Pub crawl Paris style - Juveniles Wine Bar & Willis Wine Bar
I have recently returned from a four day trip to Paris to watch Euro 2016 with 6 of my school mates in honour of a significant birthday we all share this year.
Three games in 4 days meant we had one day spare when we could ease off the beer and act a bit more respectable, at least for a few hours anyway.
Having spent four years living in Sydney about ten years ago I have enjoyed a lot of Torbreck's wine in my time. The first time I came across Juveniles wine bar was on the back of a bottle of Torbreck's Juveniles wine, which is named after this Parisian institution. Ever since, I've wanted to visit so I wasn't going to let this chance pass.
The fact they have McSweens haggis on the menu is just an added bonus.
After turning up a little late the seven of us settled into a long boozy lunch. We were served by Margaux, who thankfully speaks perfect English. She has recently taken over the reigns from her father Tim Johnston, who set up the place up about 30 years ago.
In terms of the food, we all thought it was amazing.
Highlights among the starters included; squid with squid ink and sesame sauce (ace), chorizo with peppers (ditto) and a posh courgette soup with lots of fancy bits.
When it came to mains, 4 of us had the faux fillet served for two to share with creamy pomme puree avec beuacoup de beurre which was still moo-ing it was so rare - but in a good way. A mighty tasty piece of meat. One of us had the haggis obviously (7 Scotsmen can't let the side down completely) and I think there was lamb and chicken thrown in as well.
Seven very happy campers.
So happy we polished off a few cheese boards and some of us even squeezed in a dessert but I think I was a bit well oiled by that point to recall what they were.
So the food was ace and I thoroughly recommend it if you are in Paris. Anyway, on to the wine...
The first thing that jumped out to me was the wine list prices. Its pretty much equivalent to UK retail prices. Even with the pound's collapse in recent months. I was like a kid in a sweet shop.
To kick things off we went for a magnum of Pol Roger Brut Reserve (well I did say we were celebrating). Ridiculous value at €105 for the magnum. Majestic is currently listing a single bottle at £40, so its less than UK retail price. Who said Paris was expensive?
It was ace and got things off to a flying start. Here's Margaux popping the cork;
After dispatching the bubbly we moved onto a food friendly Gruner Veltliner from Austria as there was quite a mix of dishes. With its peppery spice it certainly went well with my squid and I didn't hear any complaints from the lads. Job done.
Moving swiftly on to the main event. A celebration like this needs a big wine with the main course. So I went for a monumental magnum of Isole e Olena's Cepparello. An epic wine from the Chianti region in Tuscany. Smooth plums and berries with great acidity. Perfect with the steak.
A wine I have wanted to try for a long time and I loved every drop. And at €170 for the magnum it again wasn't far off UK retail. The highlight for me by some margin. Here's the bad boy...
To accompany the cheese board, on Margaux's recommendation, we ordered a bottle of Domaine de Marcoux's La Lorentine, a Lirac from the Southern Rhone . A renowned Chateauneuf du Pape producer, they do a fine job with their Lirac as well. Lighter and crunchier than the Cepparello, it was an excellent foil for the cheese.
We had a mix of cognac, dessert wine, port and madeira to finish things off, of which I can recall very little. But 'twas all good.
After paying a bill of about €750 for a lunch for 7 which would probably have cost at least double in London, we stumbled out at about 4.30pm.
I am ashamed to say we went on to a bar showing the football and made our way through the cocktail menu, whilst shouting abuse at each other as if we had gone back in time about 25 years. Great fun, but others in the bar may have had different views.
After a few hours of this we decided that whilst in the area we had to pop into Willis Wine Bar. It is literally just round the corner from Juveniles, something I only realised in the taxi on our way to lunch.
Maybe it was because we had been drinking solidly for about 7 hours but Willis felt like a different proposition to Juveniles. A lot more formal and dare I say posh.
We initially walked/stumbled in, decided we might not fit in and left immediately. But after about 30 seconds of loitering outside the door we pulled ourselves together and tried again. We needn't have worried. The staff were very welcoming and friendly, even if we raised the decibels a touch more than they may have preferred.
After we tried for some time to speak to/shout at the waiter in very bad, slurred school boy french, he finally said "Mate, I'm from Maidstone, just speak English".
Ideal. It was also ideal that he stepped in to order the wine for us as by this time none of us could read.
A bottle of white and a bottle of red was duly ordered, alongside a selection of tapas style dishes to soak up the alcohol (a wise move).
Here are the wines;
I can't remember anything about the white (apologies) and I admit the label gives little away. A quick google search suggests it was a Minervois from Languedoc. I do remember he offered this and a St Peray and I chose this as the St Peray was a bit too heavy for an aperitif style wine.
The Chinon however was an absolute winner, one of the wines of the day for me.
After this we left them in peace, paid l'addition and set off into the Parisian night to watch more football and drink more beer.
The afternoon had been a success, I got to visit two of Paris's most famous wine bars and we got to drink some great wines at great prices. What's not to like?
So which wine bar did I prefer? Hard to tell. They are very different. Juveniles is much more relaxed and feels more French. And I'd say its more of a restaurant than Willi's.
Willis's is very much more international. Most of the other customers were tourists I think. Which is fine. So were we. Its also a bit more formal.
The great thing is they are so close to each other its easy to visit them both.
And that's what I would suggest you do.