12 July 2017

a farewell to meat: aux deux amis primeur, 75011


When I first heard that 11ème wine bar Aux Deux Amis proprietor David Loyola had taken on the lease for a large adjacent space on rue Oberkampf, I shook my head in awe of what I assumed would become an extension of his popular existing wine bar. Aux Deux Amis is by all appearances a massive cash cow, turning tables from lunchtime to past midnight, the only Parisian natural wine bar of its generation to truly embrace a fun, unruly bar atmosphere. Surely on a busy thoroughfare like rue Oberkampf, I thought, bigger would mean better for Aux Deux Amis.

Instead Loyola opened a primeur, or greengrocer. It's a slightly puzzling move, given how many excellent primeurs have opened up within 5 minutes' walk within the past six months. (Le Zingam's second address on rue de la Fontaine au Roi, and Terroirs d'Avenir's new location on rue Jean Pierre Timbaud.) Loyola's greengrocer venture is probably explicable by that fact that his friend Cyril Bordarier of Le Verre Volé has already locked up natural wine retail and gourmet foodstuffs on that particular corner of rue Oberkampf, with Le Verre Volé Cave and L'Epicerie du Verre Volé, respectively. For Loyola, the options were probably primeur or nail salon.

Even so, there is already a solid primeur 100 meters up the street, and a terrible one perhaps 10 meters away. Aux Deux Amis Primeur is distinguished by an impressively locavore focus - the majority of its vegetables derive from the Île de France - along with ambitious prices. It offers a small, almost stealth selection of wine and beer, as well as lunch service. At noon Loyola lords over the roomy kitchen area, improvising a daily sandwich and bento from exclusively vegetarian components. "We wanted to do no meat, and no fish, just to stay truly on theme," he explains.


For someone who first made his name serving at Le Châteaubriand, a place where duck heart is a common amuse-bouche, and for the creator of Aux Deux Amis, where I have consumed horse tartare, Aux Deux Amis Primeur seems to represent a conscious break from the masculine culture of exotic meats. Boys become men who shop for rhubarb.



Aux Deux Amis Primeur still contains trace elements of Loyola's piratic signature. A turntable is installed on a wall beside the party-starter Beaujolais of Jean Foillard and Jean-Paul Thévenet. The sandwich formule at lunch is 10€ for a sandwich and a can of craft beer.


The one I enjoyed after a run the other day was a soft bun containing carrot coulis, chunky kalamata halves, lettuce, olive oil, and some excellent mozzarella borrowed from the kitchen of the wine bar next door. If it lacked the refinement of Delphine Zampetti's sandwiches across the arrondissement at Chez Aline, it had all the flavor.


Loyola offers better beer. A bracing, rich-for-the-style "Hoi Polloi" Pilsner from Alphabet Brewing Co. came in a can that eerily resembles Arizona Iced Tea.


Aux Deux Amis Primeur's Île de France fruits and vegetables, in their quality and high prices, will probably inspire many Parisians to take up gardening. I can't be the only client who balked at the price of local tomatoes, forking over close to €15 for five of them, inwardly swearing to shop elsewhere for tomatoes henceforth.


They did, however, prove to be excellent, sweet and luscious. This raises the question: if such tomatoes can be grown in Île de France, why on earth is it so hard to find decent tomatoes in Paris? Most purveyors sell mealy, pastel-red ersatz things, lacking all douceur. Recipes don't work with them. Anyway it took a visit to Aux Deux Amis Primeur for me to realise that tomatoes had become a luxury product in Paris.


It's early days, so understandable if the rest of inventory at Aux Deux Amis Primeur seems a little half-sketched. The beverage fridge is thinly stocked, the central shelving under-filled with olive oils, vinegars, and so forth. One gets the sense that some degree of care is being taken to avoid offering precisely the same products as Le Verre Volé Epicerie around the corner.


This is a worthy challenge. The Paris natural wine scene as a whole stands to benefit if its establishments, for whatever reason, make efforts to enlarge what has become an eye-glazingly predictable network of high-quality suppliers: Bordier butter, Annie Bertin herbs, Anne Rozès conserves, L'Arbre à Café coffee, Fallot mustards, and so forth. Nota bene, I like all these things. But am I being too optimistic in presuming France is home to other purveyors of products of similar quality?

Given how many excellent greengrocers are opening in the 11ème and across Paris right now, I suppose we'll see.


Aux Deux Amis Primeur
43, rue Oberkampf
75011 PARIS
Métro: Oberkampf or Parmentier
Tel: Can't find one. But it would actually be quite useful for seasonal greengrocers to have telephones - one could call in advance to see whether a given ingredient was in stock.

Open lunchtimes and early evenings Tuesday - Saturday. Open Sunday lunch. Closed Monday. 

Related Links

Aux Deux Amis, 75011

Le Zingam, 75011

1 comment:

  1. "Boys become men who shop for rhubarb." is likely the most comical line I've ever heard from you (^.^) it so perfectly defines the scene!

    All the best,
    N

    ReplyDelete