Sometimes you find a little bit of happiness in the strangest of places and yesterday I found my happiness on the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, at Urfa Dürüm, a tiny hole in the wall serving marvellous sandwiches.
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly charmed by my first encounter with this neighbourhood when I arrived in Paris nearly ten years ago. It seemed a long way from the Paris I knew and loved (think the touristy 5th and 6th) and struck me as dirty and run down. The neighbourhood has undeniably changed in the last few years as more and more bobos move in, but perhaps my view of Paris has changed as well. The more I visit this neighbourhood, the more appealing it becomes. Sex shops and sleaze still abound on the rue Saint Denis, but there are pockets of charm to be found everywhere, like this lovely little passage way just off the rue du château d’eau.
Or, the picturesque Cour des Petites-Ecuries, where the King’s coaches were made and repaired in the late 18th Century and where you’ll find the celebrated Belle Epoque Brasserie Flo, one of the original brasseries of Paris.
And I’ve always loved the bustling Passage Brady with its restaurant hawkers, beauty salons and exotic aromas which make you feel like you’ve left Paris for some medina in a faraway land.
This is a vibrant immigrant neighbourhood, home to a myriad of ethnicities and their cuisines. Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Malagasy, Eastern Europeans, Turks, and Kurds can all find something from their native land in this quartier.
Not surprisingly the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis has more of its fair share of kebab shops. But how many kebab shops make their own flat bread right before your eyes?
They don’t serve much here, in fact the owner proudly told me that they only serve lahmacun, a sort of Kurdish pizza and urfa dürüm, these rolled traditional Kurdish sandwiches. No chips, no fries, no sauce, hardly any spices—just simple goodness rolled up in freshly baked flat bread. You can choose between grilled chicken, beef, lamb, lamb liver or, if you must, vegetarian. The meat is grilled to order and strangely they use a hair dryer to finish things off. No matter, the result was heaven. They add a bit of arugula, red onion, tomato, no more, all very fresh and crisp, which was the perfect contrast to the warm bread and perfectly grilled lamb.
You can take away but I would recommend having a seat in the quirky, but comfortable, wooden chairs out front; it’s the perfect place to watch the daily hum of this eclectic neighbourhood pass by.
56 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
Métro: Château d’Eau