When Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros, Xavier Padovani, and Benjamin Sormonte opened their first Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris, they were attempting to bring a bit of New York City innovation to the City of Light. “Eight years ago, there was no cocktail bar in Paris,” says Sormonte. “The only cocktails you could drink were in a hotel, and usually they were a mojito or piña colada. We brought the concept of the speakeasy from New York to Paris.” And later back to New York, when the partners opened an Experimental Cocktail Club here on the border of the Lower East Side and Nolita.
Now, they’ve brought Paris to New York with their new wine bar La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels (249 Centre Street), which started pouring earlier this week.
The first La Compagnie opened in Paris three years ago. “We wanted to expand our expertise,” Sormonte explains. “When you’re younger, you drink more hard liquor. Now, we like the refined aspect; we enjoy a little bit more the nice meal and nice wine. So why not open a wine bar? We can apply what we learn from the cocktail industry to the wine bar.”
The concept was so successful in France they expanded to London at the end of last year, and now they’ve finished building out their address here. The bar features a collection of more than 600 wines, the broad majority of which come from France, though Sormonte says the partners have obtained interesting bottles from all over the world (and a glance at the list unearths bottles from Israel, Lebanon, and Slovenia in addition to the usual wine-producing suspects). The by-the-glass list is dozens of pours deep, which range in price from $10 to $50. The owners installed an enomatic system, too, that keeps wine fresh for up to three weeks, which allows them to offer rarities to patrons unwilling to spring for a full bottle.
The partners also installed a kitchen and chefs Armand Arnal (La Chassagnette in Arles, France) and Tibor Kogler (Telepan, MP Taverna), who are turning out simple small plates for sharing to go with the drinks. “It’s all about the product; they don’t need to add too much to it,” says Sormonte, citing beef tartare with tomato confit and toad in the hole with truffle butter and mushrooms as examples. You’ll also find tartinettes, marinated sea bream, and, of course, cheese boards.
But despite the attention given to the food, Sormonte says the emphasis here is more on drinking than eating. “We really want to focus on the bar,” he says. “This is a wine bar. You come and open a good bottle of wine. The seating is lower than the typical, and it’s very casual. It’s like being at home and opening a good bottle in front of the TV. That’s what we want to do.”
La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is open from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
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