Le Desnoyez is another great venue centered on natural wine and artisan food which opened just a few months ago in september 2016. Paris isn't as you know facing a shortage of bistrots & wine bars centered on natural wines but here in that place there's a feel of authenticity which makes you feel at home, have good time with artisan food and natural wine without paying extra for the hype or a fashionable spot. The Desnoyez [not exactly a wine bar actually because you have to order a plate to eat with] is a tiny venue which can sit maybe 14 people plus a few others sitting at the counter. On certain days there may be a table outside but the Hidalgo's [the mayor] people don't like it and there's a risk of punitive fine.
The name of the venue comes from a cabaretier named Gilles Desnoyez [now universally misspelled as Denoyez] who opened a bistrot here in Belleville in 1790, along with cabarets and joyful guinguettes (see the local Belleville history here). Belleville (means "nice town" in French) was then a distant village away from Paris, with a village atmosphere and at the same time a guinguette culture which most people would be at pain to imagine today, there were certainly vegetable gardens and farm animals, a real village, plus all the happy drinking and singing or dancing.
B. and I went there with Aaron and his girlfriend recently; Aaron (the writer behind Not Drinking Poison in Paris) who was spending a few weeks in Paris away from his Beaujolais base knows about these new venues before everyone (read his piece on the FT about this and other hidden gems) and this was a pleasure for the 4 of us to have dinner there. Even his girlfriend's dog seemed to have a crush for the delicious Aligoté in my glass... Aaron wrote a story on his blog since our visit there.
Jean-Marc comes a long way, he was dealing with law matters for the music industry and musicians (copyrights issues) in his former life, and this was becoming boring over the years; on the side he had always cooked for himself or for friends, his grandparents managed a bistrot in the south-west of France and somehow he felt the urge to invest himself in this field. 4 or 5 years ago he took a cooking degree, what we call in France a CAP de Cuisine so as to be able to find employment in the trade, which he did afterthen, working here and there to further his experience. Later he began looking for an available spot for his first venue and he found this one inadvertedly while going to the gym on the other side of the street.
Speaking of the wines, Jean-Marc says that his father has always been a wine amateur, albeit a classical one, with a cellar well-stock on high-end Bordeaux wines (especially that his family is from the south-west of France) and on good Burgundy whites. Jean-Marc himself discovered another type of wines when he met François Blanchard from the Loire, a vigneron & winemaker working naturally in the Touraine region. François Blanchard is also somehow in the music world, organizing festivals on the grounds of his domaine, and Jean-Marc had done some law job for him, writing the legal status of his non-profit music structure. He says that's how he came to know Aaron, through François Blanchard, as the two were friends already then. Of course once you begin to taste and drink this type of wines [natural wines] you don't go back, and he discovered many more such wines, buying them also, going to tasting events, visiting vignerons in their regions. Now he has less time to do it but he travelled a lot to the domaines.
Everything you eat at Le Desnoyez has been cooked by Jean-Marc, including the terrific terrine, don't you ever miss it, delicious for every aspect, taste and texture. Jean-Marc buys vegetables on the markets and follows his inspiration. The prices are moderate with entrees typically going from 6 to 8 € and dishes at 16 or 17 €.
Le Desnoyez is open for lunch & dinner from thursday to monday included, which makes it even more worthy, good wine bars & restaurants being open sunday and monday, that's a rarity, many foreign visitors who spend these days in Paris are often frustrated over finding so many closed doors. You can come without reservation although it's wiser to call ahead and block a table. Jean-Marc had this nice counter custom built for the bistrot so that people can also eat & drink there, and it's a good way to engage a conversation with him, Mylène or Gaya when they have a second.
The decoration of Le Désnoyez is very simple, makes you feel comfortable without trendy accessories, I love the way he left the wall rough (pic on right). The counter is very user-friendly indeed with the high stools, but he says people usually prefer the classic option of sitting at a table. In summer as said there may be a table outside too, taking into account that he has to be cautious with the city administration people looking for a pretext to levy fines, even in this out-of-center neighborhood.
The wine list is of course another strategic reason you must go to Le Désnoyez. Jean-Marc deplores there's no underground cellar in this venue but he has a wine fridge and has the bottles commute from a caviste he works with (Alain Hing) to the restaurant when needed. Alain Hing manages a wine shop named Au Quai in the 10th arrondissement, he deals exclusively with real wines and can have wine delivered to Jean-Marc when he's short in a cuvée, otherwise I understand that Jean-Marc also buys directly from the vintners. These wines are all nature and/or biodynamic, organic, in short the uninterventionist wines we can't but love at first sight, his objective being also to remain affordable also for the patron.
The wines-by-the-glass list typically has 7 wines split between white & red, and even though you deal here with some of the best references in natural wine, the prices go from 3,5 € to 5,5 €. The first time we went there we had a bottle of Troma-Onirique 2015 by François Ecot, a cuvée of Aligoté I didn't know, the bottle being at 32 € (and the glass at 6 €, the most expensive glass). Great juicy wine, a vibrant Aligoté, Ecot really does a great job in his corner of Burgundy. The bottle list is 26-cuvée long, with most wines being between 21 € and 32 €. The second time I went there we had a nice Gramenon (priced 29 €/bottle and 5,5 €/glass), great chew, lovely unfiltered wine with the fruit and the right tannins, it's so great to remember that beyong the [rightful] cult cuvées of Gramenon (Mémé, La Papesse...), this simpler cuvée has also so much to give and is so affordable.
On the food side Jean-Marc does everything, he's a cook and a good one, he uses only fresh products, and because he hasn't a large capacity to store the food he buys his products continuously along the week which is the good side of the coin. "Le marché fait la carte" like he says in French, or the menu is made by what the market has to offer, meaning always seasonal by nature. Asked about the difference between the lunch offer and the dinner, Jean-Marc says that there's not exactly a specially-designed lunch menu, but it's still different : at lunch the offer is more narrowed, to 2 entrees, 2 dishes, 1 cheese, 1 dessert, but it's even cheaper at that time of the day with usually one of the dishes at only 10 €, an entree at 4 € and a dessert at 4,5 €, certainly a bargain in Paris considering the quality of the food.
The evening menu changes now and then but you'll find his regulars like his [divine] terrine and the oeufs-mayonnaise (an entree he loves and which he finetunes with new seasonal ingredients). All this cooking needs manpower, Jean-Marc says that at the beginning they were two, one guy for the service and himself in the kitchen, but now they're three, with Mylène who manages the wine list, she is from Quebec and also a leather-bag designer (she is sometimes replaced by Gaya); Jean-Marc laughs about this being maybe too many people for this small venue.
Asked about how he found his customers he says at the beginning last september it was friends of his, then by word-of-mouth he got visitors from outside his circle and now the restaurant has found its cruising speed and customer base, people living or working in the area (there are also offices in Belleville) also come including for lunch. Then he had some media coverage, like Aaron's piece in the Financial Times and also a profile in TimeOut Paris (they also felt in love with Jean-Marc's terrine...) plus a couple of other stories and Facebook is helping also. Jean-Marc says they opened without thinking about the publicity or prior announcements but things unfolded pretty well.
If you venture into the toilets [sorry Jean-Marc for this digression] don't miss the posters, I loved this conjunction of the famed French soccer/football team of 1982 with the list of additives found in commercial & conventional wines (pic on left), both are visually informative while you let go your hours of healthy drenching into savory real wines... Click on the pic above to refresh your memory about the issue, it's in French but additives names are often (sadly) international : You'll see in red the things routinely used in mainstream wines, in orange what is allowed under the Ecocert/Qualité-France labels, in yellow the ones under Demeter (already very short) and in green for a natural wine (only moderate SO2). That's the type of detailed list which the PR people for conventional wines hate to see...
Find here the full-size Pdf file for this poster, good enough to print it for yourself...