Back in Paris after my jaunt to Champagne, I was fortunate to have a few days to revisit some of my old haunts. At the top of the list was my favorite Parisian wine bar, La Tartine.
Located at the lower end of the rue de Rivoli in the first arrondisement, at number 24, La Tartine is one of the many gems of the Marais neighborhood. The exterior bears the simple legend Marchand de Vin (wine seller), and the small terrace houses a handful of tables and the inevitable chalk board inscribed with the specials of the day. I first visited sometime in the early 1970s, and the place never changes. La Tartine opened in 1930, but the interior is vintage turn of the century décor—tiled floor, mahogany panelling, ancient mirrors,a long marble-topped bar, and leather banquettes scattered around the room.
The menu is simplicity itself, with ingredients chosen to harmonize with—and be subordinate to—the wine selection. A selection of charcuterie is always offered, along with a variety of cheeses including spectacular chevre from the Loire Valley (perfect with a glass of Sancerre). There are sandwiches, composed salads, and a few hot dishes among the plats du jour, or daily specials, served with slices from a crusty sourdough baguette.
The wine selection, as you would expect, is wonderful—some three dozen wines by the glass from every region of France, including Champagne and dessert wines. My recent lunch consisted of a classic Salade Nicoise, large enough to serve three people, festooned with tuna, fresh white anchovies, boiled potatoes, olives, hard-boiled egg and crunchy green beans, washed down with several glasses of Petit Chablis 2009 by Gerard Tremblay.
To be sure, there are more elaborate wine bars in the city—Juvenile’s, also in the first arrondisement, and the famous Willi’s Wine Bar, owned by Englishman Mark Williamson—but nothing satisfies the craving for an authentic Parisan experience better than La Tartine.