Le Verre Volé
67, rue de Lancry, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 48 03 17 34. Lunch and dinner daily.
There seems to be no end to the cave à manger trend—wine shops where you can also eat. Some are proper Paris bistros; others offer little more than cheese and charcuterie in the way of comestibles. Le Verre Volé is a longstanding, mostly beloved stalwart of this scene, a bare-bones, canal-side canteen whose style has only ever been in its substance. That substance is the vin naturel—the nothing-added, unfiltered, minimally manipulated wine—lining the walls here.
We first reviewed Le Verre Volé in 2010, and it felt like time for another visit, especially since the space underwent a renovation later that year. Before then, the kitchen was about the size of my first Manhattan galley, and scarcely better equipped. Almost everything (meat, porcine parts, earthy bits of bird, all pedigreed and pure as the proffered wines) was subject to the same treatment: a flash under the broiler to heat and crisp, then a trip to the plate where it met a buttery purée and spindly green salad. The redo converted most of what was a temperature-controlled wine storage room into additional kitchen and dining space (there remains a closet of a cellar, plus the shelves up front).
The menu expanded with the kitchen. There are more options, and they’re less meaty, though not exactly vegetarian friendly, which presented a challenge for my companions on a recent night. Actually, our T-shirted waiter was totally accommodating; there was no wincing or whining at the dreaded “v” word. Yes, they would put something together, and they even offered a mozzarella starter that wasn’t on the menu. Sadly, this hunk of dairy had a cold, cold heart, pulled as it was from the back of the fridge, if with the best of intentions.
We ordered a haphazard mix of starters and mains to share. Pristine midwinter scallops were presented roasted in their shells with butter, chervil and coarse salt, a delicious no-brainer—and perfect with the Drappier Champagne we started with. Calamari over spiced split peas sounded promising but was unremarkable. The vegetarians had more of those split peas, along with a silky celery root purée and sweet carrots. And then there was a Verre Volé classic: boudin noir with the purée and salad. It’s a dish that, along with the wines we drank all night, tastes exactly like France to me.
It’s tempting to say that Le Verre Volé has lost some of its soul since the changes. There are new faces among the staff, and the food, though more varied, is a little less robust. But I had as much fun as I’ve ever had here over easy, convivial food and a few bottles of interesting wine. And so I’m left wondering, What else matters?
In a nutshell: With simple food, natural wines an a no-frills setting, Le Verre Volé is a quintessential Paris cave à manger.
Price check: Plan on spending 20–30 euros depending on your wine consumption.
If Le Verre Volé sounds good, you’ll also like Aux Deux Amis. Read the review.
Aux Deux Amis
5, rue Oberkampf, in the 11th.
01 58 30 38 13. Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking tour, check out our DIY downloadable tours.