Since 1880, the Legrand family has been dazzling Parisians with its sweets and bonbons, rare mustards, liqueurs and of course wines. Now, the respected family shop has expanded once again, with a new tasting center, an expanded wine course, and continued efficient service.
The new “wine bar” is not big, just a large round bar in the back of the stunning turn of the century boutique, and a shared communal table in the charming covered passageway, the Galerie Vivienne near the Bourse in the 2nd arrondissement.
When you go, be sure to enter through the stunning turn-of-the-century storefront and then gaze up at the ceiling, a masterfully arranged collection of wine corks. Try to maintain composure as you pass the colorful apothecary jars filled with special sweets from all over France, lend a gaze at some of the well-priced wines from Bordeaux, the Loire, the Rhone, the Languedoc, you name it, and settle in at the circular bar or at the communal table outside.
If I ever opened a wine bar this is the kind of food I would serve: simple, no-nonsense, and the sort that satisfies as it should. There is just a small selection of lunch-time or snack platters, including extraordinary smoked wild Norwegian trout served with perfectly tangy crème fraiche, with freshly grilled toast set at your elbow as you tuck in your napkin. I also loved the fine cheese trays – a generous assortment of five goat cheeses or five cow’s milk cheeses all from the reputable cheese shop Quatrehomme --- one served with a tapenade-like black olive cream showered with basil, another with nuts and raisins, both with a nice green salad alongside. A charcuterie platter, a cheese and charcuterie platter, foie gras, or a can of prized Rodel sardines are the remaining choices. Prices range from 9 € to 16 € per plate.
I could imagine a weekly afternoon rendezvous here, with the additional chance of ordering any wine in the shop for a 15 € corkage fee. I admit I was not dazzled by two white wines sampled from the brief list of those available by the glass. Neither the 1998 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling, with a promise of a flinty mineral richness, nor the 1999 Bourgogne Chitry chardonnay with a hopeful hint of hazelnuts, did anything for my palate. I found solace, however, in my beloved Domaine de Cascavel 2000, the silken and rich Cotes du Ventoux, fairly priced at 5.30 € a glass.
Once you have been lured to the tasting center, linger in the book shop, buy yourself a set of new wine glasses, sign up for one of their wine courses, or make a note of their next winemaker’s open tasting. And don’t forget the bonbons.
Chez Ramulaud looks like the old-fashioned bistro of our dreams: A tattered, old-fashioned dining room decorated with bric a brac, clocks intentionally set to the wrong time, a stern-faced patron that can quickly be won over with a good smile and a choice of the right wine, and a lively, varied clientele that is there for one reason and one reason only, to have a good time.
As you enter the 1930’s style bistro – with bare wooden tables and worn patchwork tile floors --- you find wine cartons stacked up towards the ceiling and you take a look at some of the familiar labels and you know you’re, too, shall have a good time.
The wine list is one of the best reasons to set your foot into this popular 11th arrondissement bistro, with its healthy, well-chosen, list that includes the lively 100% Grenache Domaine Gramenon Cuvée Sagesse from winemaker Michelle Laurent, a remarkably pure-flavored wine that tastes of, guess what, grapes and nothing less. Equally appealing is the powerful Cotes du Roussillon Village Domaine Piquemal, a dense, purple wine made just across the Spanish border where the intense summer sun turns their fittingly named wine “Terres Grillées” (grilled soil) into a dense, deep-flavored red that’s a combination of the rugged Carignan grape tempered by the silky smoothness of the Syrah with the tannic aromatic hit of the Mourvedre grape. A fine third choice is the Domaine Gauby Cotes du Roussillon Villages, another intense red that’s loaded with flavor and thoughts of southern summers.
The food at Ramulaud is a combination of classic bistro fare --- grilled entrecote with a fabulous potato and mushroom gratin – tempered with a few modern additions. I loved the brilliant and beautiful ricotta and eggplant terrine, a full-flavored dish that served as a wave goodbye to summer; as well as the feather-light gnocchi teamed up with well-chosen fresh wild cepe mushrooms that lent a distinctive perfume and flavor to a dish that lingered for a good long time.
The bread here is delicious (I think two of us polished off two hefty basketfuls) and although the rolling antique cheese house is charming and the selection is overly generous (on a quiet night they wheel the basket to your table and you help yourself) the cheese would be less dried out if it did not sit all day in the open.
Alas, after a few visits the charm wears thin. Much of the rest of the food was consistently undercooked (rare fish is one thing, bloody rare lamb is quite another), and under seasoned, and waits for service can be excruciatingly long.
But go thirsty, with a dose of patience, and you should have a fine time.
Espace Dégustation Legrand,
1, rue de la Banque,
Tel: 01 42 60 07 12.
Fax: 01 42 61 25 51.
Wine bar open Monday through Saturday noon to 7 pm. Epicerie and Wine Boutique open Monday 11 am to 7 pm, Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 7:30 pm, and Saturday 10 am to 7 pm.
269 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine,
Tel: 01 43 72 23 29.
Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner. Credit card: Visa. About 35 € per person, including service but not wine.