4 Mar 2011

A Champagne bar and restaurant in Paris: Point Bulles

The name of this place could be roughly translated as "Check-Point Bubbles", which is a pretty good name. I have tried it twice recently and I must say that it has given me one of the most interesting and convincing Champagne and food matching experiences that I have ever had.

Point Bulles is a small and rather discreet bar/restaurant (the decor is functional rather than inspiring) well situated in one of Paris's best-known shopping areas, on the left bank in the Saint Germain district. In fact it is within the Marché Saint Germain, which is the covered market that lies between the Boulevard Saint Germain and Saint Sulpice church (which must be one of Paris' most ugly monuments, although readers of Dan Brown apparently flock to it: don't ask me why as I have never read any of his books).


The owners of this place form an interesting blend: the sister of a brother-and-sister team who run a family Champagne business called Philippe Gonet; an enterprising Lebanese restaurant owner named Karim Haïdar; and an Italian as a third party. This fusion of different cultural backgrounds has produced a fascinating menu which, Champagne oblige, gives the lion's share to sea-food of various kinds, although there are other things for those who want them, plus a very decent still-wine list for those who do not want to drink Champagne. And, most unusually, all the wines and most of the Champagnes are available by the glass! Of course Chantal Gonet has her own Champagne well to the fore, but not exclusively as the full range of another producer (which changes every month) is always featured by the glass and there are more Champagnes on the bottle list. The Lebanese influence is to be felt in the use of citrus fruit, herbs and spices in several of the dishes. For example, in the photograph below, apart from the superbly fresh no:2 oysters and the sea-urchins (all the sea-food is of top quality), there is a tartare of John Dory prepared with dill, chives and a citrus fruit whose name I cannot remember although it looks suspiciously like lime.


The idea of this meal was to try different matches between the Gonet range of Champagnes and some of the dishes, which are served in small, tapas-style portions most suited to this kind of exercise. I decided to concentrate on sea-food, but all the dishes have been designed to go well with Champagne, which has to be the most accomodating of all wines at table. Gonet is based in the Côte de Blancs sub-region of Champagne, and so their wines are dominated by the Chardonnay grape, even though some wines include Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier from vineyards in the Marne Valley. All have well-defined flavours and are beautifully dosed to feel light and crisp on the palate. I find it quite boring (or simply frustrating) to read long descriptions of how each combination between a specific wine and a particular dish tasted to somebody during a meal, so I won't go there. Suffice it to say that this is a restaurant to which you can go feeling confident in the quality of the wines and in the fact that the owners have really thought about this question of the suitablity of the food to go with them. In fact it is a main theme here.

I should add that Point Bulles is open 7 days a week from 10am to 2am (most unusual in France), that their busiest days are Saturday and Sunday, when they do a brunch and have a jazz group playing on Sunday, and that their terrace doubles the capacity in the evenings and when the weather is suitable. There is also an adjacent mini-boutique where you can buy bottles to take away. Definitely a place to go if you are in Paris.

Point Bulles
7 Rue Clément
75006 Paris
tel : 33 (0)1 46 33 00 47
contact@pointbulles.com