Yes, it sits in the shadow of Notre Dame, one of Paris’ biggest tourist draws. And yes, the chalkboard menus are in English as well as French. But don’t let either of those usually deterrent factors stop you from paying a visit to La Reserve de Quasimodo, one of Paris’ most affordable, least pretentious, and – dare I say it – off-the-beaten-path wine bars.
Wine bar can be a tricky term. Some fit the description well: bars that serve a larger-than-usual variety of wines, and maybe some nibbles to go with them (Le Baron Rouge and Tombé du Ciel are two good examples). Others are really more like restaurants, requiring reservations and serving full-on meals (think Le Verre Volé or Chapeau Melon). Often food purchases are required, due to liquor license intricacies. Many operate as wine shops during non-meal hours.
So what kind of wine bar is La Reserve de Quasimodo? Well, it has a wine cellar, from which you can buy wines by the bottle. You can either take them away and do as you see fit (Nick and I are looking forward to summer, when we can stroll in, pick up a nice bottle of something chilled, and then take it to the river bank to sip), or you can enjoy them in the dining room. The droit de bouchon, or corkage fee, is a mere six euros – probably the cheapest in Paris. It is one of those places where eating something is required, but if you aren’t in the mood for a full meal, they offer cheese and charcuterie plates to share.
I have yet to try the charcuterie, but I’ve had the cheeses twice. A little round of aged chèvre, a slab of piquant bleu d’Auvergne, a hunk of earthy Saint Nectaire, and a quarter-wheel of creamy Camembert. The Camembert is the standout, but all are good, and a little variety is important, no? On an unrelated note, did you know that a pie chart in French is called a Camembert? I find that hilarious and awesome.
Making up a large part of the menu are salads and tartines. The salads are big enough for a meal, the selection of hearty toppings ranging from duck prosciutto and foie gras terrine (pictured above) to jambonneau with Puy lentils (below).
The tartines are of the open-faced sandwich family, as opposed to the bread smeared with butter and jam ilk, and are piled high with goodies like cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies.
For those hungry for something warmer and stodgier, there are hot menu items as well, though I can’t vouch for them as I haven’t tried any. Yet.
The space itself is worth a visit. Steeped in history, it’s been operating since the 12th century, and among other things, once served a s a hangout for the infamous Cartouche, Paris’ most notorious criminal of the early 18th century. But you can read all about that, and other historical tidbits, on the signs out front. Inside, the front room is like a glass-enclosed patio which offers great views over the Seine of the Hôtel de Ville, while the back room feels much older with its exposed beams of dark wood. The toilet is, just as they claim, “atypical.”
La Reserve de Quasimodo serves both lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and the wine shop is open continuously from 10:45 am.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.