The legend of Le Bœuf
The Parisian elite came to this epicentre of society life in the 1920s for singing, dancing and excitement. The Bœuf sur le Toit was a gathering place for artists, writers, musicians, designers and couturiers; today the restaurant is still the keeper of the refined spirit of Paris's Right Bank.
The Parisian elite sing and dance at Le Bœuf sur le Toit
The history of Le Bœuf sur le Toit is closely tied to that of a joyful band of poets and musicians led by Cocteau and Milhaud who met on Saturday nights in the exuberant enthusiasm of jazz and triumphant Dadaism. When the young Louis Moysès enlisted Jean Wiener, a pianist friend of Milhaud, to play at the tiny bar he opened on Rue Duphot in 1921, these "Samedistes" made it their meeting place in spite of the cramped quarters. When it fell victim to its meteoric success, Le Gaya had to take its teeming, buoyant clientele elsewhere.
Reconvening at a new location, Moysès--awed by his good fortune--put his restaurant under the auspices of Cocteau and Milhaud. He named it Le Bœuf sur le Toit, after the Brazilian refrain that had recently inspired the two artists' composition and ballet of the same name. For nearly 20 years, through the noise and laughter and dances and cocktail parties, the Bœuf would jump to five different roofs in the 8th arrondissement before settling on the Rue du Colisée in 1941, followed by its elegant, loyal and trendy retinue.
"Shall we have some Bœuf?"
As the after-hours stage for musicians who gathered for unending improvised concerts, the Bœuf gave jazz the expression "faire un bœuf" ("have some beef"), which probably has its origins in the invitations extended by Django Reinhardt to his colleagues after concerts: "Shall we have some bœuf?" ». Depending on the night, one might encounter Cocteau trying out the drum set offered by Coco Chanel, Juliette Greco warbling her greatest hits or Charles Trenet and Léo Ferré setting poems to music…
A witness to the Roaring Twenties in all their excess and a glorious home to the lust for life of the inter-war years: in times of feast and famine alike, Le Bœuf sur le Toit remained a convivial temple of avant garde ideas and a joyful, impertinent haven for triumphant freedom. Driven by the intoxication of an ever-celebratory Paris, it continuously honours fine arts and the culinary arts.
Crédits photo : 1ère photo : ©Collection Bœuf sur le Toit, Droits réservés ; 2nde photo : Droits réservés.
Texts: Georges Viaud, chargé du patrimoine de la Brasserie Boeuf sur le Toit et Florence Coupry.