94 Rue Quincampoix
One of the latest cocktail spots to spark some interest has sprung up in the energetic 3eme arrondissement as well as on Figaro’s recent list of the city’s best bars. Mel and I stopped in this week to find out just how Acte 3 stacks up against the best.
Although the entrance is unmarked, the framed menu outside hints at what’s behind the door with cocktail teasers and tempting bar snacks. Like a few bars at the moment, they claim to democratize the cool cocktail scene with a hip reputation but an all-inclusive entrance policy (space permitting). On the night of our visit, the crowd at 7:30pm was already filling out with a good mix of types, but the location, entertainment and prior associations of the three owners (Pulp, Baron, Montana, etc.) will naturally draw a certain cross-section of clientele. And that’s not a bad thing as long as they keep welcoming any and all with open arms.
On the main floor the bar takes center stage and a few tables are lined up against the walls, while downstairs offers nightly entertainment with DJ’s and the like (burlesque on the night of our visit). While they have not gone overboard with the bar décor upstairs, small touches take it beyond just the basics with candles on the tables, Asian-flavored wall paper, industrial lighting and slate serving trays.
The barman asked if it was my first visit, and as it was, he walked me through their concept – a necessary and appreciated gesture often forgotten in themed places or bars with unusual menus. While Acte 3 offers a selection of eight fresh and fruity drinks, clients are alternatively invited to choose an ingredient from a chalkboard list of over 20 options (pear, blackberries, wasabi, lavender, rosemary, watermelon, etc.) and allow the barman to create something around it.
Nonetheless, I started with my usual and got a Tanqueray martini with a healthy addition of Noilly Prat sufficiently stirred and served in a chilled glass with a twist – no complaints there. Spirits selection goes beyond the bottom shelf without reaching for the stars; gins available are Tanqueray, Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire and Junipero. Mel started with the “From Los Angeles” (vodka, kiwi, cucumber, elderflower and lime over lots of ice).
Over the course of the evening, we tried a few more drinks like a gin, rosemary and pear creation from the inspiration menu or their “From London” (strawberry, basil, gin, citrus). Notwithstanding my martini, the drinks generally veer towards fruit heavy and alcohol light (both in color and amount) over lots of ice. Some are topped with champagne (Piper, even) and some include herbs or spice, but the general formula seems pretty straightforward: one shot of alcohol+fruit+sweet or sour. I’d like to see more of what they can do for something dry and up.
We tested the bar snacks as well as and enjoyed the hummus, petit choux with chorizo and a nice selection of cheeses. The food is good in terms of price/quality so we made a meal of it without splashing out too much cash. The service was standout with clear explanations of each plate put in front of us (unfortunately I don’t remember the name of my favorite cheese of the bunch which had a brillat savarin consistency and a bleu taste)
While I personally prefer my cocktails to pack more of a punch, they’ve hit on a hybrid that will do well. They are taking practices that many consider hallmarks of good cocktail bars these days (fresh ingredients, nice glassware, correct preparation, house-infused syrups, unusual bitters, and good service) and applying them to easily-accessible drinks with familiar ingredients that could serve as gateway cocktails for a mojito-mad crowd. Given the location, the already established networks of the owners, the laid back attitude, and prices at around 10 Euros a drink, I predict they’ll be busy for a long time to come.