Le Pamphlet

February 8, 2010By Richard HesseArchive
le pamphlet, restaurant, paris

Le Pamphlet seems to exist in a time warp, and it’s all for the best.


Remember Back to the Future? The Time Machine? All those “What might happen?” sci-fi stories about the imagined paradoxes of stopping the world, getting off and

le pamphlet, restaurant, paris

Le Pamphlet seems to exist in a time warp, and it’s all for the best.

Pros: Excellent food and wine; super-efficient service; lots of space

Cons: Too few locals

Remember Back to the Future? The Time Machine? All those “What might happen?” sci-fi stories about the imagined paradoxes of stopping the world, getting off and getting back on in some other time? Well, you, too, can have that experience by simply taking a trip to Le Pamphlet, the restaurant where time stood still and a tremendous reality check. At Le Pamphlet, it is as if nothing has happened in the cuisine of France or anywhere else for at least the past three decades.

Don’t get me wrong; that’s a plus. The food at Le Pamphlet is four-square bourgeois cuisine from another age – simple, hearty and perfectly cooked. It is served by a pair of absolutely ace waitresses at nice big tables with lots of space between them, clean tablecloths and nice napkins. It makes a welcome change from fare that reflects the poorly absorbed lessons of the disciples of the molecularists.

We started with a pissaladière – a sort of onion tart that came with little fillets of red mullet, green leaves and shavings of parmesan – and a plate of what were basically cold-cut tapas. Both were excellent and unfussy. Next, I had as good a piece of cod as you could wish for, its glistening flakes showing that the chef in the kitchen was in charge. One dining companion, Fred, had a tournedos Rossini – a generous chunk of Salers (one of the best French breeds) fillet steak, with an equally hearty slice of foie gras on top. My other dining companion had a melting rack of lamb with eggplant and tiny peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese. Desserts were a Paris-Brest (the king of cream puffs), apple compote with bits of strudel and gingerbread ice cream, and apple pie with caramel ice cream made with salted butter, all skillfully executed.

The conversation was as good as the food. We were still full of the wonder of discovering the Musée de la Chasse et la Nature (Hunting and Nature Museum) around the corner – a place I had never visited in my 30-odd years in Paris out of sheer dogged prejudice and narrow-mindedness. We had gone to the museum for the opening of a conceptual art exhibition and were completely bowled over by its magnificent collection. It’s undoubtedly a bit “object-led,” as my historian girlfriend would say – lots of hunting guns and hawking paraphernalia and not a vast attempt to educate Joe Public, but it also has a truly canny, unprejudiced way of slipping bits of contemporary art past you when you least expect them – a stuffed fox, curled up on a 19th-century upholstered armchair, for example, or a chandelier made of toy electric guitars.

Back at the Pamplet, the odd thing about it was that Fred was the only French diner in the place. All around us, North American accents rolled with the gentle pleasure of getting good value for money and real, traditional French cuisine, the sort that Hemingway might have eaten before going out to kill some piece of French big game. Are North Americans the world’s only time travelers? They’re certainly onto something the locals don’t know about.

A similar experience was had a few days later when I had a drink with a new customer of mine, a charming harpsichordist with whom I struck a sympathetic chord, at the wine bar Aux Bons Crus, just around the corner from Les Fines Gueules. For €14, you can get a plate piled with cold cuts and cheese, and a glass of excellent organic Côtes du Rhône for €5, served by jolly, bucolic staff. They also do real restaurant food, and it is to the credit of the staff that they let us have a table at 7:30 p.m. when we were spending so relatively little.

The odd thing here again was the number of non-French diners, most of them Asians this time around. The proximity of the Rue Sainte Anne, not far from the Opéra Garnier, may have had something to do with it. Whatever. But it’s the kind of place where I could spend hours with a friend or two, putting away some of those lovingly chosen, reasonably priced wines.

In neither of these places will you find real French diners, except perhaps at lunchtime; the authenticity is all in your plate. Sit back, close your eyes and think of Normandy – rich, lush, and full of good things.

Richard Hesse

Le Pamphlet: 38, rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 72 39 24. Métro: Filles du Calvaire. Nearest Vélib stations: 4, rue des Filles du Calvaire; Place Pasdeloup. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday, dinner only on Saturday and Monday. Fixed-price menu: €35. A la carte: around €45.

Aux Bons Crus: 7, rue des Petits Champs, 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 60 06 45. Métro: Sentier or Pyramides. Nearest Vélib stations: 11, rue de la Banque; 2, rue d’Aboukir. Open Tuesday-Saturday. A la carte: €20 and up.

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