The Beautiful Changes
It was the best of times, then it got a little bit better. We’re on the uprise. “You will die!” expresses our recommendation earlier that day. We do. Le Louis Vins. Heaven is a place on earth in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Le paradis, c’est les autres. “I booked a table for you at Louis Vins. An exquisite restaurant in the 5th close to Notre Dame. Let me know when you get there. Bisous.” Co owner Bertrand greets us, “It’s all about the wine!” Well yes it is, especially when you’re serving Rare Champagne, but later it turns out it’s all about the wine and food. And people. And décor. And ambience. And style. This is, after all, le Paris, a beautiful city full of brilliant people. Bienvenue. La cave has gone all ground floor. We’re raring to go. On it like a Renoir bonnet. Nancy Mitford wrote in her 1954 biography, “Madame de Pompadour excelled at an art which the majority of human beings thoroughly despise because it is unprofitable and ephemeral: the art of living.” We’re all on for a bit of Pompadour circumstance.
A chouqette’s throw from the Seine Embankment, the Latin Quarter earns a mention in the 4th Edition of the Michelin Guide to Paris, 1960, that tale of one city, “The legends and memories of the old district of the medieval schools, the highly interesting church of St Séverin and the small religious building of St Julien-le-Pauvre, the wonderful view of Notre Dame from the Square Viviani, the Museum of Cluny and the magnificent building in which it is housed, lend a special charm to this tour.” Louis Vins’ canopied façade lines the historic Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. By happy happenstance, Shakespeare and Company bookshop is close by.
“We sell happiness!” smiles Bertrand Guillou-Valentin, “till 2am.” The menu is divided into Entrées, À Partager Pour l’Apéritif, Plats and Desserts. There are plenty of carnivorous thrills but as always we go pescatarian. “Pour nos amis végétariens la cheffe se fera un plaisir de proposer une alternative, il suffit de demander.” Tonight, Rare Champagne and more vintage than Rétromobile accompanies them all. Les jeunes endives en salade, Roquefort, noix et pommes Granny Smith (chicory salad, Roquefort, walnuts and Granny Smith little New Yorks). Les poireaux vinaigrette en mimosa, oeufs de harengs fumés (leeks in mimosa vinaigrette, smoked herring roe). Les noix de Saint Jacques justes saisies, dans un bouillon detox au curcuma et aux petits légumes (seared Saint Jacques scallops in a broth, turmeric and miniature vegetables). Les poires carmélisées, brownie aux noix de pecan et crème fouettée (carmelised pears, pecan nut brownie, whipped cream). It’s all incredibly bistronomique.
We’re whisked off on a whistlestop tour of the wooden panelled restaurant and the stainless steel fitted kitchen. A sign is scrawled across a door, “Skinny people are easier kidnapped. Stay safe, eat croûte au Louis Vins.” Co owner Chef Mélanie Serre compliments and complements Bertrand’s vinological verve. Son of a restaurateur and grandson of an oyster farmer from the Oléron Island on the French Atlantic coast, Bertrand was born and bred and bound to open somewhere like Louis Vins. It’s impossible to leave without downing a Pornstar Martini: “Vodka Mamont infuse à la vanille, fruit de la passion, sucre vanille, shot de Champagne.” The creator of the cocktail Douglas Ankrah is a friend of Bertrand and Mélanie. At this rate of consumption, we’re gonna end up seriously unkidnappable. The bar and restaurant live up to their catchphrase: “Au Louis Vins le service est toujours impeccable.” C’est la vie. La vie en Rare Rosé. Life à la mode.