The long story of the french Brasserie Lipp

Brasserie Lipp

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The story of Brasserie Lipp

The story of a brasserie that became a Parisian institution


The story begins in the 19th century in German-occupied Alsace-Lorraine. Like so many of his countrymen, Léonard Lipp fled to Paris. The Alsatian possessed two skills: he could tell a good beer from a bad one, and he could cook a mean sauerkraut. That was enough to make a decent living at the time, and in 1880, he opened his brasserie at 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain. Equipped with ten marble-topped tables, taps to serve beer, a couple of sauerkraut barrels, and the Brasserie des bords du Rhin sign hanging out front, Lipp promoted bourgeois Alsatian cuisine in France’s fashionable capital city. This was his way of getting even with the Kaiser for Napoleonʼs surrender at the Battle of Sedan: Alsace-Lorraine was, so to speak, back on French territory. By the time Léonard sold his establishment at the turn of the century, it was known as Brasserie Lipp.

Geschichte Brasserie Lipp

New owner Martin Barthélemy Hébrard redesigned the interior and hired the Fargues brothers, artists who specialized in ceramics, to create the art-nouveau ceramic panels. After Hébrard, new owners came and went in rapid succession: Pierre Mendès France and Maurice Couve de Murville (1907), Michel Debré (1912), Edgar Faure (1908), Jacyues Chaban-Delmas (1915) and François Mitterrand (1916). During World War I, the owner’s wife, Clémence, had the words du Rhin painted over on the restaurant’s sign because it was a time when all things Germanic were frowned upon. News from the front was shared over a beer at this favourite watering hole with the strange name Brasserie des bords. “Chez Lipp” is where the regulars went, though. After the war, Lipp welcomed back its loyal clientele and business grew dramatically. Jean Cocteau, Raymond Radiguet, Max Jacob, and many more famous people frequented Lipp. Little could the ever-alert Clémence, reigning supreme behind the cash register, imagine that her future clientele would one day read like a Who’s Who of the rich, famous and powerful.

Geschichte Brasserie Lipp

Geschichte Brasserie Lipp

In July 1920, Lipp was busier than ever when a young Marcellin Cazes and his wife Clémence, natives of the Auvergne region, took over the restaurant with its decorative hand-painted tiles and all of six tables. Despite Marcellin’s lack of experience in managing a restaurant, a successful one at that, he trusted his instincts. He didn’t realize that his sauerkraut had to be “trustworthy.” To him, it was enough that it tasted good. Soon, the restaurant’s growing popularity led to major renovations: a second, larger dining room beautifully designed by architect Joseph Madeline was added and the original space was refurbished and modernized. Fargues’ original tiles were kept intact and supplemented with additional ceramics, mirrors, lights, and a Veronese-style painted ceiling. The mirrors—slightly tilted— gave patrons facing the wall a view of the action behind them and the lights created such a warm and welcoming atmosphere that Marcellin vowed never to make any changes to the decor.

Geschichte Brasserie Lipp

The success story continues

Marcellinʼs son Roger, a 12-year-old student when the newly renovated and expanded restaurant reopened, and attending one of the most prestigious schools in the city, would preserve the integrity of the institution his father left him. Mention the name Lipp and famous authors, such as Proust, Camus and Sartre, come to mind. Politicians were frequent guests too. Lipp, in actual fact, catered to a clientele that fell into three distinct categories: Lunchtime was for the local professionals and business people who wanted to dine in a quiet, serious place (“sérieux” was a word frequently used by Marcellin Cazes); early evening was for writers, booksellers, publishers, magistrates, civil servants, doctors and artists looking to unwind over a drink or two and have a good chat; the later evening hours were for “Tout Paris.”

Brasserie Lipp is celebrating its 135th anniversary this year and has been an iconic part of the Zürich restaurant scene since 1990. Steeped in tradition and history, Lipp remains true to its roots and continues to serve simple hearty food and warm hospitality. Many of its faithful regulars have died, and new ones have joined the ranks. As has Michel Perrochon, who took over after his uncle Roger Cazes passed away in 1987.
Chez Lipp: Fidèle à la tradition