For some time I’d been hearing about one of the “11th’s” latest gourmet hot spots and we didn’t waste any time in sampling the delights of Pierre Sang‘s Rue Oberkampf restaurant in the company of Burgundy writer Claude Kolm, for whom this has become something of a regular hangout when he’s in Paris.
We dined at the busy bar table upstairs. Set down the middle of a long thin room, the chairs are like tall bar stools, the placings are somewhat cramped and there’s only just room for the staff and other diners to pass down the line. Although there are tables downstairs, you really feel the lively bustle of the place upstairs, which makes up for any mild discomfort. And you can easily see (and smell) whatever your neighbours are having.
The concept is very simple. There’s no menu as such, although you will be asked if there’s anything you can’t eat/don’t like. You choose to have either two, three or five dishes and whether you want a dessert or not as one of those choices. Then away you go. Wine is available by the bottle or glass, and here you can say what style you want, although choices such as “light or more full bodied red” add nuance. Pairing advice is freely offered.
The food is really excellent. Naturally it changes every day. Our highlight was the best duck dish I’ve had in many months. Cooking is generally quite light though portions are by no means mean, and there’s a slight influence of the East (Franco-Korean), though not too overt on Oberkampf. And Pierre is a really friendly guy who talked to us very briefly, but without the airs and drama of many name chefs for whom it often seems like being granted an audience.
The wines? We had two by the glass. The first was a very refreshing Viognier, “Le Secret de Famille” Cotes du Rhone from Jaboulet, which actually for around a fiver, retail, was pretty decent. As a lighter red pairing with the duck we had an equally decent straight Beaujolais “Cuvée a L’Ancienne”, from M&G Joubert in Quincié. Not fine wines, as such, but in value they matched the food and over performed for the price.
A note on reservations – I’ve read reviews which say they don’t take them (nor have a telephone) at the rue Oberkampf site, but we had a table, kindly reserved by Claude. And, in fact, we showed up a bit early and were able to be seated immediately. If you don’t have one, try to arrive early.
It’s a welcoming place, attentive casual service, decently quaffable wines, and excellent food with a touch of innovation. I would also become a regular if I lived in the 11th, especially at these prices!
55 rue Oberkampf, 75011 Paris
Hours: Zagat reckons Tues-Sat, 12-2.30 and 7-10.30. Le Fooding reckons they open every day, so check before going. We dined Thursday lunch.
Friendly English spoken.