France / Paris

Clown Bar – Great Food and Wine

Clown Bar – Introduction

The Clown Bar is both a bar à vins and a restaurant with a tiny kitchen in the 11th arrondissement in Paris. The food is stunningly good and the wine list beyond interesting with an excellent range of natural wines.
To understand the Clown Bar it is necessary to understand the “Bistronomy” movement that swept through Paris starting around the turn of the century. This was about the same time that pioneers of the modern natural wine movement were starting to be noticed in Paris wine bars and in the wines being produced in Beaujolais and some areas of the Loire Valley, particularly in Anjou.
The Bistronomy movement was a reaction against the formality and the rigour attached to dining in Michelin-starred restaurants. We started to feel like going to a three star Michelin restaurant was the equivalent of getting on a Ferris wheel. Once you were on there was no getting off!
Most of these meals were dominated by proteins and heavy sauces and then pre-desserts and multiple desserts before the mignardise arrived – it was all too much and too heavy until pioneers of the movement such as Yves Camdeborde started to serve expertly cooked French dishes in a much more informal setting and placing the desires of the diner at the centre of the meal rather than the strictures of the Michelin rules and expectations. The Clown Bar also adopted these alternative approaches with classic dishes and natural wines.
While Camdeborde brought French classics (braised tripe, daube of beef, terrine of boudin noir) to a broader audience others started to apply influences from other countries, producing dishes with a lighter style, with vegetables as the heroes and, in many cases, with a Japanese-influenced aesthetic.
Restaurants such as Saturne, Septime, Le Servan, the much-missed Bones, Le Baratin, Clamato, Le Dauphin, Chateaubriand, Abri, Itinéraires, Ellsworth, L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer, Au Passage and Clown Bar pointed the way to a more accessible way of dining often (nearly always) accompanying the light, bright food with exciting natural wines from France and beyond.
So this is the context for understanding the Clown Bar – expect food at reasonable prices that is built on excellent ingredients, cooked with skill that rivals many Michelin-starred restaurants, and, of course, the Clown Bar has wine that matches the philosophy of the restaurant, so it must be minimal intervention natural wines.

On our most recent visit we were delighted with a startling dish of a whole veal brain with a type of ponzu sauce/broth that had been amped up with fresh herbs. No concessions for the squeamish here. The brain was perfectly cooked and was soft and unctuous with the ponzu shooting flavour at our taste buds in rapid fire succession.
We also ordered tempura sardines which came out covered with ink-black crispy tempura accompanied by a wedge of lemon. It was sensational presentation and the flavour was deep.
At Clown Bar we also enjoyed very much a simply presented buckwheat pancake that had been given incredible length of flavour with adroit use of fermented onions. And the piece de resistance was the famous duck and foie gras pie with date puree and yuzu. This is a masterpiece worthy of the praise it has received. Stunningly rich yet comforting as well. A great dish.
The wine is taken as seriously as the food at Clown Bar. There are wines from France and beyond and all of them are natural. We started with a Yann Durieux Aligoté as a white wine seemed appropriate in the summer heat. With the duck and foie gras pie we moved to a Mystere de Rosee from Michel Guignier in Beaujolais as we wanted something light and chilled that would accompany the food lightly. It was perfect!
And finally make sure if you are seated in the favoured outside tables that you wander inside to marvel at the tiles and the ceiling which truly are an experience in their own right!

You can see more detail including their current menu on their Web site here.

We have included Clown Bar in our story about places to eat in Paris entitled “Paris – Great places to eat and drink” here.

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