When Guillaume Delage struck out on his own after paying dues in some serious three-star kitchens, his restaurant Jadis was hailed as a marvel. Dorie Greenspan called it “really good… and really surprising.” Almost everything there, she said, was “beautiful, delicious and not at all what it seemed.” Alexander Lobrano named it “one of the best new bistros to have opened in a very long time” and said “I can’t wait to go back.” John Talbott called Jadis it a revelation and predicted that Delage would heed “the call of the big hotels in 2 years.”
Two years later, Delage has gone a different route. Instead of a big hotel, he’s just opened a second place called Aux Verres de Contact. I met two friends there on Monday night (they’re open both on Monday and throughout August) under the dual impressions that it would be both a wine bar and really good. I didn’t find it to be either.
Wine bars and wine bistros are a wonderful trend in Paris because they afford diners the flexibility to taste and share a larger number of smaller plates. They also tend to be cheaper than a three-course meal at a good bistro. Many are casual satellites of in-demand restaurants (Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand, Le Comptoir), providing an alternative for diners who can’t book a table at the mothership.
Aux Verres de Contact seems to want to be a wine bar, but it has little in common with the aforementioned attributes. It’s a satellite of Jadis, but Jadis itself is no longer difficult to reserve. The look is more casual (if metal garden chairs are to be equated with whimsy), but the prices are not. Aux Verres de Contact might even be more expensive than Jadis. A grilled steak with pepper sauce and waffle fries is €23 at Jadis. The same dish at the “wine bar” is €25, but any accompaniment (twelve soggy fries for €4) must be ordered seperately. The same is true for other copy-paste menu items. It’s neither generous, nor interesting. For a point of comparison, the same onglet at Au Passage, served with baby cucumbers that the chef has marinated in fish eggs to create a riff on kimchi and steak, costs only €9.
Their selection of snacks and starters mimics the menu of small plates at other wine bars (Frenchie Bar à Vins, Aux Deux Amis), but they’re less successful and double the price. Take, for example, the entrée crème glacée de haricots coco, encornets à la plancha et palette Ibérique: the puréed coco beans were satisfying, if not particularly cold, but the squid added little more than a chewy texture. This dish, whose components I struggle to remember only three days later, costs €16. By contrast, a dish of tandoori octupus that I think about every single day, even though I ate it three weeks ago, costs only €10 at Le Dauphin.
In a nutshell: Aux Verres de Contact might be fine for certain occasions (if you’re strolling near Notre Dame and want some better-than-average wine and charcuterie), but on the whole it doesn’t add much to the gastronomic landscape. As my table mate observed, it’s too expensive to be a neighborhood joint, and too boring to be a cross-town destination.
Aux Verres de Contact
52 boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005
Tel: 01 46 34 58 02
Snacks from €6-15, starters from €10-18, mains from €18-29
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