“I like to drink well and eat well, so I really have a dream job”. Sébastien Leblay was only 24 when he opened the Baragwin in Brest in November 2015, but he arrived with convictions that he quickly engraved in zinc. Sommelier by training, he left Rennes for Brest in 2011, to refine the wine list of several restaurants. The city packed it. He never left again, and the idea of starting out on his own quickly became the only way to work without departing from his principles, even a little ahead of his time. “From the start, I had a very precise idea of what I wanted to offer: natural wines and good local products”. Are not really party classics, but definitely the markers of a new spirit of the times. Besides, the mayonnaise took right away. And at the counter, a real counter, not a decoration where the customer hesitates to ask, as in the room, all ages rub shoulders and everyone finds their place in a place that smells like an old-fashioned bistro.
Each glass has its story
Sébastien Leblay has stories to tell about all the products he offers. The solid guy, halfway between the pillar of rugby and the cherub, although he is an oenologist, he does not listen to himself talk. When he talks about a wine, it’s as much the bottle as the one who fills it that interests him. Everything it serves is worth drinking. By dint of touring the winegrowers during his holidays, he ended up knowing a certain number of them, and many became his friends. It’s all this life and this humanity that customers have in their glass. As a result, when they lift their elbows, they feel more aesthetes than pochtrons, even if the trend can be reversed during the evening. Its listing in international guides, such as Raisin (the application of natural wine and gastronomy from around the world) and Fooding (a directory bought by the Michelin guide which tracks good addresses) have brought it a cosmopolitan clientele. In addition to the regulars, Americans, Swiss and Germans filled the small bar room this summer. “It’s really time for me to grow up to stop refusing people”. He already rents the premises next to the bar, which would allow him to increase the size of the restaurant and give back space to the bar, which is made very small while customers dine. In the meantime, the DJs who regularly set the scene are more discreet. “But the banks are cautious, even if my business is doing well. We should not be surprised if, one day, there are only chains”, he regrets.
A small laboratory of good taste
His bar, rue Algésiras, is a den of good taste, one more address in a neighborhood that was not moving with the masses until recently. “Even the Bad Seeds record store has moved here, adds Sébastien, proof that the neighborhood is changing”. From 2018, he refurbished his bar to offer a menu for lunch or dinner. The kitchen is in the room and focuses on fresh, local produce. The boss is keen on it, even if this requirement is expensive. Fashionable and chain food revolts him. Say “poke bowl” to him, and he goes up the towers instantly. He passed the covid bump, and helped many others to pass it, by recycling his bar into a wine cellar. The aid he received enabled him to replenish his stocks so that his favorite winegrowers also got by. The boss of the Baragwin does not reserve his ethics for plates and glasses, he also works to restore humanity wherever business dismantles it.
Curb the madness of the world with a drink
Because, in management too, Sébastien Leblay has principles. “When I hear bar or restaurant owners complaining that they can’t find anyone to hire, it annoys me. Those who complain are those who exploit their employees to the core”. At Baragwin, everyone has two consecutive rest days, it’s the least you can do to have a life”. He has one too. His daughter, Suzanne, was born a few hours before France was confined in March 2020. “It was almost good, because at that time I wanted to be at home”. He is aware that his philosophy of the profession is becoming rare and thinks that in Brest, the brands that share it can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Isn’t his bar a haunt of sores? He corrects directly, “it’s a Brest boho, so nothing should be exaggerated”. Moreover, in seven years of activity, the price of the half has only increased by one euro at the Baragwin.
Le Baragwin, 38, rue Algésiras, in Brest. Such. 02 98 38 61 40.