I'd like to have a crème brûlée in Paris, but without having to eat a whole meal at a restaurant.

However, this seems quite hard to get:

  • Bakeries and patisseries do not sell crème brûlée (at least none that I could find);
  • Restaurants only sell them as desserts, and it is not clear if you can just walk in, order the dessert only, eat and then leave;
  • Cafés seem to sell them, but mostly as desserts, and not in brunches, nor for breakfast, so while it seems the better choice, it's still not clear whether they do sell them "on their own".

Could someone with some Parisian experience confirm whether it is possible to simply have a crème brûlée, or if it exists only as part of a complete meal?

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    Reminds me that I was once in a restaurant in rural England with a Japanese guest, who read the menu carefully and then ordered three starters. The waiter didn't raise an eyebrow, but quietly asked me whether my guest would like them served together or one after the other. Restaurants are there to serve you; your job is simply to tell them what you want. – Michael Kay Oct 12 at 8:09
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    Anol, the reason they are not served in bakeries: a creme brulee is a hot, made on the spot, dish, which you eat the moment it is made. (Just like, say, having a steak.) Bakeries serve things (example, bread, cakes) which they make in the morning and can then sit there until purchased. A creme brulee just does not relate to bakeries. – Fattie Oct 12 at 13:00
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    You mention breakfast, creme brulee is not available at breakfast time. (Just as - say - pasta is not available at breakfast time. The kitchen isn't making dinner dishes at breakfast time.) – Fattie Oct 12 at 13:07
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    @Fattie: Now that I find disappointing, that one cannot have crème brûlée for breakfast. What if I love the smell of burning cream in the morning? – anol Oct 12 at 13:57
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    @MichaelKay: "Restaurants are there to serve you; your job is simply to tell them what you want." - note that the extent to which this is literally true may differ between cultures and/or restaurant types. Compare a fast-food-like place with a simple pricing structure and essentially, every part of the meal is swappable (perceived pretty much as "paid service that cooks for you so you don't have to yourself") versus a somewhat more expensive restaurant where each meal has an individual price, thus waiters may not have the authority to freely replace components, and it's not quite the ... – O. R. Mapper 2 days ago
up vote 143 down vote accepted

Except for upper class restaurants serving only fixed multi-course menus, I have never (neither in France nor anywhere else) experienced a restaurant, where you could not order only a part of what is considered a complete meal.

It might be an unusual request, but I would simply go into any restaurant you like and order a crème brûlée and a nice glass of wine or a coffee to go with it.

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    Not sure if this is customary in France, but you might tell the maître d'hôtel when you go in that you are only having dessert. This may help you get more useful service (e.g. no unnecessary menus), and knowing that you'll be there a shorter time may help them plan. – Nate Eldredge Oct 12 at 0:33
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    Last time was in Paris, I had to leave a restaurant early because of a prior engagement and missed the final course. I treated myself to a 'dessert only' dinner the next day by simply walking into the nearest restaurant, sitting down and ordering a pudding and a drink. If memory serves it was a fig and honey Charlotte. Nobody batted an eyelid about the fact that I was there alone and eating nothing but the final course. – Valorum Oct 12 at 8:17
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    @vikingsteve not necessarily (although it being Paris there's always an element of that). Bonne continuation is what should be said for every course after the first (which gets a bon appétit) – AakashM Oct 12 at 8:43
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    @AzirisMorora french guy here, It is customary to say "bonne continuation" in restaurants, even though it has gotten a little out of style. Depends on the quality of the service and the niceness of the waiter – Clement Herreman Oct 12 at 9:37
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    Former Parisian here. I agree both with ClementHerreman and with @vikingsteve, Waiters do sometimes say "bonne continuation" in a perfectly neutral way - sometimes you may even get the full "bon appetit" for starter, "bonne continuation" for main course, and "bonne degustation" for dessert - but also that it could be said teasingly in the case of a second dessert! – James Martin Oct 12 at 10:08

You're overthinking it. We're french, weird but not that much. Just walk in any restaurant, order anything you'd like, would it be just appetizers or a dessert, pay your bill and walk out. I would be happy to show you how it's done. :)

Enjoy your crème brulée (it's not that great though) !

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    I was going to upvote until the last sentence. Now I'm sad :( – Thomas Ayoub Oct 12 at 9:40
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    I've got the same problem as Thomas. I upvoted you, but know that it's a bitter upvote, with at least 10 secondes thinking beforehand – Don Pablo Oct 12 at 10:22
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    To balance the other commentators, let me say I have upvoted it for the final sentence ;-) – gerrit Oct 12 at 11:24
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    I upvoted for the "We're French, weird but not that much". So there! – FreeMan Oct 12 at 17:56
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    After living in France for a few years I can second everything but the last paragraph. Crème brûlée is fantastic! Even the supermarket ones were a treat. – l0b0 Oct 12 at 20:29

France has something called "Le Goûter", which is their version of Afternoon tea. The French generally eat late in the evening, after 8 PM, so there is a habit of having something sweet in the afternoon to tide you over between lunch and dinner. This is a fully socially acceptable part of their diet and is viewed not as a snack but as a meal in the own right, a point of the day for socializing and meeting friends old and new.

If you can find an open restaurant or brasserie around 4-5 PM willing to serve a crème brûlée with a cup of coffee, that's actually fully socially acceptable. You'll probably not even be the only one in the restaurant doing it. If you got any friends along with you, feel free to invite them along.

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    It's not French people eating late, it's other countries eating way too early :-) By French standards, people in Spain eat late. At 4-5 pm, many restaurants won't be open, and in many others the kitchen won't be open (they just serve drinks). Whether a creme brulée requires a cook is open to debate. – jcaron Oct 12 at 9:20
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    @jcaron I think in a city like Paris, there is bound to be at least a couple of places where you can have a Goûter around 4-5 PM. Maybe not full-on restaurants, but probably a brasserie or tearoom. – Nzall Oct 12 at 9:54
  • You will definitely find such places, but not just any random "restaurant or brasserie". – jcaron Oct 12 at 10:00
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    A keyword that has not been mentioned yet and might be helpful is salon de thé. In France, it is a place not really dedicated to tea but to pastry. – audionuma Oct 12 at 17:50
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    @Nzall: Specifically, you can look around (or in) the train stations; they are used to people having unusual schedules and the kitchens are open longer. – Matthieu M. Oct 14 at 11:35

Once in Lille, France, we went only for desert, since it was not dinner time yet, and we were on holiday, to a restaurant that was fancy enough to have a table d'hote menu, but not fancy enough to not to have an a la carte menu. So we ordered dessert, but we really took our time to enjoy it. By now it was dinner time, but we just ate some dessert, so we decided to skip first course and just go for the second course, and not for the full menu. The served duck was amazing, to the point we decided we need to taste what they have as a first course. Again, an extraordinary soup. We decided to end our culinary experience with the drink everyone seemed to be enjoying in the restaurant at the time. The waiter informed us that that's a wine they serve as an appetizer, but he happily obliged. Yes, we managed to order separately, the full table d'hote menu, in the exact opposite order, and I regret nothing because the food was amazing.

If we managed to do that, you'll be fine simply going for dessert. And based on my experience, you'll also be met with great service.

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  • An off-hour restaurant in a provincial city is not the same as a regular restaurant in Paris.. – George M yesterday

I suggest looking at the Brasseries (Bonfinger, Julien, La Coupole ... ).

They will all have Crème Brulée.

As Nate wrote, just go in and tell them you are there for desert only (desert, coffee, digestif).

BTW, I'm surprise that patisseries in Paris do not sell single portions Crème Brulée.

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    That seems perfectly normal to me, these have to be made in their recipient which they can't give away except by having to pay way too much for such a simple dessert. – Aziris Morora Oct 12 at 8:51
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    Max, obviously bakeries don't serve creme brulee - it's a dish you make in a kitchen and serve. (Like any meal .. steak, pasta, whatever.) It's not an "object" you make in the morning and then sell through the day (such as cakes or bread). (As I believe WoJ explains, sure, fast food joints sell like "canned" creme brulees, just as you can get almost anything wrapped in plastic from a factory these days.) – Fattie Oct 12 at 13:14
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    Why would a patisserie sell creme brulee? As @Fattie says, it's something that needs to be made (or, at least, finished) to order and it doesn't contain any pastry or cake component. – David Richerby Oct 12 at 15:07
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    @DavidRicherby Crème brulée can be made in advance, restaurant do this, it has to cook and cool down before service, the only thing that is done at serving time is the torching of the sugar on top. – Max Oct 14 at 9:43
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    @DavidRicherby but you CAN have a line of single serve creme brulee ready to just torch and serve. I've seen that in bakery's in seattle. The finish process takes no time at all, so why would a patisserie NOT sell them? – user79730 2 days ago

First, find a restaurant with the crème brûlée on the menu and which is open when you would like to visit. Next, simply announce that you are there only for dessert when you are greeted by the host. "Seulement du dessert," and "Ç'est ça va?" or "Acceptable?"

When you enter any business (retail, restaurant, etc.) in Paris you are expected to make eye contact with the proprietor or representative and greet them. In the restaurant this is an appropriate time to announce your intentions, so that the host has a chance to say, "No, it is too busy now if you are not having a meal," or "would you please sit in the bar area instead of at a table," etc.

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    Is "C'est ça va?" [no cedille on the first C] good French? "C'est...?" means "Is it... ?" and and "ça va?" means "is it OK?" so it looks like you're saying "Is it is it OK?" to my I've-not-studied-French-for-a-quarter-century eyes. – David Richerby Oct 12 at 15:12
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    @David Richerby Correct Monsieur. ;-) "Acceptable ?" (notice you have a space before question mark in French) is also not exactly correct. You could say "Est-ce possible d'avoir seulement un dessert ?" instead. – Julien Lopez Oct 12 at 15:21
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    @Fattie "C'est ça va" is just incorrect in French. – Julien Lopez Oct 12 at 16:39
  • Does that French sentence mean you order only dessert, not including any drink? Also, does it sound too picky or inappropriate if you don't order any drink? – Blaszard Oct 12 at 17:28
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    @Blaszard It is mandatory for French restaurants to provide free tap water. Therefore you would never be inappropriate/picky for not ordering any drink. – Pierre Arlaud 2 days ago

I am a French student/part-time worker. During one of my internships, our CEO invited us into an Italian restaurant once for noon within Paris. Despite the fact that I had already eaten my meal at the office, he still asked me to come for dessert.

At the restaurant, both him and my colleague took a meal and a drink, but all I took was a waffle with cream and caramel. And we all got what we ordered.

You might personally feel awkward, but they didn't say anything. They simply took the orders.

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  • 1
    However your boss was paying for full meals for several colleagues, and may have been known there as well. This is completely different than a lone person walking in expecting the same kind of service – George M yesterday
  • @GeorgeM Yeah I thought about that. I hesitated to suggest OP of going into a restaurant with a friend who'd like a full meal. This way, they would feel less awkward too. – Clockwork yesterday

Restaurants may not accept to serve you only a dessert if they are short on tables and there are people waiting for a free table to have a complete meal. Cafés, on the other hand, usually don't expect all their customers to have a meal: they typically serve drinks, snacks and desserts separately. Having said that, you may actually want to order your crème brulée in a restaurant of your choice, to make sure you get a good one.

Typically, if you see empty tables, there's a good change you will be able to order only a dessert without a problem. In a busy restaurant, it's a good idea to ask if you can only have a dessert in advance. If it's not possible, don't hesitate to ask when would be a good time to come: most restaurants don't stay full the whole day, and the waiter should be able to tell you at what time you are likely to get your order accepted.

  • This is the real answer. You can get crappy creme brulee almost anywhere and anytime. But if you want a good one, a restaurant with some standards will be a better bet. They come with some rules, which are best followed (the US approach of the customer always being right is not true, especially in good restaurants). Although I can't fathom why you'd deprive yourself of the good meal that would make a creme brulee go down so much better :-) – George M yesterday

Not only crème brûlée - there's a whole class of entremets froids you're not likely to find in many bakeries or takeaway places. Mousse au chocolat, riz au lait, flan (the sort without crust), île flottante come to mind.

Though the reason is not immediately obvious, my guess is that their consistency doesn't allow easy transportation in the common cardboard boxes used by these shops, let alone eating them on the go with your hands. They are more usually consumed in round glass or ceramic receptacles - in the case of crème brûlée often the same one it went to the oven in.

Possibly, the fact that you would have to demould each item to put it in another, same sized container is an additional limiting factor for crème brûlées.

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    your post doesn't answer the actual question "Can I eat...." – Dirty-flow 8 hours ago
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    I believe it does, at least the bakery/patisserie part - "you're not likely to find ...". The restaurant part has already been answered by others. – guillaume31 8 hours ago

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