I have to confess a sentimental attachment to this little restaurant. I came here for the first time two years ago with my beloved friends, Jason and Andrew, with whom I was renting a flat in the Marais for five delirious days of eating, drinking, and shopping. I remember very few specifics about that meal other than the time of day (late afternoon), the champagne cocktails (lovely) and the seared foie gras on olive oil mashed potatoes. I “had to” try the foie gras, Andrew told me. It was, in fact, some of the best foie gras I have ever tasted, I kid you not. Seared golden dark with that oh-so-slight give on the caramelized exterior, perfectly pink tender interior, and just the right amount of delicate salt crunch. Getting foie gras right is an art form, and so many chefs miss the mark.
So, having arrived in Paris on a late weeknight with my parents and learned to my dismay that my favourite wine bar had just stopped serving food, Le Hangar was the obvious choice. (It helps that Le Hangar is basically around the corner from the flat we stay in when we’re in Paris.)
It’s hard to fully convey the appeal of Le Hangar. It’s tucked in a blind alley by the Musée de la Poupée, just north of the Rue Rambuteau, and close to the Centre Pompidou. If you didn’t know about it, you probably wouldn’t find it – which may explain why it seems like everyone eating there is local. Basically, this is a true mom and pop bistro (there actually is a mom, and a pop, and both are adorable) serving nice, simple food with a touch of class. The restaurant itself has a ramshackle charm – white tablecloths notwithstanding, posters are stuck on the wall with tape or putty, stuff is heaped up on shelves, and the lighting is disconcertingly bright. It still feels, though, like a place you’d take someone you particularly fancied on a date. Or maybe that’s just Paris.
We started with a salmon tartare. The salmon was chopped a little too finely for my taste but it was fresh and nicely – if simply – seasoned with very good olive oil and a touch of shredded basil.
My father had chicken, which was served with in a sauce made with honey, and caramelized fennel, and my mother had dorade served with olive oil mashed potatoes. Again, both dishes were simple but nicely balanced. Note the presentation straight out of the 1960s. Adorable.
I had the foie gras again, of course. Two great big lobes of foie gras, served on the same olive oil mashed potatoes that accompanied my mother’s fish, with NOTHING else. The French don’t mess around. Was it as good as I remembered? Yes, it was. And it slaughtered me. I think I’m good for foie gras for another year, at least.
Although the portions were fairly modest, the food was insanely rich and filling, so we shared a dessert. What they called a “fig tart” was in fact a biscuit (cookie) with barely cooked fresh figs, almond cream, and what tasted like a bit of dark balsamic syrup. Again, outrageously simple, but it worked. I’m going to duplicate it.
We struggled to finish our petits fours and then waddled home. Foie gras at 11:30 pm does not lend itself to peaceful slumber, but even though I struggled and sweated all night, my soft tender feelings for this little restaurant are undiminished. It’s not cheap, mind you – although not expensive – and it’s not exciting, but it’s sweet, like a gentle old-fashioned Parisian kiss.
12 Impasse Berthaud, 75003 Paris
Phone: 01 42 74 55 44
Price per person: about £30 euros, including wine
The verdict: I’d eat here again (if only for the foie gras)