ine is for pleasure,” says Alexandre Bal, one of the passionate quartet who owns Authentique Epicerie & Bar. The warm and inviting multi-purpose space has been open since March, selling vino and all manner of goodies sourced from small-scale Francophone regions (Quebec will soon be added to the list).
First off, we can’t get enough of their gloriously meaty rillettes from Le Mans. Spread the fatty, shredded pork generously on hunks of crusty bread courtesy of Boulangerie de Paris, a bakery based in Uxbridge. “They’re the best baguettes I’ve tried in London,” says Amaury Levisalles, another of the partners.
Each month the bar focuses on a different region – May saw Burgundy and Beaujolais, right now it’s Languedoc and Roussillon. The spot hosts a jazz night every Thursday, whilst June will see the opening of the outside terrace (one wall will be adorned with work by street artists Ahead of the Game). We popped in for a glass of fizz and a chat with Amaury.
So, what’s the ethos behind the venture?
Our motto is try, buy, learn. Without sounding clichéd, it’s about making friends and sharing. Another pillar is education – we’ve got winemaker dinners and are starting a wine club. It’s not just about selling something; it’s about promoting the story behind it. We have two projects operating in the same place: the idea is that both of them are really distinct – people in the bar area aren’t disturbed by shoppers browsing.
What’s your top tipple?
At the moment I have a big crush on our 2015 sparkling Céline et Laurent Tripoz. It’s really well made, and the producers work naturally as well, without sulphates. We also really like the Domain de Roncevaux Mâcon-Vergisson, a Chardonnay from Burgundy. It’s a bit special because Alex worked the harvest a couple of years ago at the estate. It’s really light, fresh and quite mineral.
Aside from wine, what products do you sell?
We use a few different cheesemongers: the main one is Beillevaire, a strong French name. The goat’s cheese comes from co-owner Thomas’s cousin who owns a farm in the north of France; we get our butter and yoghurt from Jeans-Yves Bordier in Brittany. For dessert, we’ve got canelé from a company called Babelle; they’re a really delicate pastry that’s gooey on the inside with a caramelised crust – really addictive. It’s all about quality and working with people who really care about what they do.
Beer and cider feature too?
They’re important, and we’ve got quite a big selection. One of the high-end brewers we import from is Célestin – their N°Noir is an elegant stout flavoured with vanilla from Tahiti. We source some of our cider from ex-sommelier Eric Bordelet; he applies the same approach to apples as winemakers do to grapes.
What’s the plan food-wise?
Right now we create cheese and charcuterie boards, but over the summer we’re going to have pop-ups with food trucks like The Patate, who serve beef bourguignon in a bun. Every four weeks we join the tables together and put on a supper club – a five-course dinner with drink pairings. It’s our achievement of the month. In the future we’re going to hire a chef to cook small plates.
What to sup?
The Clos de la Roilette Fleurie, a 2016 Beaujolais made from Gamay, pairs perfectly with charcuterie. It was an easy-going year and the wine is very fruit-driven. Domain de Roncevaux Pouilly-Fuissé Fustis is an oak-aged Chardonnay – it’s creamy, rich and opulent, and goes really well with our triple cream cheese.
Your menu mentions Domaine Richeaume.
Yes, Henning Hoesch was the founder of the estate, one of our backers. They were looking for an opportunity to be more present in the UK and are one of the reasons why we’re here today. Their red is very smooth and velvety; it’s also unfiltered and vegan. The family mean a lot to us.