The curate and the latex underwear

9th arrondissement - 21, Boulevard de Clichy

The Bistrot du Curé, the Curate's Bistro, tucked towards the end of a row of sex shops and porno cinemas, is something of an institution round about Pigalle. Or at least was. On Dec. 21, 2002, the Bistrot du Curé closed its doors for the last time. A fall-off in business, a decline in the number of clergy in the local parish (La Trinité), the costs of renovation….all these reasons are given for the closure. To these should be added another: the promotion of the local parish priest and driving force behind the bistro to the status of Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon on the Mediterranean coast in 2000. After the departure of Dominique Rey, things were not the same. Fr. Rey had a doctorate in economies, was a specialist in taxation, and had been a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Finance, but he preferred to be known as "the dish-washing curate". Now that he's left for sunnier climes, will he open a Bistrot de l'Evêque?

Manned by volunteers and (occasionally) the parish priest, the place dispensed steak and chips and other traditional concoctions six days a week, but never on a Sunday. An occasional meeting ground for the local transvestite population and the odd prostitute. One good reason for taking a trip up that way was the fact that it was one of the very few smoke-free restaurants in Paris. If you felt like a prayer, there was a small oratory on the first floor….but alcohol wasn't served at the bar. Behind the till hung a picture of Saint Theresa of Lisieux and, alongside a book for prayer intentions, a statue of the Virgin Mary had pride of place in the front window. Anybody's guess as to whether she was admonishing or pardoning those on their way to the latex underwear shop next door.

Further along this pretty mild local version of Bangkok's night-club district is to be found the Chapel of Saint-Rita (she of lost causes). It has an even more alluring neighbour in the form of an establishment called Blue Girl's Sexy Lingerie.


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