Hanging out at the Hangar
The Beaubourg is so overrun with hordes of the deliberately stateless that its feeding troughs have merged into gastronomic anonymity. Working there every summer at IRCAM (that subterranean Nibelheim where the crude ore of random noise is refined and forged into the heavy metal of electroacoustic music), come lunch-time we of Electric Phoenix longed for a simple restaurant hidden away in a cul-de-sac, far from the gnashing of omnivorous teeth. It would be light and sunny with a simple but not austere decor, the food would be imaginative but unpretentious, vegetarians would be inventively catered for, the house white would be cold and crisp, the tables would be amply spaced, the chairs comfortable, the staff friendly but discreet.
Our search finally reached an impasse: in fact, the impasse Berthaud, at the end of which was the treasure for which we’d been searching, the pot-au-feu at the end of the rainbow. It was tucked away around a corner where traffic noise and fumes hardly penetrated, so that dining on their covered terrace did not require ear protectors and gas masks. A sign in the window announcing that credit cards were not accepted held a promise that it would not be crowded with tourists.
Inside, the white walls and gentle pastel colors were relaxing. Best of all was the carte, which offered a French/Italian/Californian-style selection of nouvelle cuisine, but without the usual Kandinsky presentation and Van Gogh prices. Outstanding dishes proved to be a cold creamy avocado soup which I had again the next day, a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad with basil, fresh ravioles de Romans with crème d’aubergines, an almond blanc mange which gave the lie to its proverbial blandness, and a sensational ewe’s milk ice cream with a thick elderberry coulis. My personal favorite is their steak tartare, which is made from very tender and delicate beef whose flavor is not obliterated by aggressive seasoning.
THE last time we were there for lunch, a row of tables along one side, maybe a couple of dozen places, was occupied by a wedding party. We were in an alcove adjacent to one end, next to two ancient beldames who were tucking into a Gargantuan feast. They were, a member of the party told us, out on the town for the day from an old folks’ home. They were taken away early, having eaten enough to gag a horse. A younger member of the family was a lad in old-style TV newsreader’s costume; i.e., respectable shirt and jacket over ragged, faded blue jeans. Babies cooed happily in high chairs, sharing their own little menu degustation of the family feast. How did all those French teenagers ever grow up to eat Big Macs?
Le Hangar 12, impasse Berthaud, 3 rd Tel: 01 42 74 55 44
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