Over the weekend, Midtown Houston gained a chic new pastry destination in Café Poêtes, a brand new coffee shop and eatery inspired by the poets of 19th century France.
Located at the corner of West Gray and Cushing, owner Karine Favre-Massartic cites Baudelaire and Victor Hugos as influences for Café Poêtes. “I moved from Paris, France to Houston 14 years ago,” Favre-Massartic tells Eater. “I really enjoy places like Angelina [in Paris], where you can really take some time and enjoy hot chocolate and pastries in a high tea room, but we don’t have that here in Houston.”
Favre-Massartic bought the land, and built her ideal cafe from the ground up. “The architecture is all about the 19th century and romanticism,” she explains of the space’s white facade, accented by custom French Serlian windows, a miniature homage to “The Orangerie” de Bagatelle in Paris, which was built in 1835.
“I wanted a high ceiling and only natural light,” she says of the design. “For colors, I used gray and a little light touch of pink. And lots of books, because I am a book addict. For me books are more than something to read, they are a piece of art; collectible. So that’s why we have a whole wall of books,” she says. Other notable design details include the traditional cabochon tile — white with small black diamonds — which are found in hôtel particuliers throughout France; a six-seat, custom-made pewter bar by metal fabricator La Bastille in Savannah; and bistro chairs and tables imported directly from France.
Though the menu offers typical French cafe fare such as quiche and croque monsieur, Favre-Massartic is particularly proud of her sweet and savory eclairs. “Our sweet eclairs are like a second generation, or haute couture eclair,” she says proudly. “They are like a piece of jewelry.” Crafted with shiny ganache and embellishments such as gold flakes, the Instagram-worthy pastries come in flavors like dark chocolate. salted caramel, and “magnum,” a milk chocolate mousse with peanuts. She plans to introduce flavors like rose and lychee, vanilla and pistachio in the near future.
The savory eclairs — a pastry that’s new to Houston — are also exciting. Made with choux pastry cut in half, and filled like a sandwich, there’s a pho eclair, inspired by the Vietnamese beef noodle soup, which is filled with brisket and pickled vegetables. There’s also a salmon and artichoke eclair; a tomato and mozzarella eclair; and a chicken and herb eclair. Favre-Massartic brought in consulting French pastry chef Loric Bret from France to train her staff, most of whom are alumni of Houston’s own LeNotre Culinary Institute.
For beverages, Café Poêtes offers a full coffee menu from local roaster Geva Premium coffee; a selection of organic loose leaf teas; chocolat chaud, a thick hot chocolate made with ganache; a wine list featuring biodynamic, organic wines from France.
Café Poêtes is located at 122 W Gray St. and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 8am to 5pm, Sunday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., and is closed Monday.