At La Cave Wine Bar they truly love their rouge. A crimson canopy invites you to step into a red carpet with stairs that will take you to a room with scarlet ceiling and walls. Tablecloths and serviettes share the passionate tone but before you start thinking that there’s such thing as too many reds in sight, have a look at their wine list, and you’ll actually be thankful and excited about all that Burgundy.
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting several wine bars in Dublin, all of them only a a couple of years (or in some cases weeks) old: there’s the eclectic The Exchequer Wine Bar in Ranelagh, charming Spaniard El Celler in Blackrock and the critics’ new darling, Piglet Wine Bar in Cow’s Lane. However, before all these welcome additions were even a though in their owners’ minds, there was La Cave, the city’s oldest and a heavy weight in my bucket list.
As January is the best time to focus on your new year’s resolutions, I decided to commit to mine and booked a table to finally discover this must-visit for wine enthusiasts in town. On an appallingly cold Wednesday winter evening, even such a pleasant endeavour required will power, but as soon as my companion and I shared one of La Cave’s candlelit tables, I warmed up to the place, as it was just the perfect setting for a romantic rendezvous.
Generously decorated with Toulouse-Lautrec prints and many other Francophile memorabilia, Dublin’s oldest wine bar might not be as iconic or risqué as the Moulin Rouge, but its intimate atmosphere evokes the immortal Parisian cabaret, sans le can can.
If La Cave Wine Bar’s ruby walls could talk, I’m sure they’d have plenty of love stories and tales of memorable dinners after three decades standing. And they’d probably be bilingual too, as the place was created by an Irish-Algerian couple with a true passion for wines and French cuisine.
We were advised to try the goat cheese salad and the mussels (which we noticed in at least half the tables on the night) by a cordial waiter that never allowed our glasses to run dry nor our bread basket empty. We ordered the salad (€7.50) and the escargot (€8.95) as well as a cheese and charcuterie tray (€15.50).
Wine wise, the menu offered a substantial tour through France’s most respected wine regions, as well as a more limited but equally enticing selection of “world wines”. Options available by the glass were exciting and diverse, starting at a very affordable €5.50, and with 40 alternatives to choose from, most under €8. Bonus points for offering carafes of wine, something most handy for those of us who want more than a glass but less than a bottle and place little trust in half bottles.
We began with a glass of a delicate and crisp Bestheim Pinot Gris Classic 2014 (€7.95) and a delightfully subtle Vouvray Marc Brédif 2014 (€7.95). Finding Vouvray on a Dublin wine list is rare enough, finding it by the glass was such a treat!
After that, a flute of Crémant de Bourgogne (€9.95) was hailed as a more suitable bubbly than ubiquitous Prosecco and a glass of Louis Jadot Pinot Noir (€6.95) was the cherry on top (of savoury and earthy notes) that completed the tab.
If you are looking to share a bottle, the only thing saving you from the aches of decision fatigue when browsing their 350 item menu, is La Cave Wine Bar’s oenophile team, as they’ll be eager to help you make the right choice.
This really is a place for wine lovers; no cider in sight and just two bottled beers for those non wine drinkers that somehow managed to accompany someone down the rabbit hole into a wonderland of Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire and more.
That said, far from patronising or pretentious, the place’s approach to wine is quite amiable: they organise tastings and classes for those willing to learn more about wine in general, from informal and short lessons to WSET approved courses, so touch base with them if you are looking to broaden your vinous education.
Open everyday from noon till 2:00 am, at La Cave Wine Bar’s underground perpetual soirée you can relax and enjoy a satisfying glass of wine whether you go with friends, a lover or a book. Outside, just off busy Grafton street, it might be tea time in Dublin, but downstairs, it’s midnight in Paris.
The bill, including four glasses of wine, two starters and a cheese and charcuterie tray arrived for €63.75.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.