Upon entry, it becomes immediately clear that books and wine were made for each other. The bar perfectly captures the literary bohemia of the Marais; it is a place to relax, drink, read, and discuss. A self-described “Bar Littéraire,” La Belle Hortense is one of several locations falling within restaurateur Xavier Denamur’s culinary enterprise, another of which – Les Philosophes – sits right across the street.
One can stop in at La Belle Hortense before or after a meal at one of the nearby restaurants; it is an ideal place for whetting one’s palate or for winding down. As for layout, La Belle Hortense consists of a cozy front-room bar and a capacious backroom lounge. Given Mr. Denamur’s commitment to locally-sourced and organically-grown produce, much of the bar’s expansive wine list is organic. The book selection is similarly broad: the walls throughout La Belle Hortense are lined with classic French literature, contemporary novels, translated American works, and artistic coffee table books. The ambiance is beyond compare: the bartenders are inviting, conversation is lively, and the odors of wine and books comingle nicely. The bar often hosts authors for readings and signings, and also curates the works of up-and-coming visual artists. La Belle Hortense encapsulates artistic gustatory culture of Paris, and cannot be missed.
Photo credits: Brian Scantlebury