April 11, 2013
As I very much enjoy drinking natural wines in London, I thought I would probably enjoy drinking them even more in France. So my thinking went when planning my trip to Paris last month. I can’t remember where I first heard about La Buvette, but it was on my list of natural wine places and also on my list of places that have been opened by ex-staff of Le Chateaubriand or Le Dauphin, where the owner of La Buvette, Camille Fourmont used to work.
That part of rue Saint-Maur is uninhabited enough at night that, as I stopped outside La Buvette to take a photo of the neon lit sign spelling out its name before going inside, my friend E coming up behind me and saying hello made me jump and let out a small shriek.
It’s actually not that far from Parmentier metro, but it seems so when you’re walking up the street in the dark, not knowing where it’s going to be. E, who knows the area well (and shares a surname with the owner Camille Fourmont – but is no relation as far as we could all discern) said she thought Camille was forging interesting new territory by opening there.
Once inside, it was pleasantly refreshing to be in a wine related space that had clearly been put together by a cool girl, rather than a man. Not that it’s girly. It wasn’t dark and there were no ancient dusty bottles gathering mold as décor. Instead, the white tiled walls with shallow wooden shelves held bottles of mostly natural wines, with the prices clearly written on them (add €8 for corkage). There were vintage glass light fixtures, each one slightly different, and a pot containing a fresh arrangement of white flowers and eucalyptus. The whole effect was light, unfussy and modern.
The menu of small plates was written up on a mirror, with prices ranging from €3 – €6 for a plate of olives or fourme d’Ambert cheese, saucisse seche, haricots blancs, or ricotta with quince jam and hazelnut oil. We had most of the dishes that were available and I was still hungry afterwards, but this isn’t a restaurant, so it was probably my own fault for trying to turn it into dinner. Due to licensing / lease restrictions it’s not allowed to be called a wine bar – it’s officially a wine shop where you can try the wine. The small space seats exactly fifteen and there’s also a zinc bar to lean on. It was full to capacity but not crowded on a cold Friday night in February.
We were interested in the already opened bottles by the bar and we let Camille guide us in our choices, which she did charmingly. This allowed us to try a glass of a few different wines each without committing to a bottle. I’m no wine critic so I’ll spare you my amateur musings, but every glass we tried was excellent, and seemed to complement the previous – whether by accident or design. Before we knew it, it was 10pm – La Buvette has an early closing time, making it perfect for an aperitif, less as the focal point of your night out.
I enjoyed La Buvette for its thoughtful details: the glass light shades, the ’30s plates, the simple fresh flowers, the light touch with which it’s been conceived, as much as for the wines. It was my favorite of all the wine bars I went to in Paris in the month of February –and I went to many.
67, rue Saint-Maur, 75011
Tel: +33 (0)9 83 56 94 11
- For more ideas of great Paris wine bars, check out our recent roundup
- Here’s The Observer’s list of top Paris wine bars
- And here are a few great all-natural wine bars in Paris as well
Written by Claire Oldman
Claire Oldman is a travel, fashion and lifestyle writer who was born and raised in London, but she'd usually rather be in Paris. She founded the blog Lola is Beauty on a whim in 2005, to cover her favourite subjects of clothes, Paris, places that are not Paris and cats. Living like a local, not a tourist is always her aim when traveling. She was a fashion stylist for a decade, and now writes press releases and web copy for fashion brands, but only ones she loves, like Toujours Toi-Family Affairs. Claire is currently a contributing editor at Fathom: the travel website re-invented, and she has written on Paris and London for publications including Bust magazine and the Guardian. She was the London correspondent for online urban travel guide Gridskipper in its glory days and was given an award by The Paris Tourism Board for an article on what her perfect day in Paris would be. Happily, the prize was a trip to Paris.
Website: Lola is Beauty