Want a side of history with your glass of wine?
What if I told you that you could go out for some vino (or a cocktail) and be 100% guaranteed to learn something interesting you didn’t know before? Not a bad proposition, right?
As of yesterday, you can. Patrick’s Bar Vin, New Orleans’ newest wine bar, opened its doors Tuesday, giving wine geeks like me another compelling option. We’re in a kind of golden age of the wine bar in NOLA these days, and lovers of the grape have choices that suit almost any taste, from the Bywater funkiness of Bacchanal to the Riverbend luxe of Oak and everything in between. But Bar Vin offers something the others will find hard to match.
More about that in a moment, but here’s the skinny on the bar: Located in the Saint Louis Hotel on Bienville, in the front side of the Quarter between Bourbon and Royal, the newly renovated space occupies two rooms and an entrance patio just off the wonderfully atmospheric main courtyard of the hotel. Inside, Bar Vin is relaxed and upscale, appropriately filled with wine-centric items from Veuve Clicquot, Tattinger, and the like. The centerpieces are the wine storage lockers. Two sets are brass-labeled personal wine lockers (100% sold out before the opening, by the way), and the third contains the bar’s inventory.
Speaking of that inventory, the bottle selection is as diverse as one would expect, with bottles as low as $25. Interestingly, every bottle is also available by the glass, which is a nice touch. If you’ve a taste for something very exotic there’s an off-menu reserve list which you can discuss with the proprietor, Patrick Van Hoorebeeck.
Which brings us neatly back to Bar Vin’s most unique feature: Patrick himself. The Belgian born Hoorebeek’s curriculum vitae spans more than twenty years on the NOLA restaurant scene, including an 18 year stint as maitre d’ of the Bistro at Maison DeVille, work at the Windsor Court Grill Room during its glory years, Restaurant August, and Peristyle. Take this piece of advice: When you visit Bar Vin, be sure to introduce yourself to Patrick. A born storyteller, he’ll happily share with you any of the captivating episodes from his personal New Orleans history. For the foodies among us, Patrick can talk about working with the legendary Kevin Graham at the Windsor Court, John Besh of course, and the parade of chefs incubated in the little kitchen at the Bistro, including Anne Kearney, Susan Spicer, and Dominique Macquet.
If your taste runs more to the antics of the rich and famous, ask him about Paul Newman, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, or any other of the host of celebrities he’s encountered over the years. Or ask him about the Krewe of Cork; he’s also managed to find time to found that organization and serve as its lifetime king.
Again, there are more than a few outstanding wine bars around town these days, and Bar Vin should more than hold it’s own in that regard. But it is this living history of the last quarter century of New Orleans dining culture that is singular here. That’s particularly true for you NOLA transplants who’ve landed with a bang post-Katrina and contributed so much energy to the city. Put Patrick’s Bar Vin on your to do list, get some fascinating Big Easy back story, and some great wine while you’re at it.