Food & Drink

Eating Out: Parisien walkways

Cafe Parisien, opposite Belfast City Hall. Picture Mal McCann
Cafe Parisien, opposite Belfast City Hall. Picture Mal McCann Cafe Parisien, opposite Belfast City Hall. Picture Mal McCann

Cafe Parisien,

Cleaver House,

Donegall Square North,



028 9590 4338

WAS it guerrilla marketing, product placement or subtle suggestion as we approached Cafe Parisien in Belfast?

Just as the restaurant facing the city hall came into view, two women strolled past, conversing in French much too rapidly delivered for a GCSE a few years older than Kylian Mbappé to pick up.

We were already planning on going in but, if we weren't, the possibility of being swayed certainly wasn't harmed by the Gallic lilt in the air.

There is, of course, the mind-bending possibility that it was just a coincidence but I prefer to think the pair were doing laps while reciting the menu to each other over and over, hoping to have passers by all of a sudden craving a croque monsieur and not being able to put their finger on exactly why.

Cafe Parisien is set in the old Robinson & Cleaver department store building, and the interior leans on these impressive bones to create a couple of opulent spaces, one upstairs where you can get afternoon tea and evening restaurant service while looking out onto the city, and downstairs in the café with a ground-level view of the bustle outside and a handsome bar serving well-made, if pricey, cocktails.

We're downstairs on a Sunday late afternoon, but you can get an idea of the £25-a-head afternoon tea from the canapé selection.

There's a little ice cream cone of not ice cream but rather tomato and a scoop of goat's cheese.

A black pudding sausage roll is usually an open goal and this slice doesn't miss, while Bayonne ham comes in a mustard mayonnaise with an asparagus tip on a crunchy disc of bread, and the one-bite brioche bun holds a reassuringly old fashioned prawn cocktail.

It's all ever so dainty but everything's done just as it should be.

Last on the plate is an espresso cup of onion soup. The only dainty thing about this is the little finger dying to be stuck out as you sip it. The soup itself is a bruiser. A big, beautiful example of one of the biggest, most beautiful soups there is.

The daytime dishes, all a tenner, are solid brasserie fare, dropping all the names you'd expect – confit, gribiche, moules, parfait and tartare, albeit tomato.

And there in the specials menu, whaddayaknow, croque and monsieur.

The board it comes on is lovely to look at but completely impractical. Though that's mainly because the toasted sandwich itself is massive. Not so much a doorstep as an entire door – of salty ham and melting cheese and crisp edges of thick bread. Come on in.

The remoulade is biting with crunchy celeriac and a whack of mustard. All that would probably have been enough without the first-rate chips – thin, duck-fat dunked sticks of loveliness.

The confit is a duck pie, with flakes and healthy chunks of leg meat bobbing around a murky – in a good way – gravy, under soft mash and a rubble of desiccated skin.

Red cabbage and roast onions complete the comforting, wintry scene.

Desserts stay classic with little boulders of chocolate and hazelnut profiteroles stickily satisfying, with a shard of honeycomb for crunch and, ultimately, more sticky satisfaction.

A strawberry and half a blackberry unnecessarily sit on top of a chocolate pot, though eating a couple of bits of fresh fruit is hardly a privation before getting to the really good stuff – a thick chocolate mousse trading blows with a couple of powerful Italian mates – Amarena cherries and amaretti crumbs.

All big, thumping flavours, the hallmark of the afternoon from the soup through the croque to the desserts, along with some seriously good coffee.

Just what you want, in anybody's language.


Canapé selection £10

Croque Monsieur £15

Duck pie £10

Profiteroles £7

Pot au chocolate £7

French Martini £12.95

Passion fruit punch £6.50

American £4.50

Cappuccino £4.60

Total £77.55