Musette Caffe

E_p10_streetMusette may seem a curious name for a bike café unless you are into following bike races. In this case, a musette is a small lightweight cotton shoulder bag filled with food and drink for racing cyclists. It’s grabbed by a moving rider, contents removed and then discarded.

In late 19th century France, a musette was a bellows-blown bagpipe associated with bal-musette, a style of French music which people danced to in bars and cafés, a kind of precursor to a ballroom, but nothing so formal. There were variations of the musette and various types of dance, which promoted sensual dancing with easy, fast steps. These dance/music forms reached their height in the mid-20th century in France and are presently undergoing a revival.

Musette Caffe has two locations, the first established about three years ago, located in an alley off the east side of Burrard St. between Drake St. and Davie St. just behind European Breads Bakery. There’s currently an entrance down a small alley off Burrard to the right of the bakery. The second location developed over a year later is located in Chinatown at 75 East Pender St.

Both locations cater to bicycle enthusiasts as well as the general public. You can park your bike inside in bike stands made from recycled metal piping and there is TV monitoring for bikes parked outside. Both cafés show live international bike races on the TV screens.

Like the musette food bag and the bal-musette, the cafés offer food and drink and owners Thomas Eleizegui and Anthony Bain metaphorically dance in sync highlighting their various specialities. Both are bike enthusiasts and have been friends for many years. Eleizegui has a background in retail, and sells cycling apparel and accessories from a boutique area in his Burrard café. He has also started a Musette cycling team and organized social cycling groups. He has the main responsibility for the Burrard location while Bain manages the Pender location. Bain has a background in the food industry, and his focus is there – both partners are coffee aficionados and this is a highlight at the cafés. They also offer yogurt & granola, waffles, sandwiches, soups, desserts, pastries and sodas.

But it’s the interior design and decoration that blow you away and both owners have contributed. The walls are covered with bike memorabilia: vintage musettes, each one different, photos of various international bike racers, classic racing bikes including a Bianchi at the Pender location painted in traditional celeste, a turquoise, teal colour. This green is mirrored in the coffee cups form Parallel 49 Coffee, and at the Burrard location, in the expresso machine, an old dial telephone as well as sundry other items.

There are vintage ceiling panels used for the facing of the coffee bars, light fixtures made from bicycle parts, and a clock made from bicycle gears. Vintage furniture is found throughout the cafés with the Burrard location featuring a set of Tolix Model A chairs created by French metalworker Xavier Pauchard in 1934 to make use of galvanized steel in the production of furniture. There is much more to see but that necessitates a visit.

The location of the original Musette Caffe on Burrard was never considered to be permanent and will soon need to be vacated as nearly the whole block in which it sits becomes Burrard Place. Reliance Properties Ltd., is developing the property with Jim Pattison Developments Ltd., as part of a large project that will take up most of the downtown block bordered by Burrard, Davie, Drake and Hornby Streets. When finished, the Burrard Place development will include a mix of residential, office and public space including a new LGBTG centre, and the third-tallest residential tower in Vancouver. It will retain an upscaled version of the Jim Pattison’s Toyota dealership, which has been located at Burrard and Drake for 42 years.

Musette Caffe on Burrard will continue for the next little while until the plan is finalized for its new location on the west side of Burrard near Drake St. There’s a plan to model the new café on the Roubaix Velodrome locker/shower room in Roubaix, France where the historical Paris-Roubaix race finishes. It’s the most famous locker room in all of cycling.

Musette # 1

Musette # 2 jpg

Musette # 3

Musette # 4

Musette # 5

Musette # 6

Musette # 7

Musette # 8

Musette # 9

Musette # 10