The Café de Paris restaurant was among the earliest European-style restaurants to open in Melbourne, although four-penny, six-penny and shilling restaurants were abundant in the 1850s. These generally offered basic, English-style food. Rita Erlich’s article on the eMelbourne website gives an insight into early Melbourne restaurants.
Erlich names the Café de Paris as the forerunner of other French-style restaurants including Maison Dorée, La Mascotte, Parer’s Crystal Café and the Café Anglais which flourished during the 1890s. She writes:
“Immigration has always been a deciding factor in the nature of Melbourne’s restaurants. If the good early restaurants were run by the Swiss and French, the Italians were, in the long run, more important. In the first decades of the 20th century, the two most important restaurants were Fasoli’s and Café Denat, both owned by Swiss but of very different styles. Fasoli’s was Italian, earthily sophisticated, almost bohemian. Café Denat, which first opened in Flinders Lane in 1893, eventually moved into a wine shop in Exhibition Street. That became a formal restaurant in a grandly Edwardian style, with a French menu. Its motto, on the head of the menu, was Honni Soit Qui Mal Y Mange” (evil be to he who eats badly).
Café Denat was eventually bought by the Massoni family who re-named it Café Florentino.