When living in Paris – before all the glory and fame – Hemingway was often very hungry. They (his wife Hadley and him) did not have a lot of money and sometimes not enough to buy food. Hemingway being a natural heavy weight dealt with it in his own way. Most of the time he tried to do something that would keep his mind of the hunger, like going to the Palais de Luxembourg to watch the paintings.
Then sometimes when he did get money, he would go to Brasserie Lipp on 151 Boulevard Saint Germain, almost right across the street from brasserie Les Deux Magots. In A moveable Feast he describes going there and eating the potato salad and drinking a lot of beer. In the first part of Islands in the Stream – the part that is set on the island of Bimini – he also refers to the potato salad from Lipp’s.
Last week in Paris we went to pay a visit to brasserie Lipp. The first thing that struck us was the overwhelming number of waiters and other people that seemed to be part of the staff but had no clear task or obvious reason for being there. After sitting down we quickly identified these older men in worn down suits as the ‘gerants’ and concluded that their role probably did not had changed a lot from Hemingway’s days. Most of the time they walk around a bit and look around if all is well.
The interior looked to be unchanged from Hemingways’s days too. I would describe the style as ‘Jugendstil’. There are some paintings of palm trees on the walls around the big mirrors that should give the place a more spacious and ‘tropical’ look.
We entered the brasserie at lunchtime and it was quite busy. We ordered a fish soup (soupe de poissons), a beer and a green tea. It took them 10 minutes to get it to our table and to be honest the soup was not that good and the tea and the beer nothing more than you would expect from a normal beer and cup of tea. We had to pay 30 Euro however and I am sure there are numerous places in Paris where you would get a better deal for your money. Still, it is something to do when you are in towns and like to taste a little of Hemingway’s Paris.