One of the mainstays of any restaurant menu in Paris these days is le café gourmand, a sort of feel-good dessert replacement (basically an espresso accompanied by 4-5 little samples of cakes and desserts), which normally sells for between 6 to 8 Euros.
As Olivier explains on his excellent blog, there are all sorts of obscure Parisian rules regulating when you’re allowed to order a café gourmand. But basically it’s what you order when you want dessert but don’t want to be seen by your dining companions having a dessert. It’s still just as fattening, but strangely un café gourmand is thought of as coffee, not dessert, so this makes it socially acceptable to diet-conscious Parisians.
You can now find the café gourmand in many places in France, but this particular symbol of Parisian civilisation doesn’t seem to have spread to Belgium yet. But this may be about to change…
We were in Brussels today for a business meeting, and we went out for a rather nice lunch at Le Quai (a restaurant in a converted railway station in the southern suburbs). When it came to time to order dessert, one of our companions absently asked for “Un café gourmand, s’il vous plaît“. The waitress stared back and asked quizzicly “C’est quoi un café gourmand?“
Having explained to the waitress what was involved, the chef agreed to make us all café gourmands. I had to immortalise the moment – just in case this turns out to be the moment that the café gourmand crosses the border into Belgium. Here’s the photo:
So if you’re in Brussels later this year, and see café gourmand on the menu… well, I’d like to think that me and my colleagues can take some of the credit.