In Paris, coffee should be consumed with a pastry. It’s practically the law. And if you’re in search of a place that makes high-quality pastries and pairs them with good coffee, there’s a new spot to put on your list: Broken Biscuits.
Since they launched in September 2014, the duo behind Broken Biscuits have made a name for themselves on the Parisian specialty coffee shop scene. Supplying places like Honor, Loustic, and Fondation with their creative and innovative pastries, Christine O’Sullivan and Chris Wilson are well loved in the coffee crowd.
As their names might indicate, O’Sullivan and Wilson are Anglophones, she from Ireland and he from Britain. Wilson has spent the last decade working in the pastry world in France, and O’Sullivan studied at the prestigious Ferrandi pastry school, and last fall when they launched out on their own, they were met with quick success. What’s unique about Broken Biscuits is their melding together of French and Anglophone pastry traditions. O’Sullivan points out that their French customers all love the more classic, down to earth treats that we might associate more with a British or American cafe—scones (served with cream and homemade jam of course), brownies, cookies, carrot cake, and the like. They do those, as well as more French-influenced wonders, like buttery tarts and carefully crafted pastries that look like they took an hour to compose.
In less than a year, this approach has garnered a devoted following and the business has grown fast, necessitating a larger space in which to operate. Earlier this summer, they moved their operation out of their apartment and into a brick and mortar shop, which is not only good for them, but also for those of us coffee lovers with a sweet tooth.
Located on a small backstreet in the 11th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from a quaint park as well as the new collaborative roasting operation Beans on Fire, the space is small, taken up mostly by the open kitchen where they produce their sweet creations. In front, a bar with stools looks out onto the street, and there’s a small bench outside for days when the sun is shining.
As more and more coffee shops open in Paris, each one is having to fight to define themselves, bring something unique to the scene. O’Sullivan and Wilson have certainly done that in their cozy space. These are people that believe in the restorative powers of a coffee and a cake. Currently, they’re serving filter coffee from Belleville, also available as iced coffee. But after summer vacation, in the fall, the plan is to offer espresso drinks as well, “to attract the morning crowd,” says O’Sullivan, who points out that the French people in the neighborhood look at filter coffee as something that they drink at home, and in the morning if they pass by a cafe, “they want their espresso.”
The cafe and bakery’s location is a large part of its charm. Being in this quiet, protected space, on the one hand means they don’t have the benefit of random people passing by, but that they are quickly gaining a regular clientele of their local neighbors, and visitors are treated to a quiet space that’s a reprieve from the constant chaos of the big city. “You can sit and have a coffee and a cake and forget about Paris,” says Wilson.
The open kitchen makes it feel like you’re entering into their home, and on the shelves you’ll see coffee beans for sale, jars of homemade jam, Broken Biscuits mugs, and their stock of brown eggs that they bake with. This makes it quite a bit different from your average Parisian patisserie, which can often feel very clean and sterile, like you’re not allowed to touch anything or even get the floor dirty with your shoes. “It’s not like a jewelry box,” says O’Sullivan of the space, “I want it to be something you do everyday. I want it to feel like our own personal shop.”
It certainly feels like an inviting, homey space. The shelving system was built by Epi Studio, the same woodworker behind the gorgeous courtyard structure that houses Honor Cafe. The exposed, and rough edges of wood give the space a very casual feel, while keeping it modern. All around the shop you’ll find personal touches, like old cookbooks and even a vintage red scale.
Come for the cake and coffee, stay for a chat. A visit to Broken Biscuits is exactly what an afternoon stroll in Paris necessitates.
Anna Brones is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Paris, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break, available now from Ten Speed Press. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.