After corridors of bones, a whimsical coloured café.
Chez Bogato is just around the corner from the Catacombs of Paris – hence the grotesque ‘Tarte Denfert’ above. Long twisting tunnels from an ancient quarry became an ossuary when the city pushed its limits; whole cemeteries of bones were uprooted and moved, eventually stacked into neat rows of femurs. I had read ‘Pure,’ a fictional account of the exhumation of Les Innocents – and was intrigued to see the real thing. Underground it was damp and oppressive. At one point my friend and I were alone, peering into a locked grate.
What’s that? she said.
Didn’t you learn anything from horror movies?! I replied.
Something shifted in the darkness, made a large thump. We jumped, squeaked and hurried on. There were displays of geological interest, fossils as well as bones and poems about death in Latin and French. After a while the walls of bones adorned with skulls in heart-shapes or crosses lost their morbid fascination and became simply sad. It was a relief to escape into bright sunlight – in a back street fully two metro stops from where we began.
We found refuge in the polar opposite – the display of colour and life and parties that is Chez Bogato. It is a baker’s paradise: full of edible glitter, dinosaur-shaped cake moulds and alphabet letter stamps. Everything you need for a children’s party, sweets hats, presents. They even do fantastical cakes on order – a diplodocus, a fairy castle – a rarity in Paris which tends to stick to round fraisiers and square chocolate mousses on special occasions.
The tarts we tried were excellent. Beneath the marzipan skull, the ganache was smooth and bitter, almost melting. The pastry and nougatine had sesame seeds in them, a nice touch. The ‘Domino’ was a chocolate and walnut brownie, with a white chocolate mousse flecked with real vanilla seeds. All with an excellent cup of Kusmi tea at the coloured table. Otherwise they had a dessert that mimicked a tiny burger, a large flower macaron and various other ludic touches that are very original amid the mostly traditional patisseries in Paris. Full of imagination, and inspiration for the home baker. Pastry classes available for children and adults.
Chez Bogato – 7 rue Liancourt 75014, metro Denfert-Rochereau – closed Sun/Mon
Catacombs – 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – open 10am-4pm
NB. There is normally an enormous queue of two hours or more at the Catacombs. It is worth arriving at 9am with a cup of coffee and a book to be the first ones in. It can be quite damp, so wear sensible shoes too.