Experimental Group to open second New York wine bar

Experimental Group is preparing to open its second wine bar in New York City, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the opening of its first. WLC discovered more from founder Xavier Padovani.

Called La Compagnie Wine Bar Flatiron, the new bar is located at 6 West 24th Street in the Flatiron neighbourhood of Manhattan. Describing what drew Experimental Group to the site, Padovani said: “We’ve been looking for a new space in New York for years, and ultimately, this building truly captured our attention. Dwarfed by skyscrapers and high rises, 6 West 24th Street is a building
that was erected in the 1860s and is emblematic of the Arts & Crafts movement.”

“All our locations have an interesting piece of history, whether in a city or countryside, and this is what ultimately won us over when we first looked at the location. Flatiron has always been an area that we’ve loved, just sitting at the crossroads of downtown and uptown,” he suggested.

The new site will be divided into two spaces, offering “two entirely different experiences”: “The ground floor will be the second New York outpost for La Compagnie. We’ve kept a touch of brickwork and woven it with drawn symbols from French artist Clovis Retif alongside celestial touches, marble, leather, and bronze with a central part that will offer a communal feel.”

“Downstairs is Experimental Cocktail Club, our subterranean haven of cocktails,” he added. “As it’s underground, the notion of tree roots plays heavily descending from ceilings and wrapping around columns. Designer Dorothée Meilichzon plays with Art Nouveau here, intertwining amber hues, mirrors, and a grand piano at the heart.”

Describing how the list at La Compagnie Wine Bar Flatiron will differ from that of the first New York site, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in SoHo, Padovani said: “Our list at La Compagnie will be an echo of our downtown bar, but with a more robust offering. Small producers are, and always will be, at the heart of our list and here, we’ll explore American and French estates in great detail, with other areas well represented.”

Padovani added that there will be “a particular focus on American back vintages”, as well as an offering of “the eclectic and underrated gems of the wine world focusing certainly on its French roots, while also delving further into esoteric and classic wines of Spain, Italy, Germany.”

“Hard-to-find wines on small allocations are usually the winners in New York,” he suggested, “so Grower Champagnes, Burgundies, Bordeaux, and smaller domains in the south of France will likely shine. New York also has a great Italian influence, so Barolos and Brunellos are wines we’ll expect to have a lot of interest in.”

Another feature of the wine experience at La Compagnie Wine Bar Flatiron will be the daily ‘Mystery Wine’.

“The name La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is a tongue-in-cheek nod to natural wine,” Padovani explained. “When we opened our first wine bar in Paris in 2013, everyone was obsessing about natural wine and we went beyond that to call our wines ‘Supernatural’. The Mystery Wine is just another step in our playfulness, and over the years, it stuck! Wine does not always have to be so serious, and this is our way of breathing life into the pretension of stuffy wine bars and having a little fun with it.”

As for the all important, he noted that the larger size of the Flatiron site over the SoHo one lends itself to a different menu.

“Chef and partner Eric Bolyard always takes a playful approach that incorporates hyper-local produce, and our new location is no exception. Here, because we have more room to spread out, he’s added a lot of large-format sharing dishes, plus a great selection of bar snacks that pair well with our cocktails. The menu is split into five parts: Crispy, Crunchy Snacks; Cured, Aged & Preserved; Skewers; Plates; and Desserts.”

“Throughout the menu, there is a bit of fun and whimsy woven in, with a big focus on low- and no-waste, plus hyper-local produce. Our Skewers section is something new, a nod to yakitori dishes,” he explained, adding that there would also be a “robust menu of snacks to enjoy with drinks” at Experimental Cocktail Club.

It has not been an easy few years for New York’s hospitality scene, with Eater NY reporting last April that in excess of 4,500 restaurants and bars had closed in the city since the Covid-19 pandemic. And yet, despite the enormous challenges businesses face, Padovani is confident that Experimental Group has the right formula: “Opening a restaurant anywhere at the moment comes with a significant amount of risk! However, we’re seeing people cast a more discerning eye onto whatever they choose to do, buy, and experience. Our bars are a mindful exercise in finding the absolute best, from wine and food, to design, sound, and ultimately the people who work with us to create a beautiful tapestry that keeps people coming back for more.”

“In the wake of the pandemic, our wine bar downtown has gone from strength to strength, and this has given us the ability and confidence to open something else, slightly different but equally wonderful,” he added.

Both La Compagnie Wine Bar Flatiron and Experimental Cocktail Club will open this spring.

This article originally appeared on the drinks business.

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