14 Wonderful Wine Bars In Paris, London and Dublin That Are Worth A Spontaneous Visit - The Gloss Magazine

14 Wonderful Wine Bars In Paris, London and Dublin That Are Worth A Spontaneous Visit

The wine bar revival is only beginning here in Ireland, says Katy McGuinness who did some research in Paris…

Restaurants are the enemy of spontaneity. The good ones are booked out months in advance, and many require a minimum spend or offer only a multi-course tasting menu, options which may suit neither pocket nor appetite. How much better to operate on a whim, to squeeze into a wine bar, slip onto a stool and see where the mood takes you, eating as much or as little as you want, drinking delicious wine by the glass or the bottle, staying for as short or as long a time as you like?

Not that they ever went away, but the wine bar revival began in Paris over a decade ago, just as the world was waking up to low-intervention wine. Now there are wine bars all over that city, and everywhere you go – including FRENCHIE BAR À VINS, with its exposed brick interior, one of the first of this new wave – customers ask, often in English for Paris is très international these days, for something “natural, not too funky”. 

At the MARY CELESTE in the Upper Marais, recommended by Claire Arnold of Lennox Street Grocers in Portobello who used to work there, the decor is ironically cheesy – yes, there is a ship’s wheel, and rope wrapped around the columns – and the small plates brilliant. Sea urchins with nam jim, fried chicken gochujang, the devilled eggs having a fashionable Parisian moment all of their own … cheerful food that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Close by, at LA BELLE HORTENSE on Rue Vieille-du-Temple, a bookshop and wine bar coexist happily. Customers borrow something from the shelves to peruse while they sit up at the old-school zinc bar and order a glass of Morgon to drink with cheese and charcuterie. Image; @labellehortense

Behind the counter of CLAMATO in the 11th, a sibling to the wildly successful and hard-to-book Septime next door, a young Irish chef carefully trims a huge fish. It’s walk-ins only, properly democratic, relaxed and lowkey thanks to the “design without design” approach taken by architects Guillaume Jounet and Remy Bardin. Eat tarama and raw scallops with truffle and raw cream (so good) accompanied by a bottle of something light and red. (One of the many good things about the wine bars of Paris is the default to lower ABV wines.) Then think about ordering more plates. And more wine. Image; @septimeparis

What’s interesting is that despite a shared sensibility and a common focus on minimal-intervention wines from small producers, there is no one-size-fits-all look to these wine bars, their decorative quirks and the limitations of the spaces they occupy seen as cause for celebration rather than a target for obliteration.

It’s a similar story in London, where wine bars with a strong visual identity are everywhere. Originals such as NOBLE ROT

and ANDREW EDMUNDS retain a timeless, down-at-heel period loucheness. Image; @andrew.edmunds.

Others that evidence design smarts without looking as if they have tried too hard include HECTOR’S in Dalston…

CADET on Newington Green… (@cadetlondon)

and the smart BAR CRISPIN in Soho, the latter designed by Jermain Gallacher, Vogue interiors columnist, using lots of zinc and a purple and off-white palette.

In Ireland, our hospitality interiors currently tend to the homogenous, more than a little in thrall to the new and the shiny, to the “not a hair out of place” top-to-toe fitouts, the contemporary equivalent of the “books by the yard” with which pubs with literary notions used to be kitted out. This would be seen as ineffably naff in Paris, where the move to sustainability has taken hold and re-using is all. You see it in the repurposing of floorboards on the ceiling here, the use of rusting raw mild steel there, the rustic nonmatching furniture, the earthy tiles, the found rather than “purchased from an expensive showroom” light fittings everywhere. Not that one should assume this approach is always the result of shoestring budgets. Sometimes the more thrown together the look, the more expensive it has been to assemble.

Many of Ireland’s independently owned wine bars express their individuality with confidence. At FRANKS on Camden Street, located in a former pork butchers and with a vibrant green interior, things are nicely relaxed. Katie Sewell and David Bradshaw say they want to give freedom back to the customer, so everyone can tailor their own experience. That means no bookings, a friendly ambience and a high communal island at which all are welcome. Image; @franksdublin

If the space allowed, says Katie, she’d have some of the easygoing low seating she saw at SPRY in Edinburgh, all the better for settling in over a bottle or two.

NOTE (designed by Ahmad Fakhry) on Dublin’s Fenian Street channels a pristine mid-century aesthetic to complement an elegant menu and carefully curated wine list.

LOOSE CANON on South William Street, a little rough around the edges when it comes to decor but with a great line in cheese toasties, couldn’t be more different, and would not be out of place in the Marais.

Sometimes, a wine bar doubles up as a bottle shop. In Cork, Trudy Ahern and Sean Gargano’s MACCURTAIN WINE is a shop by day and a wine bar by night, its cosy, dark interior conducive to lingering over a snack or two, maybe a tin of anchovies with good bread, before selecting a bottle to bring home. Image; Kyle Burriss.

Close by, in the Victorian-styled NELL’S, chef Epi Rogan is establishing a reputation for sophisticated small plates to accompany an interesting selection of wines by the glass. Image; Kyle Burriss.

Their individual and distinctive identity is what makes each of these wine bars special, and is what may save us from the dread prospect of a chain of identikit wine bars being rolled out by the overlords of the Irish hospitality business. Fingers crossed.


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