Bread cast upon the waters
Le Bar à Soupes
In times of economic depression, soup kitchens are necessary but depressing places, but Le Bar au Soupes in the Bastille could give them a good name. Anne Catherine Bley presides over her little shop like a smiling benevolent Saint Francis, feeding the hungry with some of the very best food for the money that can be supplied within the capitalist system. For 9€ you get a bowl of first-rate soup, a couple of pieces of properly matured cheese with a salad garnish, a gourmet bread roll and a glass of respectable red wine.
Of the half-dozen soups on offer I chose gazpacho, perfect for a hot afternoon. This soup had its origins in the attempt to make something edible out of rock-hard stale bread, but in more prosperous times it has become a thick tomato-based vegetable soup served in trendy bistros. This one, with lots of bread crumbs, was closer to its origins and was as good as what I’d had nearby in the Place des Vosges at the tourist-filled Ma Bougogne, at about twice the price.
The cheeses were a well-matured Tomme de Savoie and a chèvre frais. As for the bread roll, it was a dense poppy-seed sourdough that would have been worthy of Poilâne or Kaiser. It came from a venerable boulangerie around the corner where customers were lined up out to the street.
A few more modest but excellent establishments such as this could restore my faith in the human race.
Le Bar à Soupes 33 rue de Charonne, 11th, Tel: 01 43 57 53 79, Mº Bastille