17 Rue Louis Bleriot, 98807 Nouméa, New Caledonia
Nestled in the trendy frills of the capital city's suburbia, the eatery is parked directly opposite the entrance to the Henry Milliard racecourse, the only one in the country, and openly sells itself to racegoers. You can sit indoors or enjoy the outdoor French village-type of setting although I found the interior more alluring.
The vibe: The first thing that hits you is the warmth of the venue's rustic charm. It offers a magical space for private functions and a sense of exclusiveness - with live musical performances in the evening. Beefy barrels are stacked on one side of the wall with test-tube-like apparatus to sample wines and distilled spirits from. The bistro-style atmosphere comes with the promise of fine food, complete with the spoils of the bar and an assortment of gifts. It's worth taking some time to look around to savour the ambience.
The chat: Sommelier Yumi Furukawa conducted the proceedings. Furukawa has a diploma of wine from her birth country of Japan. She now splits her time between there and New Caledonia, spending six months of the year in each. Previously she spent time in Bordeaux incorporating the art of pairing wine with food. Her friendly and conversational presentation style invites questions and down-to-earth answers.
The menu: We were served three reds: light, medium and full-bodied Bordeux numbers. It was the last one - matched with a dollop of French blue-vein cheese, sprinkled with dried sultanas and a fistful of colourful crinkly salad - that seduced my taste buds. It was a 10-year-old red and we were quite lightheaded by that stage. A shared tapas platter and dessert were on the menu but somewhere along the way we lost them in translation. The busy owner, Olivier, caught up in the hustle and bustle of flustered waitstaff and bartenders, added a lovely touch, gifting us an enamel cup each in an environmentally friendly brown paper bag.
The expectation: When told about the wine-tasting session my first thought was to not make a fool of myself. I felt like I was going to university for the first time — nervous, terribly excited and mindful not to appear an idiot. For someone who simply knew what he liked to drink - red wines especially - I graduated two hours later much wiser and feeling blissfully tipsy and confident.
The reality: If, like us, you know little about wines, you'll relish the wine tasting. It's insightful in a relaxed and enjoyable way, set up in a regal but intimate back room. You leave with a brochure on the A to Z of buying, which arms you with enough terminology to bolster your confidence in making suitable wine choices to match different types of food. If you want class, most times you have to pay for it, no matter where you go in the world. When you don't know much about wines but want reassurance you're in good hands this is a gem of a place. - Anendra Singh