Looking for French fare, with an exceptional wine list? Connecticut Magazine reviews Nouveau Monde Wine Bar in Sandy Hook, CT.
At some point during your visit to Nouveau Monde Wine Bar, you will start to crave wine.
Maybe this craving will begin when you walk in and see the steampunk elegance of the main dining area, a space that feels equal parts bar, classic cafe, restaurant and offbeat library. Perhaps it will strike as you read the wine list itself, a thick document that goes on and on like a William Faulkner sentence punctuated by descriptions such as “spicy yet fruity, red wine drinkers’ rosé.” Maybe it will begin when your server asks, “What type of wine do you usually drink?” and you realize “IPAs” is not an acceptable response.
Or, at least, that’s what happened to me.
This newfound appreciation of wine capped (or in this case, corked) a visit to the restaurant that, to put it in language a wine lover would understand, was a rich, full-bodied evening highlighted by notes of cellared ambiance, clean, bright food flavors that were anything but dry and a sweet, rich finish courtesy of a knockout dessert.
To get to Nouveau Monde, which opened in April 2016, one drives through the heart of Sandy Hook, a village in Newtown. Downtown is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it area, but in the space of that blink, you’ll have missed a lot.
The Pootatuck River slices through the village, cutting behind historic, red-brick buildings to provide quintessentially New England scenery and a soft soundtrack of shifting water. You can see and hear the river from the outdoor seating at Nouveau Monde and are close to a footbridge that traverses the water and is perfect for a before- or after-dinner stroll.
Inside Nouveau Monde, the main area is a lounge-like space with a marble bar and a mix of traditional table seating as well as couches.
“We looked to create a space that was reminiscent of a 1930s Paris bistro, intermingled with a London pub and Harvard book club look, but also still clearly New England,” says Bill Towne, who owns the restaurant with Peter Chang, when contacted after our visit.
Before you’ve fully settled into your chair, as you begin to realize this place is something approaching date-night nirvana, that thick wine list arrives. Our server suggests a glass of Malbec, the right pick both for my mood and budget (this glass was $9, but some bottles are listed with $100-plus price tags).
Then, the food starts arriving.
Towne describes the cuisine as “refined comfort food.” It draws its primary inspiration from the French school and offshoots, such as Cajun culinary traditions, but often roams farther from France with many eclectic international offerings. The menu has been designed to complement the wine, and offers options for those just snacking between glasses, as well as those looking for something heartier.