14 Rue des Capucines
01 42 61 66 71
I don’t really spend all of my time drinking and eating. I also spend a lot of time reading, researching, writing and talking about drinking and eating. So, naturally, I hear a lot of buzz. When a friend recently called for a restaurant recommendation that was new and cool and trendy and busy and good (in other words: buzzy), I immediately thought of the latest venture from the duo behind the exceedingly popular Volnay: les Jalles. In the last month, the blogosphere has been nicely noisy about this new eatery. However, what piqued my curiosity was not the reportedly fantastic food. It was the buzz I had been hearing about their bar, l’Etage for months prior from some notable cocktail names.
A few days after they opened, Kate and I made our way through the tasteful art deco dining room of les Jalles, up the back stairs to l’Etage to see what hid behind the hype. We found ourselves in a sophisticated and seductive space, where period appropriate paintings pop against dark walls and sexy staff stands behind the shiny bar in somberly elegant uniform.
Classy style carries through to the menu with its small but strong selection of eight drinks, including a crusta, a julep and a cobbler made with choice ingredients. The man behind the menu is bar manager, Simon, previously of la Conserverie. And, patrons can confidently go off menu considering he not only honed his skills at a great Paris cocktail spot, but has also worked the circuit abroad, including stints in both Australia and London.
My martini was not the first I’ve had from Simon, but was just as consistently good as the previous ones. When he recommended a Martinez as my follow up, I was happy to go that route and mentioned that it ranked highly among my most memorable cocktail experiences, thanks to one several years back London bar, Montgomery Place. Coincidentally, turns out that’s also the bar he worked in London, so he stirred up a Martinez that was reminiscent of the one I recalled so fondly. I, also, of course enjoyed a sip Kate’s Bwa-Lele (two types of rum, velvet falernum, lime and tiki bitters) and was particularly impressed with the presentation of her Calvados Crusta, which came in a glass entirely coated with fine sugar.
I stopped in for another visit last night and Simon started me off with a personalized concoction of gin, Suze, celery bitters, Noilly Pratt and fresh coriander. This wouldn’t be a drink for everyone, but it was just right for me: something strong, dry and bitter with a fresh & herby nose thanks to the coriander. I followed with a Sazerac, for which they normally use Rittenhouse Rye, but in this case, Simon broke out a bottle of Michter’s US1 Straight Rye that he had just brought back from New York. I found the Michter’s a bit sweeter and less complex than many ryes, which made for an easily sippable Sazerac that will please a larger range of palettes. Word is that the menu will be updated soon, but the Bwa-Lele and Crusta will likely remain.
An absinthe fountain on the bar gets occasional use. On a side note, I think it would be great to see more bars doing absinthe drips. While it’s becoming more common to see fountains in bars and many consider it a bit passé in the constant quest for something new and unusual in the cocktail world, I don’t believe it’s been fully explored and pushed beyond its novelty aspect. In a city whose population is familiar with Pernod and which is historically no stranger to the green fairy, more bars could cultivate a taste for it in their customer base.
Drink prices are slightly above average at 16 Euros each, but those wanting the atmosphere with something a little less spendy can enjoy an aperitif at a reasonable 5 to 9 Euros.
L’Etage will attract a crowd of sophisticated urbanites looking to while away a few hours over a well made drink and listening to smoky jazz numbers from the current musical attraction and French chanteuse, Caroline Nin.
Despite high quality quaffs, excellent bar staff and an elegant environment, the bar is still relatively undiscovered as everyone rushes to the restaurant downstairs. But, my guess is that won’t last for long once the bar buzz gets going. So, get there before everyone else does.