If a summer trip to Provence is out of the question this year, the relatively new Bar à Vin in Georgetown is sure to satisfy all the Francophiles out there. Sister to the larger Chez Billy Sud restaurant right next door, Bar à Vin, which translates to “wine bar,” is a more casual alternative that focuses on French wines, cheeses and charcuterie in a cozy, parlor-like environment so inviting that losing track of several hours is not unlikely.
The entrance to the bar isn’t loud or obvious, and it almost feels like venturing into a secret hideaway. Once inside, however, the décor will definitely leave an impression. Designed by Joe Reza, the bar boasts wood paneling throughout, velvet chairs, ornate wallpaper, a wood-burning fireplace and a beautiful copper-topped bar – the atmosphere will quickly transport you to a different time and place. And you haven’t even had a glass of wine yet!
Since opening earlier this year, Bar à Vin’s inspiration for the wine program has been terroir-focused smaller producers from classic French wine regions such as Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as from lesser-known regions popular among sommeliers and enthusiastic imbibers alike, such as the Jura, Loire Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Non-French wines and craft cocktails are also well-represented if you feel like mixing it up.
Chef and partner Brendan L’Etoile was curating the Bar à Vin wine list earlier this summer, keeping the large selection of French classics fresh and updated. However, a new wine director joined the Bar à Vin team in late June, so expect the wine program to be continually evolving and growing with exciting new additions.
There’s a cheerful happy hour selection and well-designed wine flights that allow you to sip through a number of regions. When you get a bit hungry, feast upon the cheese and charcuterie boards and gourmet bites; the spiced walnuts are a dangerously decadent little treat.
Also not to miss: Chef Brendan’s new small plate, Lou Cachat, a specialty from Provence that’s popular in cafes throughout the south of France. The snack is made of fresh Provençal goat cheese whipped together with brandy and olive oil and then topped with a drizzle of honey and lavender, served with crunchy crackers to dip (and a spoon to make sure you get every last bite). There’s no better summertime snack than an order of Lou Cachat paired with a glass or two of one of the crisp rosés on the menu.
Bar à Vin: 1035 31st St. NW, DC; 202-965-2606; www.chezbillysud.com