It’s a world away from Bastille and its homogenous Latin American themed bars, yet only several hundred metres down the road. A tad gritty and a little bit grungy, the Oberkampf area in Paris’s 11th arrondisement is known for its cool bar scene, village feel and artistic roots. For this reason it is one of my favourite quartiers in the French capital.
Frequented by young locals and in-the-know expats, the Oberkampf scene is part of the real Paris that does not include shopping at Gap on the Champs Elysées. Here there are no glamourous guestlist-only nightclubs featuring statues of Buddhas or other Gods; while many Parisians get excited over the latest hotspot, Oberkampf relies on its quiet self-assured cool that renders it branché (trendy) but not pretentious. Here the cafés are really cafés and the restaurants are really restaurants where you’ll find classic French fare at reasonable prices. Back in the day the district was at the heart of the industrial area; an enclave of artisans that worked with metal, leather and other materials. Nowadays the neighbourhood is a fashionable one; the old workshops have since morphed into little art galleries or workspaces for the local designers and architects. And at the heart of it all, the Rue Oberkampf threads its way from the eastern edge of the 3rd arrondisement to the western edge of the 20th revealing an array of great places to explore
True, Oberkampf is not really known for its shopping. However, Mahatsara is a quirky boutique boasting original, fairly traded creations from Southern Africa; think bona fide ethnic chic. Textiles, ceramics, furniture and other decorative handicrafts are on offer from a range of African artists and designers showcasing their inspirational indigenous backgrounds. In modernising traditional ancestral techniques they’ve managed to create truly covetable contemporary works of art.
8 rue Oberkampf
For designer flowers that will make an impression Christian Morel should be your florist of choice. This mini jungle of exotic flowers produces original and sophisticated bouquets that will attract the most envious of looks. However don’t expect a €15 masterpiece, beauty comes at a price!
44 rue Oberkampf
Le Jardin Fromager
Le Jardin Fromager is one of those gems that you can only find in France – the local specialist deli that is still thriving despite the rise and rise of mammoth ‘all in one’ supermarkets. Sinful cheese, foie gras, champagne – come to think of it, everything you need for a gourmet evening.
53 rue Oberkampf
Got a movie in mind that you can’t seem to find anywhere? Pop in to Hors Circuits, the independent DVD/video club and bookstore that specialises in rare films, cult classics, experimental cinema and documentaries. It’s also a place to buy/sell your second hand DVDs and VHS tapes. Blockbuster it ain’t!
4 rue Nemours
It’s the new kid on the block yet it already comes with a band of devoted followers. Paris-Feni () is that something a little different; this bar a fruits also moonlights as a Bangladeshi art gallery. Perched on a sunny corner in a quiet side street and overlooking a few antiques shops, its relaxed ambiance, friendly staff and reasonable prices make it popular with the locals – a mix of trendsetters, bobos (bourgeois bohemians) and young families. The fruit juices are varied and delicious, while the scrumptious chicken chapati or biryani will kill those hunger pangs for only €7 a pop.
15 bis rue Ternaux
www.parisfeni.com (website in French)
The boulangeries (bakeries) are such a major part of the Parisian landscape the city would be entirely changed without them. Comptoir Gana is more than just a place to buy your morning croissant; it’s a temple to the art of bread making. The big airy shop front invites you to sample their gourmet breads peppered with hazelnuts, grapes, walnuts, or chorizo. Don’t even get me started on their pastries…
54 rue Oberkampf
To step into Temoa is to take a little journey for this quaint boutique is all about ethnic gifts, striking table art and original accessories. Browse their fine teas and world music collection, also worth a look. The Franco-Mexican owner took the name from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for ‘to search.’ A great address for interesting gift ideas.
75 rue Oberkampf
Feel like an exotic voyage without crossing le périphérique? Find République’s star bar Favela Chic a little impersonal? Ave Maria is the place to sip a mango caipirinha whilst feeling a little closer to Brazil. Opening solely on weekends, they don’t take reservations, but the wait for a table can be numbed with a jug of agua de bora bora (very yummy champagne cocktail) to share amongst friends. Its kitschy, mix-and-match décor is festive and is an ideal setting to soak up the Brazilian beats. Check out their menu too – with names like Hakuna Matata, Woman on Top, Death by Chocolate and All You Need is Love you know you’re going to have a fun time choosing, and dining!
1 rue Jacquard
In the tradition of real Roman pizzerias, the pizza at Al Taglio is paid for according to its weight. Fresh ingredients direct from Italy such as girolle mushrooms, aubergine and gorgonzola feature heavily but the truffle pizza is the chef d’oeuvre. This tiny cantine has a few tables inside and out but thanks to favourable reviews in the local press don’t be surprised to find queues that snake out the door.
2 bis rue Neuve Popincourt
Marche au Crêpe
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda joint but if you wander in you shall not be disappointed! Marche au Crêpe caters to your post-bar snack needs serving up XL crêpes with a range of sweet and savoury fillings. Try the extra creamy white chocolate – divine!
88 rue Oberkampf
Looking for a place to brunch on a sunny weekend? You could do worse than Place Verte where the bagels and burgers are popular, as is the terrace which is always busy, day and night!
105 rue Oberkampf
Right next door is the Café Charbon, one of the original watering holes of the neighbourhood that can still hold its own. Its high ceilings and dimly lit interior awash with warm colours give it a very Parisian boho vibe. The cocktails are tasty, the tunes funky and the champagne is €6.60 a glass which is almost unheard of in Paris! Charbon’s equally cool big sister Nouveau Casino is the concert hall one door down that plays host to a mixed bag of musical acts on a regular basis.
109 rue Oberkampf