Serve Yourself in Nice

We’d been in Nice a couple of days before we took the right combination of turns in the pleasingly confusing old town and stumbled across Au Fût et à Mesure.

Discreet as it is, we noticed it because it wasn’t a bistro a cafe or a Bar Tabac, being less formal than the first, boozier than the second and smarter than the last. Then we noticed the beer list on display outside:

Au Fut et a Mesure, Nice: beer list, summer 2015.

Lots of places in Nice call themselves ‘Cave à Bières’ because they have Guinness and Kronenbourg, but this looked like a really decent range, and competitively priced at that (€3.90 for 250ml — cheaper than basic lager in many places we’d found ourselves). But we scratched our heads over ‘Nos bieres pression en self’ — was it a clever way of referring to bottles, or did they genuinely have all of these on tap? There was, of course, only one way to find out.

What we found inside felt quite ‘un-French’ — pumping music, chrome and stripped wood, and a youthful clientèle knocking back beers without food.

Attempting to order La Chouffe at the bar with schoolgirl French and keen expressions, we triggered the charming bar manager’s apparently well-practiced English spiel: she couldn’t serve us that one at the bar because it was on one of the self-service taps — did we want to put some credit on a free card and then explore the bar? Yes, we did.

Fut et a Mesure payment card.How it works, in short, is that you buy a card, charge it at the bar, and get given a glass. You then go to one of several table-mounted taps around the premises where, laying your card on the ‘F’ marked on the table to activate the tap and screen, you serve yourself. The screen shows how much you’ve poured in centilitres and how much that drink is costing you (like a petrol pump); and you can push the tap back at the end to give yourself a foamier head if you want. Between rounds, you wash your glass at the bar using those push down fountain sprayers. (How hygienic is this? We’re not 100 per cent sure.)

Point of sale for beers at Fut et a Mesure, Nice.

When we struggled with the tap, someone rushed over from the bar to help, like at the self-service checkout in a supermarket. It didn’t take long to get the hang of, though, and, before long, we were merrily ferreting out semi-hidden taps (Tripel Karmeliet was in the back room lounge; another was in boozers’ corner at the bar, by the door) and trying every beer on offer.

As we have mismatched drinking paces, self-serve was perfect for us — 210 ml for her, 280 for him — and there was none of the usual stress over trying to attract the attention of a too-cool waiter while sitting with empty glasses. Pint glasses were also available for those who wanted them.

There are a few downsides to this set up, however. First, not all of the beers were in great condition, one tasting quite lifeless and another verging on sour. Perhaps eight beers is too many in this market?

Secondly, though it was generally friendly, there were a couple of times when accessing a tap required us to interrupt an intense conversation — filling a glass while two people, mid-break-up or whatever, sit silently staring at you, is really rather awkward.

The range, too, though interesting by the standards of the region, was weighted towards strong, pale, Belgian beers. (France, on the whole, seems to have agreed that Belgium does posh beer so well it’s not worth competing.) Yes, easier going beers were available at the bar, but where’s the enjoyment in that?

And, finally, queuing at the bar, or waiting for a waiter, slows us down, but self-service allowed us to go just a bit quicker than we really ought to have done. If someone tried this in Britain, quite apart from the legalities, it would be presented in the press as an ‘All You Can Eat Binge Bar’, wouldn’t it?

On the whole, we found the experience great fun and will certainly seek out other branches when we find ourselves in France.

This is the first in a series of short ‘what we did on our holiday’ pieces — just the kind of thing that started us blogging nearly 2000 posts back, though we’ve shied away from it in recent years.

14 replies on “Serve Yourself in Nice”

I don’t know what its operational status is but there’s a place in Manchester I’ve read about that does (did?) self-service beer. Called “Taps”.

Also in Manchester Airport the Grain Loft has self service taps (or it did when I was there a year ago). Was only bog standard lagers and pretty expensive being in the airport though.

I encountered a perhaps better-thought-out version of this in a brewpub in Vilnius last week. One beer from the range is piped through to all the tables. There’s a simple digital counter on the wall at each one and whatever you drink goes on the bill. Of course I had to have this all patiently explained to me by the server, including the tap pull hand gestures. Or at least I think that’s what they were.

I’ve not come across it in beer form, but you occasionally find wine bars that operate on a similar basis.

I do like the idea of being able to dispense whatever quantity you want, but I’m guessing UK licensing laws would rear their ugly heads if you tried to sell 210ml and 280ml glasses?!

We were wondering whether licencing law would allow it on the UK – we suspect the letter of the law wouldn’t but the spirit of the law surely would be fulfilled as there is absolute clarity on the amount of serve each time.

I’ve tried researching this before. And there is mention of dispense via flow meters in the weights and measures act. My conclusion was that it isn’t allowed. A pity as I was hoping it might be a route around the UK’s ridiculously braindead ⅓/½/⅔/pint limitations. Mainly I want a way to sell measures lower than ⅓ really.

Read here:

” it is not lawful for flow monitoring equipment to be used for determining the quantity of beer dispensed in individual transactions and as such the equipment cannot be used for trade for this purpose.”

Although I’m not sure if “beer meters which are regulated under SI 2006 No.1264 and SI 1983 No. 1656 respectively” somehow make it possible and they’re just saying it isn’t because such meters don’t exist… or are expensive or simply not ever seen in practical application. Or from a quick perusal of them perhaps simply that there isn’t actually any provision for the use if meters.

This makes me all the more curious about Taps – which was open for business quite recently & did price its beers by the 10 cl. (Perhaps that’s why they closed?)

“Au fût et à mesure” is rather a good pun. “Au fur et à mesure” translates roughly as “bit by bit” or “as you go along”, and “fût” is an old word for a cask.

Taps in Manchester closed the other month. I never went, I’m afraid; the beer menu looked fairly interesting (they had the lower-strength ‘green’ Duvel, for instance) but quite pricey; also, they priced everything per 10 cl, which struck me as a sure-fire way to disorientate punters.

I belief that Yo Sushi had it right at the start – with just Asahi. Don’t know why it was phased out, but never survived the stage where there was just a few branches.

Come across the concept in Barcelona. Only one beer on tap mind – Estrella IIRC.

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