When someone mentions the word bistro, a typical, if clichéd, image comes to mind. A blue tiled floor, wooden bar. There’s a leather bench and tables snaking the wall, pendant light fixtures creating a warm halo over each spot. Smells of melted butter, and meat slow cooked in shallots and red wine waft through the kitchen, in between clatters from the chefs. A rocket of a coffee machine is centre stage on the bar, hissing steam and fog over cross-legged ladies on bar stools laughing around a bottle of Chablis.
You take a pew, the winter chill fading away fast. Multiple plates of terrine de campagne with pickles (€9), and a side of fondant leeks with a hazelnut vinaigrette (€9) sit atop the hands of skillful traditionally smocked waiters.
Sounds like another era, right? This golden-age bistro is alive and well in the Marais. Since 1905, no less. Thanks to ex-comedian and restaurant industry pro Florian Cadiou, a man with infectious enthusiasm, Vin des Pyrénées has been restored to its glory.
Taking inspiration from Paris est une fête - the French translation of A Moveable Feast -, Vin des Pyrénées has a history as colourful as one of Hemingway’s stories, serving Baudelaire and Jim Morrison with plonk when it used to be a wine shop. Once one of the city’s most reputable French brasseries, it fell into decline as Paris became a hub for newer and more exotic food. But that’s the good thing about trends, they come and go... A total renovation has revived the space (the new decor is truly marvellous), gone the rude service and overpriced salty food. Instead, well...
Iridescent oysters (€2 each) are stacked in a carefully balancing act, a golden ribbon of truffle-spiked gouda folds comfortably in the mouth; croquettes of lamb slow cooked for seven hours (€12), succulent and moreish with an smidge of warm cumin. An indulgent Croque-Monsieur made with the aforementioned truffle gouda (€17) or a rich calamari stuffed with chorizo and fennel (€17) are ultimate winter warmers. The menu stays classic but offers other surprises to complement it. The produce is top notch, a fair price for the quality and, it's excceedingly comforting. Brilliant.
Once you’ve had your piece of a caramel topped citron meringue tart (€8) or crème brulée with burnt orange cinnamon (€8), it’s time for a digestif. That’s where Paris est une fête really comes in.
A thin iron staircase leads you to the cocktail bar. It's not trying to be speakeasy but there are elements which ring true. Like in the powder room-cum-bathroom, separate lounge area or the Jazz Age cocktail names.
Take Zelda (€12) - a made with Ketel One vodka, chambord, cranberry, homemade hibiscus syrup, ginger beer and egg white. She's as zesty as her namesake. Then there's L’écrivain debout (€12) - a spin on the Pisco sour, with absinthe, lemon juice and notes of cardamom. An alternative that hits this season's herbal cocktail trend.
Undoutedly the crown jewel is the heated roofterrace, complete with electric canopy for security in the Paris drizzle. A sofa, plus a two tables (a large and a small), it is the ultimate oasis. The clientele ranges from late 20s to late 40s, the talk is loud and the mood high. Paris est une fête indeed.
A beautiful hommage to the bistro, Paris, and times gone by.