Supporting the Locals: Le Pearl

I love a good story. I especially love a good entrepreneurial story.

Walking down rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, it is all too easy to pass over Le Pearl, a cozy new restaurant only a hop away from venerable hotspots Astier and Jeanne A. For several months, I walked past the diminutive restaurant under renovations before its launch, wondering if it would have more staying power than its previous tenants. For as long as I can remember, 46 rue JP Timbaud was an African restaurant with curtains covering most of its windows making it very difficult to see whether there were actually any diners inside. I never saw anyone coming or going and was waiting for it to become one of those dubious pizza-kebab fusions that are all over the city. Instead, I watched it become something much more intriguing.

Just over a month ago, Le Pearl opened their doors. An impromptu local dinner with Mr. Cheeseland and a friend one evening made for the perfect opportunity to try it out. I was the first to arrive out of my party and the first to arrive in the restaurant. At 8pm, it was still empty. I hesitantly opened the door and was greeted by a young woman who assured me they were open and instructed me to choose any spot I wanted. I wondered if the boys were going to want to stay once they arrived and saw we would be only diners but I made myself comfortable. I quickly learned that she owned the restaurant with her husband, a chef who worked in England and St. Barths before deciding it was time to start his own project. 
Left: a pulley is required to grab ingredients from downstairs! (Fun to watch)

The two manage the restaurant themselves; she greets, prepares the drinks and takes the orders and he mans the minuscule kitchen where everything is made from scratch, nothing reheated or ready-to-serve. The menu is humble, as it should for a new restaurant as they're testing the waters, but the portions are sizable. We were ravenous when we were arrived and thrilled to be served an amuse-bouche of marinated veggies and fresh cheese and tomato mini tarts to keep the sound of our growling tummies at bay. We were impressed - the service was wonderful and attentive, the wine and amuse-bouches were excellent and the ambiance was warm and sophisticated. As we anxiously awaited our main dishes, other intrigued passersby trickled in for dinner. 

Opening a restaurant in France is fraught with uncertainty, risk and the obstacle of obtaining a loan from the bank. The owners explained they had to advance a hefty sum for the bank to even consider giving them a loan and as first-time entrepreneurs, they were understandably unsure of themselves. Would it work? Would they have stable traffic? Would people like their product? 

Starting a business in France, particularly in Paris, can be more daunting than actually running the business itself. With prohibitively expensive commercial rent, astronomical social charges (that are waived the 1st year at the end of which you must pay, regardless of how much you earned), and administrative hoops, you really must exhibit unwavering resolve and resilience. Getting knocked on your feet at every “non” thrown your way is a recipe for failure.

Of new businesses in Paris, restaurants strike me as the most fragile. Regardless of how good or inventive the offering, it comes down to survival of the fittest. Proper financing, savvy management, prime location, and friends in high places can all make a difference in the success of a new food businesses. With all the hype about Spring, Frenchie, Chez L'Ami Jean and Saturne, what happens to the little guys trying to make it? 

 Le chef!
Le Pearl happens to be across the street from one of my favorite neighborhood cafés, Les Petites Indécises, which has a steady flow of regulars at all hours of the day. I get it, people remain loyal to their favorite places, I do the same. But I wouldn't go to Les Petites Indécises with the same purpose. They have great food but I generally go to lounge with a book or chat with a friend over endless flows of tea and coffee (and speculoos biscuits, an even better reason). Le Pearl offers the romantic setting, a frequently-changing menu and a charming husband-wife duo whose passion for the business is unmistakable. 

I've since returned for lunch and enjoyed my meal just as much (they have an unbeatable deal - 11,50€ for entrée + plat or plat + dessert). Many of the business lunchers appeared to stick to their normal routine, grabbing a seat at Les Petites Indécises across the street, but I hope to see those habits change. Sure, the owners of Le Pearl have a lot to learn but their offering is good and they can count on me to tell everyone I know to give them a try. It's the least I can do to support budding entrepreneurs.

So if you aren't interested in trying out Le Pearl to support local business, go because it's damn good. Tell them the American from down the road sent you. 

Le Pearl
46 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011
01 48 07 48 98 
Métro: Parmentier/Oberkampf 

UPDATE: sadly, Le Pearl has shuttered. Best of luck to Thomas and Mélanie. 

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