Le Garde Robe offers a refreshing alternative to three-course meals.
There are times when instead of savoring some majestic creation by a great chef you would rather just chill out at a little street-side table and jaw with friends while downing nibbles and the occasional glass of a decent wine to lubricate the wheels of conversation.
Places like this – sometimes called “caves à manger,” or wine shops with food – are on the rise in France. It’s refreshing not to have to go through the rigmarole of ordering three courses, especially on a summer’s evening when you just want to sit and enjoy the daylight and, even better, its slow disappearance.
Le Garde Robe is pretty near ideal for this. Very little traffic passes by, so a sidewalk table is an attractive possibility. The food offers an excuse to make forays into the shop’s selection of bottles, most of them from the “natural wines” stable – organic and even biodynamic in some cases.
That’s not always good news. Neither of us found anything complimentary to say about the fizzy Gamay “Ô gazeuse,” which comes in a lemonade-stoppered bottle and is little more than that: alcoholic lemonade. The less I say about it the better. Ditto for a white Mâcon, whose maker must dislike the honey-buttered aromas traditionally associated with Chardonnay and sent out instead something whose nearest relative was one of those oxidized vins jaunes from the Jura.
This may have been because the wine had been opened for some time without being properly stoppered. There are no fancy individual vacuum pumps at the Garde Robe, possibly because in normal circumstances they shift the BTG (by-the-glass) stuff too quickly for it to oxidize. But this was early July, and business was slack.
Things looked up when we ordered some food to go with a bottle of red Dard & Ribo 2007 Saint Joseph. It may have been a little wet behind the ears, a tad green, but those guys can make wines that are bursting with the right kind of aromas and flavors while hitting all the right organic buttons.
A plate of heirloom tomatoes with a fine olive oil had us calling for more bread, even though my wallet yelped at the €10 price tag (for a sliced tomato?). We also asked for a serving of the Garde Robe’s pride and joy, its smoked pork filet mignon, which is truly out of this world and well worth the €16 charged. We took it slowly, while savoring the Saint Joseph, before ordering a cheese plate to finish off the wine. As we had asked, the half dozen cheeses, ranging from a ewe’s milk beauty to a camembert ripened with calvados, paired well with the wine.
Once that was gone, we ended up the evening (a good job I walked home) with a glorious Coteaux du Layon that had an almost perfect balance of acid and sweet. Full marks to the wine buyer at Garde Robe. Full marks and then some to the crew on duty, too, who although standing in for the owner, and despite their tender years, were competent, poised and utterly charming.
Le Garde Robe is just across the way from a family Italian restaurant I like, called Ca’ d’Oro, and just around the corner from Procopio d’Angelo, still turning out stellar pasta dishes, as I was able to verify last weekend. For dessert, the American ice-cream mecca, Scoop, is only a short walk away, too, as you head along Rue Saint Honoré toward Palais Royal and the biggest feast of them all, the Louvre.
Le Garde Robe: 41, rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 49 26 90 60. Métro: Louvre Rivoli. Nearest Vélib stations: 36, rue de l’Arbre sec; 29, rue Berger. Open Monday-Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. How much? Depends on what you eat and drink: anything from €20 to €50.
© 2009 Paris Update
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