Unfortunate conjuncture (great French term usually referring to economic conditions, but which I intend to use here in the same way we think of stars aligning) with La Robe et le Palais this evening having chosen, deliberately, because it was a dear friend’s birthday, and randomly because Wednesday the sommelier just ain’t about, to dine there. As an opening gambit, when I requested the wine list, the waiter said “just tell me what you like and we’ll find the wine”, a line that I might accept were the person I was speaking with were God. Apparently there exists a clientele willing to surrender their pleasures to someone else’s taste. So when I said, “hang on a minute, you’re going to interpret what I’m about to say into the wine that I might possibly want?”, he suggested I speak with Ariane.
This was a step forward because at least Ariane was able to speak somewhat knowingly about what the non-existent list might offer. (I should point out that all around us were trophies of great wines, the makers of which I’ve had the privilege of meeting and often visiting). Having requested a Burgundy, or ‘un vin d’Italie’ (our birthday babe being Italian and asking if perchance they had a Bellotti Rosso made by my friend Stefano Bellotti, which more or less went unheard) and only offered a Cote Chalonaise, we moved on to the Loire and touched ground with a robust Anjou that was exactly not right for a sipping, not eating opening, though would have been perfect with roasted root vegetables, a richly dense cheese topped potato purée or a thick pea soup…delicious, but much better adapted to being served with food.
So I returned to address the question of a second wine, again inviting some reflection upon the idea of a ‘light’ wine (as fish seemed to be the general inclination, all the while staying with red), which lead us to a Lapalu Beaujolais. On this I did not hesitate, because life in a bottle is better than a bottled life. Great wine and indeed friendly enough to accompany the mirthsome gathering we were. Food by now was beginning to arrive, including a rather unassuming clam tartar served on a piece of slate that was too narrow to properly accommodate it. Our mirth being at a peak, and no longer really concerned about what treasures this respectable wine bar might have (and not willing to have someone read my mind whose own isn’t informed), I opted for another Beaujolais, as we were, after all, celebrating a birthday.
All was going swimmingly with conversation at its peak, everyone sharing amusing stories about their children and their very funny antics (if you’re the parent), when I decided it was time to visit the water closet.
Descending the stairs laden with box upon box of wine, I arrived at the bottom to see a wonderful range of shelf upon shelf of very special and interesting wines with several bottles of Stefano Bellotti’s Rosso staring me in the face.
No wine list, but a cellar that you can visit and choose from any of probably hundreds of wines that no one can actually tell you about.
Moral of the story: If you ever go to La Robe et le Palais and know anything about wine, or would at least like to know the range, take a pee first.
La Robe et le Palais, 13 Rue Lavandières Sainte Opportune, 75001 Paris
Tel: 01 45 08 07 41