A tranquil boozy and literary escape from the frenetically trendy streets of the Marais, La Belle Hortense with its pretty blue frontage is all about settling down with a good book and a nice wine. Hosting readings and literary events, the walls are lined with bottles and books, including new releases, rare volumes, independent poetry and classic collections. The wine list is enormous – quite pricy by the glass but much better value by the bottle or carafe – try a white Mâcon Solutré from the Bourgogne, a red Morgon Flache Somay, or splash out on top vintages like Saint-Emilion and Margaux. All regions are represented, and there’s also a monthly selection on the board. Note that the price of glasses goes up by €0.50 after 10pm.
The excellent menu is provided by the kitchen over the road at La Chaise au Plafond (the owner, Xavier Denamur, is the same; he also has l’Etoile Manquante, Au Petit Fer à Cheval and Des Philosophes). It’s not cheap, but not bad for the area; dish of the day for €12 and a set menu for €24. The only drawbacks are that the place is rammed after 9pm and that the lone waitress has to divide herself between the bar, and giving clients advice on the bookshelves.