A historic setting
An Alsatian legend
Beer on draught
In 1864, Colmar native Frédéric Bofinger opened an eponymous establishment adjacent to the Place de la Bastille. Nestled in the heart of the Marais and Faubourg Saint-Antoine neighbourhoods, which had drawn large numbers of the Alsatians employed in woodworking and cabinet-making, it became the first spot in Paris to serve beer "on tap". At the time, beer - like wine - was drawn from a barrel and ranged from 18° to 25° proof. Prussia's annexation of Alsace and the new influx of emigrants from that region to Paris ensured the brasserie's success.
Belle Epoque décor
From 1919 to 1921, under the direction of Bofinger's son-in-law, the establishment got a makeover. Architect Legay, interior designer Mitgen and master glassmakers Néret and Royé were in charge of the renovation. Revolving door, a vast wooden spiral staircase, bench seats upholstered in tufted black leather, bronze wall sconces, Panzani's wood inlays, copper, wainscoting, ceramic vases by Nice artisan Jérôme Massier, Müller's tulip-shaped lights in glass paste, bevelled mirrors yielding infinite reflections of the décor...it was a Belle Epoque cornucopia. With its excesses, profusion of materials and layering of colours, this style inherited from the late 19th century illustrated the growing influence of the middle class and society's aspiration to celebration. The establishment was expanded again in the early 1930s on the occasion of the International Colonial Exhibition of 1931.
A historic monument
On 13 March 1989, Brasserie Bofinger was added to the Supplemental Registry of Historic Monuments. The decree protects the facades on the first two floors, Hansi's exterior sign and the interior décor.
Oval dining hall
Originally an enclosed courtyard used to store coal, the restaurant's grand dining hall on the ground floor was added in 1919. To bring light into the space, glassmaker painters Neret and Royé topped it with a majestic oval cupola featuring the floral motifs of the Art Déco style.
In 1930, Alsatian painter Jean-Jacques Waltz, nicknamed Hansi, illustrated the wainscoting on the walls of a small private lounge on the first floor. Kugelhopf, pretzels, storks, ladybirds, women in local attire...the artist and ardent French patriot created a backdrop of regional images. He is also the source of various paintings and the trade sign above the main entrance which depicts an Alsatian girl with a Kugelhopf bun and an Alsatian boy running to the brasserie clutching a pretzel and his beer mug.
Salon des Continents
On the first floor, this room, also called the Left-Wing Coalition room, is adorned with wood inlays crafted by Panzani. The motifs, which are featured in pairs inside medallions, represent all the landscapes of all the continents by day and by night. It was in this room that Edouard Herriot, chairman of the Radical Party, held a secret dinner in 1924 during which he completed the steps resulting in the formation of the Cartel des Gauches (left-wing coalition).
Gambrinus stained glass window
Also on the first floor, a stained glass window by Néret made in 1930 depicts Gambrinus, tankard in hand, riding a barrel that bears the date 1864. In the Alsatian tradition, this highly colourful allegorical character is a symbol of good humour and joie de vivre for beer lovers. Enshrined as the "King of Beer", he is sometimes identified as John I of Brabant, Duke of Brabant, or as John the Fearless, founder of the Order of the Hops.
In the basement, the urinals in the men's lavatory reflect the exuberant décor. The white ceramic pieces are topped with dolphins in the image of a Roman fountain.
Photo credits : © Isabelle Dorpe et Jérémie D, studio 1+1