this standard in the city.
The new decor has a modern feel, with industrial features, an American Diner-style table layout, a large mural wall with Holybelly emblazoned in a street-art style paint job, exposed concrete and mixed metals, which has just the level of fashionable, hipster style that attracts us ‘millennials’, but still retains some classic Parisian features such as vintage, colourful floor tiles and warm, golden-varnished wood. The result is a friendly environment which is bright and inviting, for a perfect casual dining experience that will keep your appetite and your Instagram feed happy.
If you hadn’t already guessed from the amount of coffee shop reviews already on this blog, I’m quite a wannabe coffee snob, and always on the lookout for a new place to find for a good brew. Holybelly’s filter coffee I found a bit tasteless and underwhelming, but luckily the environment and the food made up for it. I’m trying to withhold too much judgement until I’ve had another opportunity to try one of their other coffee offerings, since you should never judge a coffee spot by their filter coffee alone. I’m pretty sure that’s written in an important life guidebook somewhere. They use beans from Swedish roasters Koppi, who I am not familiar with, but I’m sure that they need to be tried in espresso form.
Finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for: the food. After all, a brunch spot cannot gain critical acclaim with a nice interior job alone.
I opted for the ‘Eggs and Sides’ option, where you pick from 3 different options for eggs; scrambled, poached or fried, and two additional sides. The meal comes complete with toast from nearby famous boulangerie Du Pain et Des Idées, which is no more than 5 minute’s walk towards Canal St Martin and is on almost every hyped Parisian bread list. They don’t bake typical French baguettes, so it may not quite be what you expect from highly-rated French bread, and it’s definitely not my favourite bread in Paris, but it’s perfectly at home toasted as part of an Anglo-American style brunch.
I can’t say that it’s the best brunch I’ve had in my life, but during my time in Paris it’s definitely up there. I guess as a Brit I’m used to a english breakfast consisting of more than two accompaniments, so being forced to choose just two left me feeling a bit lacking. You can pay for extra sides, however any extra will add €3.50 to your bill.
As I’ve already mentioned, I came here to Holybelly twice in one week, partly because my friend and I feel so in love with the atmosphere and the food, but also because I wanted to try some of the other combinations for the ‘Eggs and Sides’ option. For my first selection, I opted for fried mushrooms and halloumi cheese (because halloumi is endangered in Paris!), and on our second visit I had the fennel-spiced sausage patty. I am not the biggest fan of chestnut mushrooms so they weren’t my favourite, but the sausage patty really was excellent. Quite small and not overwhelming, it was expertly seasoned with fennel and you can taste the quality of the meat from the first bite.
I tried their scrambled eggs on both occasions (apparently the ‘British’ option which I definitely didn’t realise!), since they really were excellent. Not too salty, creamy and silky, they were just how I like scrambled eggs to be. They just need a touch of pepper (which you can add to taste at the table), and they go perfectly well with the Du Pain et Des Idées toast.
I don’t always like to admit when the most hyped places deserve their infamy, but in the case of Holybelly, I do actually find it completely reserved. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out their original location (despite 2 attempts, one time greeted with an hour wait which I abandoned and the second time greeted with construction works), but since on the two occasions that I have now visited, I’ve not seen too much of a queue (not the kind that would force you to turn away unless you were absolutely starving), and not one not worth waiting in for what you will find inside. It’s definitely somewhere I will take visiting friends and family for brunch, and I hope to see more reasonably-priced, non-pretentious brunch restaurants pop up in Paris because finding both in one spot can be quite a challenge.