A croissant worth crossing Paris for
June 3, 2019
Word was circulating that a new bakery is producing the best croissants in Paris. On a visit to the city in May, naturally I went to investigate rue Oberkampf, looking for No 61. The 11th Arrondissement is roughly equivalent to London’s Shoreditch, with little independent shops, a market, and tattoo parlours.
Arriving at the shop, I explained to the young man behind the counter (in my best French) that je suis escrivain d’un blog, and asked if I could take some photos.
‘Would you prefer to speak in English or in French? I’m English’ he replied (in French). ‘English’ I said, ‘it’s probably safer’.
Between customers, he was able to answer some of my questions. One of the first was how the bakery found its name.
It’s called ‘The French Bastards’
The business was founded in January 2019 by friends Julien, Emmanuel and David. Julien had worked in Australia, where his colleagues called him ‘the French bastard’, and back in Paris the friends decided to use the nickname for their shop.
The counter display comprised neat ranks of colourful pastry: red fruit tarts, black fruit tarts with dark chocolate….
….lemon meringue eclairs, alongside the usual chocolate and coffee.
Then there were three kinds of sandwich piled high for the lunchtime trade; admittedly expensive at €7.90, but each looked as if it would feed a small family (my eye was caught by the 36 month Iberico ham, with sun dried tomato & mizuna salad).
And viennoisserie, row upon sticky row of flaky bronze pastry, including all the classics, and more creative offerings like the Babka, made to a Polish recipe – chocolate brioche, purposely undercooked for ooze; and the Cruffin, a croissant crossed with a muffin, filled with raspberry purée.
There was a coffee machine, and I decided we should try out the simplest emblem of the French patissier’s art, the humble croissant.
We sat at the table at the back of the shop, where behind a glass screen we could watch four bakers going about their useful work.
The coffee was the best we’ve had in Paris (they use Peruvian beans)….
and as for the croissant….
It wasn’t too big, with a darker colour than is usual, apparently derived from the rich butter they use. It was very flaky and light, but still had substance, a rich taste, the merest hint of caramel from the butter, and not at all greasy in the fingers.
A baker came out of the kitchen and introduced himself as Emmanuel, one of the business partners. He asked what we had tried, and agreed the croissant was a good choice. ‘It’s like choosing spaghetti with tomato sauce in an Italian place; if it’s good, you know you’re in safe hands’.
Although they’ve only been open a few months, they’re already looking for more sites. The first shop is close to Le Marais and the Picasso museum, on rue Oberkampf, close to a busy street market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir.
As well as pastries they make very good bread, from Le Tradition (the baguette) to a Pain de Campagne with honey, turmeric and Corinth grapes, ‘yellower than your gilet’.
Before leaving, I had to admit to another motive. While it had been worth crossing Paris for the croissant, I couldn’t resist making it known that I have another occupation.
As an English longbow archer, I had wanted to come and take a look at the French Bastards.
The FRENCH BASTARDS, 61, rue Oberkampf, Paris 11eme. (The Bastards take ‘Thursday Off’)
Nearest Metro Filles de Calvaire
Playlist: mellow. As well as the table, there’s a battered leather sofa.
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