Monday, 23 July 2012

History of the Brasserie & Cafe

After returning from Italy, we had only a couple of days before we were expecting a visitor from Australia. One of my close friends was making the trip to London, and we were both travelling south to France to experience one of the greatest sporting events and by far the most prestigious bike race in the world, the Tour De France. Cara and I were lucky enough to see the last stage of the tour last year, so Cara decided to sit this trip out whilst myself and my mate Evan would follow a number of stages in the race towards Paris.

Our journey began in the city of Toulouse. A city, which is famous for it’s pink coloured buildings, giving it the nickname “The Pink City”. It is also the gateway to the Pyrenees, which is famous for it’s grueling climbs in the Tour every year. Even though, we had a jam-packed week ahead following the bikes, we were lucky enough to still have the time to explore Toulouse and see what this little city had to offer.

As we got out of our hotel and into the sun and warmth of southern France, we made our way into the city centre. As we walked the streets, I noticed the endless number of café’s and brasseries. This got me thinking about why the French love the café or brasserie style bar.

My research began by looking at the term “Brasserie”. It is the French word for brewery. The story goes, that brasserie’s first began in the north of France, where the French border joins Belgium. Small microbreweries opened in an attempt to compete with the high demand for Belgium beer. After some time of brasserie’s only selling beer, owners began to offer food and other light snacks to their patrons. Over time, brasseries are now no longer associated with beer and breweries, but smaller restaurants, that are usually relaxed, with still an upscale setting. This setting, I’m sure, sounds much like a café. The two are both very similar. The word ‘café’ comes from the word ‘kaff’, which in French means, “drink”. So as the brasserie began in France mainly serving beer, the café was a place for people to have other drinks, the most common is of course coffee. When both styles of bars began serving light meals, they both became almost the same thing. As we walked around the streets of Toulouse, I noticed that the Brasserie style is often set up to look more like a restaurant. It’s designed to almost be a middleman between the café and the restaurant. For tourists, this can all get a little confusing because, in countries like France and Italy, a café is also another term for cocktail bar.

So what is the conclusion to this research I hear you ask… well the short answer is, they are all much the same. In France, brasseries, cafes and bars, despite starting off as three completely different types of licensed establishments; are now blending together all offering a similar service. The bar industry is now very competitive and Toulouse is no different to any other city. Owners now cannot afford to limit themselves (and there patrons) by sticking to one style of venue, as was the way many years ago.

Being a warm evening, we picked out a nice outdoor Brasserie to relax and eat over a few glasses of wine and prepare ourselves for a busy week ahead following the tour.

Scenes from the Tour De France

Scenes from the Tour De France

The Amazing French Alps

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