Now that a week has passed on my “working” holiday in France, I thought I’d share where I’ve basically tanked my credit cards. Surprise! It’s wine bars and restaurants. Behold and book a one way ticket to Paris fast, before all of our scientists and climate change officials beat you to it.
Do the lunch! It will appear that no-one is eating there and that you will be extremely uncomfortable, but when the pleasant wait staff lead you around the corner, there is a hidden nook of couples and fashionable businesswomen dining and dreaming away under the floral canopies. Lunch is three courses that you can have paired with natural wine, many of which are made specifically for the restaurant. (Our server curiously noted that none of the wines contain added sulfites as they come from nearby regions directly to the restaurant – removing the need for preservatives – but that this sometimes makes the wines taste off. To my palate, everything was delicious, but just take heed it’s all pretty weird.)
Best wine: Petit Gimios, Moelleux de Muscat (Minervois)
Le Garde Robe
Aka, the place where our receipt called us “The BOYZ”. (Not offended.) This is uber low-key, tucked away in the 1st and hyper-local. Run by three women who are having a fucking great time with their lives, you should definitely make a point to hang at the bar and nibble on cheese and natural wine with them. The store also functions as a wine shop; you can buy bottles from the shelf to have in store for a nominal corkage fee.
Best wine: Some Cab Franc/Grolleau blend. (We ordered BTG and like, things didn’t have names. It’s just a place where you let things keep on pouring.)
Buvette NYC is basically a brunch right-of-passage at this point; god bless you if manage to land a table on the weekend. We turned up on a Sunday morning – Mother’s Day no less – and we were seated right away. Jody Williams keeps the food menus pretty consistent between her two locations, but it’s the wine menu where the restaurants distinguish themselves. A giant wall map of Paris outlines where each of their by the glass options originate. There is some kooky shit here: I ordered a glass of Pinot Beurrot – a grape I’ve literally never heard of – that was 8 euros. It was mind blowing, elegant, toasty, and worth about three times as much at a NYC bar. (FYI, the grape is Burgundian Pinot Gris) Necessity: the beets! All of the beets!
Best wine: Daguneau et Filles, Pinot Beurrot (Côtes de La Charité)
Gare au Gorille
Aka, where you go when you can’t get into Septime. A power-lunch hub, you will be bumper-to-bumper with people casually dropping $$$, but if you stick to the prix fixe and a bottle of wine, you’ll walk out with your wallet in tact. Excellent fish and succulent slow cooked beef. Skip the dessert and order dessert wine; we were not impressed with the rhubarb tart or the half-assed cheese plate. Pricing is a little weird here so make sure to confirm with the server about how many courses are included in your specific prix fixe choice (3 or 5), before you make your choice.
Best wine: Pinto, “Orange Mauzanic” (Patagonia, Argentina)
Aux Deux Amis
People might tell you the staff is rude here: the trick is to just order bottles and be a decent human being to the customers around you. This isn’t France’s Next Top Best Friend people, it’s a goddamn bar crawl. I went here twice: once by myself where I had a glass of Clairette from the Languedoc that was a supreme pairing with my peppery lamb’s tongue salad and plate of beets with butter. (Literally, these were just fresh-af beets, stems on, dropped on a plate with a pat of butter and some sea salt.) I returned with a massive group during one of their popping nights and the place was a whole different beast. You’ll feel like you are at what the Four Horsemen wish they could be doing every Friday night. We ordered bottles, were presented to them on the street, and proceeded to pour our own drinks for the rest of the night. It was sublime.
Best wine: Le Champ d’Orphee, Vin Rouge, Braucoul (Sud Ouest)
Cider people: this is your mecca. Brutus only opened two weeks ago and it’s already running on all cylinders. Unbelievably, this is Paris’ very first cider-only bar/restaurant. The prices are dirt cheap – we came as a group, ordered five bottles of cider (750ml bottles not that Wolffer Estate baby bottle crap), seven crepes, four apps, and three desserts. We walked out paying 28 euros a piece. I seriously question how they keep the lights on, but I will rock this party until the auditors come a knocking. Crepes are fab – make sure to order the salted butter caramel (with ice cream!) and a doux cidre to finish the night. The bros who run this joint are really happy to make friends with foreigners, so soak up their knowledge and push them to learn how to better identify their weirdest ciders. (No, “it’s real nice” is not the description I’m looking for when I ask for “funky”.)
Wine Cider: Le Pere Mathieu, Cuvee du Triquart Brut (Cotentin AOC)