Kick back and relax at Paris Wine Bar
Hove’s Church Road has always been a funny one in terms of food and drink. At one end, you have a plethora of Italian restaurants and Pizza Express; a particularly family-focused haunt. At the other end, there’s Misty’s – a beacon of late-night drinking that serves a purpose, sure, but in the main a purpose that’s directed at fine young things wearing little more than a smile who can still party until 3am. It’s all a bit off-kilter.
Which is where the Paris Wine Bar comes in: like the fulcrum on which not much fun versus too much fun balances beautifully, it’s a great bar first and foremost with a vibrant atmosphere and a sophisticated clientele. Which isn’t to say it’s inaccessible, far from it; it’s very welcoming and actually very Parisian, which may sound tediously obvious, but bear with me. Anywhere can have a suggestive name, but rarely have I been into an ‘Argentinian steakhouse’ that smacks of Argentina.
The Paris Wine Bar, however, upholds its French bistro identity with aplomb. Our wonderfully attentive waitor-cum-sommelier set the tone with his flawless knowledge of wines and, crucially, aperitif. We opted for a Bellini, which comprised crisp, cold champagne served with fresh peach puree (take note Bellini fans – that, sadly, is a rarity these days and you can end up with some sort of sticky squash blobbing about your glass like wax in a lava lamp).
The interior is all about attention to detail. Plush chesterfield seating in dark ruby red curves around simple wooden tables and upturned wine barrels; the walls are a warming mix of exposed brick walls and warped, ingrained beams; and the bar, the piece de resistance, is adorned right up to the ceiling by a grid of recycled timber crates that display rows of dusty wine and champagne bottles – its eye-catching and rustic, like a work of art, and again, delightfully Parisian.
Joyous in itself was the fact that my guest and I were left to savour another drink over some olives before we had even glanced at the menu and no one blinked an eye. I asked for the driest of whites and was presented with an ice-cold Don Jacobo rioja; it was perfect. Having been a Sauvignon Blanc girl for some time, I will now be that friend who ‘only drinks white rioja’ and will feel no shame in being so.
Suddenly ravenous from actually being allowed to settle in and get just the right side of tipsy, I ordered the house Caesar salad to start. You can tell a lot from a restaurant from its salad and this told me that the ingredients were fresh, the gorgeous, peppery dressing wasn’t too rich, and the portions were generous. We also had some salt and pepper squid, which sang out from its light, crispy coating, gently cutting through the wine’s acidity.
I don’t often suffer food envy, but when my guest’s main of whole fresh sea bass served with little else than capers, vine tomatoes and a drizzle of rich olive oil came out, it got me. Bad. I had the prawn and scallop linguine, which was a triumph – the pasta was al dente, and the meaty, sweet seafood stood up proudly against a welcome kick of chilli – but next time, I’m all about the bass; I struggle to remember the last time I tasted a fish so meltingly moist and impeccably flavoured.
The food at Paris Wine Bar is good. My only complaint would be the lack of a cheeseboard on the menu, which would go so well with all of those wonderful wines. Cheese aside, it’s a brilliant bar and somewhere that know what it does and does it well – everyone (and the bar was packed, on a Wednesday no less) was drinking wine and taking their time to revel in a great wine’s power to soothe the weary, mid-week mind, and that alone speaks volumes.
Paris Wine Bar
119 Church Rd