It may not be the oldest wine bar in Paris – that distinction probably belongs to the winningly named La Réserve de Quasimodo, near Notre Dame – but, for my euros, Fish la Boissonnerie is the best. There are more fashionable spots, many of them serving super-modish “natural” wines, but I’d advise you to head to this Left Bank favourite, on the site of a former fishmonger in Saint Germain.
Its owners, Juan Sánchez and Drew Harré, are from America and New Zealand respectively; the chef is a talented young Englishman, Ollie Clarke, who used to work for Rick Stein. Harré and Sánchez select the list, sourcing many of the bottles from their own wine shop around the corner. Despite its name and history, Fish doesn’t only serve seafood, and the list reflects that, with plenty of reds from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Languedoc-Roussillon and especially the Rhône Valley. Intriguingly, it’s almost entirely French; there’s one token Spanish red from Priorat, but no Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.
This is a list so good, it’s best enjoyed by the glass. With our gravadlax and scallop starters, we drank the rich, fennel and spice-like 2013 Mas Champart, Saint Chinian Blanc (€6) and the taut, appley 2013 Domaine Arretxea, Irouléguy, Hegoxuri (€11.90) from the Basque country, both selected from the vins de la semaine chalkboard.
We stuck with the wines of the week for our reds. With a succulent lamb and celeriac dish, we tried the structured, wild herb-scented 2012 Domaine Les Vignes Oubliées, Coteaux du Languedoc Terrasses du Larzac (€9.50) and the elegant, spicy, minerally 2011 Clot de l’Oum, Côtes du Roussillon, Compagnie des Papillons (€7.11).
I’m not usually a dessert person, especially at lunch, but if you go to Fish you have to experience the delicious chocolate, mango and tamarind pudding, accompanied by a glass of luscious, yet refreshing 2013 Château Pierre Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu, Les Rouannières (€8.30; €46).
To finish, we shared a palate-cleansing coupe of raspberryish, Pinot Noir-dominated Domaine Piollot Champagne Réserve NV (€12; €60), rounding off one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in Paris. Other bars à vins are more French in atmosphere, but when the food, wine and service are this good, who cares?
+ 33 1 43 54 34 69; €41pp for three courses
Where else to go and what to drink
Relaxed, British-run wine bar specialising in the Rhône Valley. €28.50pp for three courses
Best white: 2013 Crozes Hermitage Blanc, Charles & François Tardy This pure Marsanne is utterly delicious. Herbal, savoury and lightly oaked, it has notes of jasmine, pear and vanilla spice and a fine, lingering finish. €6.50
Best red: Vin de Table Purple 14 Blended by the proprietor, Tim Johnston, and the southern Rhône superstar Marcel Richaud, this is a serious, spicy, full-bodied red made from Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre. Try it with the haggis that is always on the menu. €6
+ 33 1 42 97 46 49
LE BARON ROUGE
A quintessentially Gallic, blue-collar bar à vins near the Aligre market. Small plates from €7
Best white: 2013 Domaine Jacky Preys, Touraine Sauvignon, Cuvée de Fié Gris Made from a rare (pink) clone of Sauvignon Blanc, this is a pithy, crunchy white from the best producer in Valençay. Just the thing to drink with the Baron’s fresh oysters. €2.70
Best red: 2012 Domaine de la Combe au Loup, Chiroubles Chiroubles often makes some of the lightest wines among the Beaujolais crus, and that’s certainly the case here. Juicy, red-cherry and raspberry fruit, sustained by lip-smacking acidity. €3.20
+ 33 1 43 43 14 32