Aviation inspired Paris Cocktail Adventures: L’oiseau Blanc at the Peninsula Hotel

Paris viewsL’oiseau Blanc bar of the Peninsula Hotel
19 Avenue Kléber
Paris 75116

Let’s try something a little different around here. As most of you know, I’ve been busy with The Chamber activities, various freelance writing gigs, the usual fun with friends and a few other 52-related projects that I really need to finish up. Also, it seems like people are spending less time reading long posts and more time looking at quick pictures and summaries. So, I’m moving to a shorter and more factual format on a trial basis. This means I’ll be getting back to more regular posts. Like this one for the L’oiseau Blanc…

martini and fruit cocktailsThe luxury hotel Peninsula has made Paris its European point of entry, introducing a few new drinking and dining options to the city. The rooftop restaurant and bar, L’oiseau Blanc, was named after the French plane that attempted to make the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York in 1927 but mysteriously disappeared. Fittingly, the bar is kitted out with aviation themed decor and old pictures of the airplane. It offers up a 360 degree few of Paris in a sophisticated and staid space. The drinks menu features around a dozen drinks ranging from appropriate classics (Aviation, anyone?) to twists on classics like their Take Off (gin, sweet vermouth and bitters). Here you’ll find the excellent service and hush hush feel that high-end hotels are known for. But the big draw? The spectacular terrace with to-die-for views. But go early as I have a feeling they keep a lot of those seats reserved for hotel guests.

Cocktails: B
Service: A
Ambience: B-
Cocktail Prices: 22 – 25 Euros

Now that you’ve had a little taste of the possible direction I’ll be taking the posts, do weigh in and let me know what you think of this approach.

Gin Bar Cocktail Adventures: Le Parc Trocadero Hotel




Le Parc


ero Hotel

Gin Bar





75016 France

When I began my martini-fueled adventures there was no serious cocktail culture to speak of in Paris. Having long given up hope of finding a decent mixed drink, I subsisted on French wine when out and mixing my own when at home. My first recorded foray into serious spirits imbibing began – fittingly – with the Experimental Cocktail Club. Having recently opened at the time, these boys were at the forefront of the capital’s cocktail culture revival. Several years later, both 52 martinis and the Paris cocktail scene have evolved (for the better in both cases, I hope!)

Now, there are more worthy cocktail bars than I can visit on a regular basis. And I’m seeing additions that wouldn’t have been considered four years ago such as bars not only stocking but also showcasing spirits like gin. The Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero Hotel has recently undergone a remodel and unveiled the first and only self-proclaimed gin bar in Paris. Of course I had to check it out.

The hotel reopened its doors last April after 4 months of renovation that resulted in the award of a fifth star. On entering the lobby bar, one does feel as if it’s just been revamped. It’s clean, modern and non-fussy but still manages to flirt with a bit of fun. Cheeky green armchairs and shiny surfaces offset more traditional paintings and low-key sofas. As with many hotel bars, lighting is bright. But, those looking for something more relaxed or romantic can move to the lovely leafy courtyard terrace year-round with its heat lamps and charming ambience.

I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the featured gin, G’Vine, reflects the décor with its green and grey tinged bottles of G’Vine Floraison and Nouassin. Oversized bottles of both sit center stage on the back bar and empties decorate various corners. A closer look at the other bottles at the bar indicates a definite bent towards the juniper with 20+ brands on offer. They’ve got the usual suspects (Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Bombay), the latest darlings (Monkey 47, Gin Mare) as well as one I don’t know (Topfergeist Peket.) Is that a gin or genever? The bottle looks like genever, but when I look it up it says gin. I’ll look into that more later. Anyway…

Prices range from 14 to 16 Euros. The standard cocktail menu features four classics based on a range of spirits and a suggested alternative for each. The classic dry martini has a recommended variation of the cucumber gin martini (Hendrick’s, cucumber juice and lemon juice.) I think this is a fun idea but I only got it from paying close attention to the cocktail list. I wonder if the regular costumer would even notice and might need more of a “If you like this, try this…” approach on the menu.

Next up are the ‘signature drinks’ which all feature French gins (either G’Vine, Citadelle or Magellan.) Teacher’s pet seems to be the Flower Power @ le Parc (jasmine infused G’Vine Flourison, Saint Germain, rose syrup and lemon.) Once again, I don’t know if this is intentional but the name is very similar to the already established Flower Power cocktail from Simon Difford (also gin and St Germain based).

In short, it’s a good start for a gin bar. However if I were really angling to corner the mothers’ ruin market, I’d put more gin-based drinks on the menu. But, the staff tells me there are plans to expand both the menu and the gin selection. It should be noted that bar manager, Axel Ginepro, was not in-house when I made my visit and I think that fact made some of the teething pains more evident.

For example, I ordered the Dry Martini (listed on the menu) and initially got a margarita (which was immediately changed when I pointed this out). Also, the dry martini on the menu is listed with “French gin” but no specification of brand. When asked which brand I wanted, I assumed it was made with the featured gin and requested G’Vine. I was then told there would be a supplement for this French gin in my martini. Considering my micro-management of the mixed drink, the bartender was exceedingly friendly. While most likely annoyed by my multiple questions, she never once showed it and gave me the G’Vine martini at the standard price. I was apologetic for being so persnickety and I meant it. I imagine most guests order drinks, take what they’re given and appreciate the attentive service

over dishes of truffled cashews. But from an admittedly attentive customer’s perspective: if you’re going to call yourself a gin bar, step up!

Notwithstanding, I do think this an interesting and exciting project. But in order to capitalize on that, more staff training and expansion are in order. Otherwise, it’s just a nice hotel bar with excellent service that just happens to have a lot of gin on hand. I get it. We all have to start somewhere. And, just as hopefully both this blog and the Paris cocktail scene have grown into something more substantial with time, so will le Parc’s gin bar.

Salacious-glam Cocktail Adventures: le 29 – CLOSED

le 29

29 rue Vineuse
Paris 75016
06 18 40 89 93

I’ve said it before, but I have a fascination with the seedier side of Paris. I live near Pigalle, so I get daily doses of kinky sex shops, working ladies in action and the famous museum of erotica. So when i heard that Greg (formerly of Costes, le Secret and Royal Monceau) was opening a spot in a former girlie-type club in the relatively quiet neighborhood near Trocadero, I was clearly intrigued.

Still sporting the sign of the prior establishment, le 29 is somewhat sketchy (in a good way) and unassuming from the outside. With no windows, red lights to signal they’re open and an imposing heavy closed door, you’ve little idea what you’re in for when you buzz for entry. But when I slipped into this modern day den of sin, I was completely enamoured by the decor. I’d heard that they’d done little in terms of remodel when taking the place over and fortunately

that’s true. Instead of having eradicated all traces of its prior existence, they play it up. It retains a slightly naughty and underground feel with its red walls and cushy red armchairs and lounges and the remaining shiny dance poles (check it out – you can see one in the pic). Yet elegant touches like the silver bar accessories, cocktails picks and gorgeous mixing glasses elevate it to something more luxurious and classy. I’d call it glamorous salacious boudoir chic at its best.

I stopped in early evening around 19:30 when mellow jazz and soul music played and I was joined by one of my usual cohorts, Matt, as well as Susie and visiting Seattle LUPEC ladies Courtney and Tracy. Similar to a few other spots like le Carmen and un Dimanche a Paris, le 29 doesn’t have a printed cocktail menu. Options vary depending on what’s fresh and what kind of new syrups are lined up behind the bar. So, Greg chatted with us to get an idea of what we might want to get in our gullets. I started with my usual and had a very nice No. 3/Noilly Prat martini, stirred with olives. Matt started with a side car variation that included lemon grass and the girls had some well-made Manhattans.

Thus began a couple of hours of tasting and sampling and general conviviality. My next drink was a margarita with thyme and salt infused syrup. I lost track of what everyone else was sampling and sipping for each one. But I do recall an Armagnac, red vermouth and bitters combo as well as another with gin, Thai basil, green chartreuse, absinthe and syrup. The booze selection, while not huge, is very respectable. Gins available were Tanqueray, Monkey 47, Junipero, Gordons, No. 3 and Hendrick’s.
I’ve also said before, I think it can be intimidating for customers faced with no cocktail menu to order without knowing the prices. In this case, they run about 14 Euros a cocktail (similar to any other bar in Paris going sans carte) which are prices I’d be happy to pay here.

I love seeing a worthwhile bar arrive in this area, which previously had nothing cocktail-worthy to boast. Other things of note: For night owls, this is a spot that stays open until 4am (sometimes as late as 6am). It looks like they’ll hopefully be bringing in some finger foods come October or so. Smokers will appreciate the discrete and comfortable fumoir in the back with more cushy red armchairs and elegant lamps. Also, for the moment they don’t have a card machine, so take cash. Lots of it, because you can easily get sucked into the underbelly elegance of the place and not want to give up your bar stool for awhile.

Spodie Cocktail Adventures: Speakeasy

25 Rue Jean Giraudoux
75016 Paris, France
01 47 23 47 22

Articles abound on the ‘speakeasy’ bar trend; some proclaimings it’s in, others proclaiming it’s over. I think it’s over. That’s not to say I don’t highly enjoy many of the places touted as modern day speakeasies. But, a little variety is good and I don’t think a bar need necessarily employ faux-prohibition tactics to prove their cocktail cred. However, a bar with the name ‘Speakeasy’ is going to catch my attention.

With red velour stools, dark leather sofas, nightly jazz and a discreet fumoir, the Speakeasy attempts to transport clients back in time to the smoky, jazz-filled Chicagoan dens of iniquity of the twenties. The menu features over 20 cocktails, including the usuals like margaritas and mojitos and more unique house creations at 14 Euros each. Nothing looked exceptional and some were hovering suspiciously close to spodie territory such as the Gin Imperial (Bombay, Malibu, grenadine, pineapple juice, mandarin imperial, raspberry juice and tonic water.) Although what was exceptional for this generally expensive area was a happy hour (17h30 – 19h30, all cocktails 8 Euros)

I was very early and set off solo for my first drink. Cheerful besuited staff set out dishes of chips and jarred salsa. I don’t like jarred salsa. It simply does’t taste good. I ate some anyway and washed it down with the glass of ice water the barman had thoughtfully put in front of me. I’ve been living here long enough to know better. It wasn’t water. This was my martini: sweet vermouth over ice with a big lemon chunk in it. I think he may have dropped in a few drops of gin because I had asked for a ‘dry gin martini.’ It’s is a shame because there are more than a few gins I would happily put in my mouth from those listed on their menu (Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire, Pink 47 and Hendricks.) However there is one gin they list which has me a baffled. I have never heard of (and find no information on) “Cavendish” which they also have listed on the menu as a gin. [note: Paul-Eric of Sipeasy just notified me that this is the private label gin of France Boisson]

Mel and Vio arrived and took two drinks whose names and don’t recall and which left them nonplussed. Unable to find anything imbibe-inspiring on the menu I went the when-in-Rome route with the amicably votre, a crazy concoction of whisky, light rum, Malibu, pineapple juice, blue curacao & strawberry juice. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t. And the color. Anyone ever see the modern day freak show that is the Jim rose circus? The color recalls Matt “The Tube” Crowley’s act. I’ll leave you to look the description of that one up at your leisure in case you’re having lunch right now.

A fellow blogger Cat - who hits some nice bars – reported a very good experience there. And with the friendly staff, good tunes and relaxed atmoshphere, I have no doubt that one could pass an enjoyable evening here with the right drink orders. (wine? Whisky?) So perhaps it’s hit and miss here.

And, I imagine speakeasies during prohibition had that same range in quality. In some cases, the liquor restrictions forced a flourish of creativity as bartenders invented new recipes with limited resources. But those with less cash or connections were unlikely to be celebrating this new bout of cocktail creativity and probably ended up in sketchy speakeasies with even sketchier spirits. At this Speakeasy: Cat had a good experience and I had a bad one. At Prohibition era speakeasies: Sometimes you get a legendary Last Word cocktail. But then sometimes you get bathtub gin related deaths. So perhaps this place – with its bads as well as goods – is actually more representative of real speakeasies than I initially thought.

Romantic Cocktail Adventures: Hotel Saint James

Hotel Saint James

43 avenue Bugeaud

75116 Paris

Tel: 01 44 05 81 81

Tucked discretely away in the quiet 16th, the insouciantly elegant Hotel Saint James radiates cheeky chic thanks to a makeover a la Bambi Sloan who manages to marry the traditional with the trendy in its bold and breathtaking decor. In addition to being a dreamy spot to lay your head for a night or two, this hotel and private club features two very different and drop dead gorge drinking spaces: the library and the terrace. This summer has been a bit hit and miss weather-wise in Paris, so when the blue skies broke through, I made a beeline for the fairytale-like terrace for a bit of al fresco imbibing.

While waiting for Matt, Vio, Mel and Thibault, I gave the drinks menu the once over. It begins with 15 mojito variations including a USA mojito made with bourbon. Otherwise, one can choose from somewhat pedestrian ‘classics’ like cosmos and sex on the beach or – possibly more appropriate in this setting – a dozen or so champagne cocktails. They also invite you to ‘ask the barman for your classic cocktail of choice’, which I did. Unfortunately, my martini was a wash. It was served warm, with sweet vermouth and over-enthusiastically boasting a twist, an olive and a straw.

The others were more successful in their orders of caipis or mojito variations which were iced up and refreshing and a good choice for some summer sipping if that type of drink is your thing. Based on their limited spirits selection and uninspired ‘classics’ offerings, they seem to sway towards the fruity summer drinks and focus on pleasing the mojito crowd, but fall a bit short when it comes to the classic cocktail capabilities.

Service was friendly enough, cocktail nibbles were replenished regularly and the surroundings are undoubtedly luxe. Yet, even so, at 18 – 25 Euros a drink, I’d love to see a tiny bit more attention paid to the classics and ingredients. That said, I am quite simply enamoured with this place. So much so that I briefly flirted with becoming a member. Apparently, benefits include preferential booking policies, exclusive access to club events and entry to a network of some 200+ private clubs worldwide…for a price. But, if you’re not flush enough to enjoy the privileges of membership, non-members can still stop into both the bar or restaurant from 19h00 onwards in the evenings.

While it’s unlikely I’ll order another martini at the Saint James, I will surely return. In summer months, I’ll partake in its delicately feminine side on the terrace with a girlfriend or two, a (surprisingly reasonably priced) bottle of wine and a cheese plate. When winter rolls around I’ll indluge in its more masculine side and while away a chilly evening in the splendid library bar with something straight and strong (and I am still talking about the drinks.)

*Note: First and last pics are from the Saint James facebook page. Want to know more about the Hotel Saint James? Check out Not Just Another Milla’s post on her wedding there.

Napoleonic post-Egyptian Cocktail Adventures: Shangri La

Shangri La
10 Avenue d’Iéna
75116 Paris, France
01 53 67 19 98

I know can be demanding. And, I can be especially demanding when it comes to high end hotel bars with their promises of perfection and accompanying pumped up prices. Expensive doesn’t always mean better – but I do like to indulge in a bit of lux from time to time. So, I’m always up for a taste test at the latest of swank spots.

Opening its doors early this year, the Shangri La is the most recent of highly anticipated hotel revamps to hit Paris. I stopped in with Wednesday usuals, Matt, Vio and Mel to see if the cocktails live up to the buzz. We began the evening in one of the relaxed front lounges of calm sophistication where artfully mismatched furniture arrangements lure couples and confidents into whispered conversation.

The lengthy menu includes house creations and classics for shorts, longs and champagne cocktails. Classics include Horse’s Neck, Bellini and Bloody Mary. An “Asian Touch” section proposes drinks with coriander, wasabi, ginger or soy sauce. The martini selection – while not including a classic dry – suggests libations like the Garden Martini (Gin, Scallion and Roquefort). But the headliner is the glamorous Pink Lady and her variations.

The Pink Lady, created in 1932 and named after song from a Broadway play popular at the time, was purportedly inspired by Lady Mendl, avant garde actress, socialite and former resident of the Shangri La property back when it was the home of Prince Roland, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew. If you’re unfamiliar with this cocktail, watch one of my classy cocktail cohorts the Pink Lady herself, Kirsten Amann of LUPEC Boston, shake one up.

Back to the lounge….while discretely attentive staff replenished bowls of olives, and seasoned nuts, we sipped our first round: Dry Martini, Exotic (a Pink Lady variation), Red Flag, and a mojito. In this area, you don’t see drink preparation, but we were all satisfied with our cocktails. My martini seemed to have been stirred. My only (personal) issue was that I thought it was made with Bombay Sapphire which wouldn’t have been my first choice of gin from their selection of Plymouth, Hendricks, Tanqueray Ten, Brokers, Hayman’s Sloe and Hayman’s Old Tom.

Mel and I stayed on for a second round and made our way through the delightfully fragrant lobby (where a signature scent is pumped into the air) to Le Bar in back where we could watch the cocktail work from a closer perspective. The bar decor diverges from that in the front lounges to what I would describe as Ralph Lauren does British colonial. But I guess I would be mistaken, as the press packet calls it Napoleonic post-Egyptian.

Mel asked the affable bar manager for suggestions and his drinks of choice were whiskey and Coke or Campari and soda. With a bit more pressing we got a vodka/pear based suggestion out of him, which turned out to be really enjoyable and much more interesting than I had expected.

The Pink Lady is listed on their menu with Plymouth, but when I ordered, he asked “With Bombay Sapphire?” From a cocktail perspective this seemingly random ingredient swap gives me pause. However, I believe this is indicative of 5 star service. I had previously asked if there was Bombay Sapphire in my martini. My hunch is that – based on my recognition of the brand – the staff assumed it was my preference. As high end hotel staff should, they were anticipating needs and preferences, which is the level of service that normally sets them apart from lesser hotels.

However, even with Plymouth, the Lady disappointed. She was one dimensional, flat. Their original recipe is missing a crucial ingredient of Applejack. Additionally, my guess is that the there was no egg white in the mix (or if so, poorly shaken) and that the grenadine isn’t fresh. Homemade grenadine is relatively easy to make and produces a drink so much richer in flavor and feel that it’s worth the extra effort. While I can’t really forgive, I’m coming to begrudgingly acknowledge the fact that most hotels use bottled syrups and sweeteners. But, when your signature drink depends on grenadine, I can’t really justify using bottled – especially at 25 € a cocktail.

I love the understated grandeur of the Shangri La’s drinking areas, so I’ll be back to try out their extensive green tea selection in the laidback front lounge or sample one of the Asian influenced cocktails in the bar.

And, in the meantime, buzz is already building for the next hot hotel openings, which I will surely be tempted to try…

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures Part II: Sir Winston

Sir Winston
5, Rue de Presbourg
75016 Paris
Tel: + 33 (0)1 40 67 17 37

Sir Churchill was no teetotaller. Stories circulate of his martini recipe involving cold gin and a mere bow towards France. After our mediocre drink at Mon Hotel, we made the short walk over to this big and busy bar- named after the man – to find out how they handle their martinis.

“The Winston” goes beyond English pub decor taking things to a Colonial Indo-Brit level with ample, cozy armchairs and sofas, exotic touches and intricate wood work accents. The two levels and outside tables are generally packed with a solid crowd looking to chat, socialize and escape the higher priced fare generally on offer in this area.

My martini (listed on the menu) was a cold stirred Bombay Sapphire & Martini Dry and a couple of olives. While these two are not my top choice ingredients for a martini, it seems par for the course in a bar of this nature with a less cocktail demanding crowd.

The menu is large and offers a selection of specialties, martini cocktails, champagne cocktails and cointreau cocktails. Although I wasn’t so crazy about the “Do You Mojito?” (basically a mojito spiked with Red Bull and Absinthe). In general, for what they are doing, they’re doing a fine job of it. They’re offering better than average cocktails for Paris with sufficient and appropriate use of ice and a selection stretching beyond the usual mojito menu. And just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe where you often pay a lot more for a lot worse, at 10 to 12 Euros a cocktail the price is right.

They’re open every day and stay open late. The menu has plenty to offer beyond cocktails with an extensive selection of whiskies, soft drinks, tea and food.

No, I won’t make it a regular cocktail destination. But neither will I turn up my nose when someone suggests stopping in. Basically, wanna-be Buddha Bar clients might like the laid back, chill-out vibe here with lower prices and less pretension.

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure Part I: Mon Bar

Mon Bar at Mon Hotel
1-3, Rue d’Argentine
75016 Paris
Tel : 01 45 02 76 76

Mon Bar is definitely not mon bar preferé.

Recently my good friend, Cliodhna, was here on a quick visit over from Abu Dhabi. Since Abu Dhabi isn’t exactly rife with cocktail bars, I was hoping we’d hit a really good one for her on a Wednesday Cocktail Adventures. My hopes lasted only until I my martini was delivered.

I entered Mon Bar through the discrete entrance of the not-so-surprisingly named 4 star boutique Mon Hotel. I immediately liked the soft decor in deep purples, plums and browns, ornate but modern chandeliers and the romantic pictures. I didn’t so much like the large screen TV on the wall showing sports.

Their menu is divided into ‘classics’ including martinis, manhattans and sex on the beaches (which will soon be buried at this year’s Tales of the Cocktails) and ‘less classics’, which includes their riff on a French kiss and a treacle, also recently spotted on the Cafe Chic menu. They’ve got a small collection of bottles behind the bar with a gin selection including Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray.

There are no cocktails prices on the menu, but at the bottom of it a small line proclaims “For lovers, room: 100” When I asked the barman what that meant, he said it was left over from Valentines. If that’s really true, that’s a good deal and I wonder if that means for the whole night or by the hour?! (Bear in mind, rooms run between 300 to 600 Euros a night here) The small menu did list champagne prices at 6 – 14 Euros by the glass and a handful of snack to order like Mon Hamburger or nems.

The barman prepared a stirred Bombay Sapphire/Noilly Prat martini. When placed before me, I realized he must have squeezed a whole lot of lemon juice into it as was cloudy with lots of lemon bits insouciantly floating about without a care for my personal taste. Cliodhna got a Manhattan which she said was ‘fine.’ (What a damning adjective that can be) In search of something positive to say, she did comment that the coke she ordered while waiting for me was delivered with lots of ice!

Matt and Violaine arrived and were told there was no fresh fruit or bottled fruit juices in the house (except for apparently the lemon that went into my martini) which limited their choices somewhat. When pressed further on what he could make, he admitted that he was not actually a bartender. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think hotels that consider themselves upper market, should always have a real bartender behind the bar. At least when that happened at Hotel de l’Abbaye, they politely & apologetically steered us away from the cocktails.

Matt and Violaine opted for a small glass of wine instead while waiting for us to finish our drinks to leave and try elsewhere. Then we waited, alone, in the bar for our bill. Waited and waited and waited so long that Matt had the opportunity to step behind the bar to pose for a pic.

Even though I liked the space, I won’t head back to Mon Bar for cocktails at 14 Euros. But if you do, do yourself a favor and order a nice champagne and tell them for me one more time: nice hotels should always have real bartenders on staff if they plan on serving decent cocktails!

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: Hotel Raphael

Bar Anglais at Hotel Raphael
17 Avenue Kléber
75116 Paris
01 53 64 32 00

I am not a snob. I just really enjoy what I enjoy. And, I really enjoy combo of a killer terrace view and a tasty, satisfying cocktail. Hearing I could get both these at the Hotel Raphael I convinced my cocktail crew to head over there and shell out for high priced drinks. Sadly, when we arrived, they informed us that the terrace bar was closed for a private party and steered us towards the downstairs Bar Anglais. This bar looked inviting as well, but with the dark wood and heavy thick curtains it seems more suited for sipping body-warming intoxicants on cool winter nights.

Onto the ordering. At 23 Euros, I didn’t think it was unusual to ask the server what kind of gin they use. I did, however, think it unusual that he would offer me a choice of unimpressive Gordon’s or Talisker (!?). Confused, I asked him if I could see the bottle of “Talisker Gin” and followed him up to the bar. As I suspected, there is no Talisker Gin behind the bar, but, as I explained to him, it’s whisky.

I ended up with a Tanqueray martini, which neither thrilled nor disgusted me. The proportion of gin to vermouth was acceptable and it came with a lemon twist. It was served in a non-chilled glass that was part of a Cointreau freebie promotional give-away. I’ve had better martinis for half the price at the Experimental, Curio, Mama Shelter, and the Why bar. So, here, I expect an attention to detail that merits the twice-as-high price. And, that doesn’t mean a cheapy glass that’s telling me to “Be Cointreau-lisious!” A similarly priced and much better martini at the George V comes with the extras that help justify the cost: special twists, beautiful glassware with impressive spoon rests and exceptional service. The only extras that came to our table here were some round cracker-type barsnacks and small pizza bites. (which, to be fair, were tasty)

I’ve waxed on in the past about the price at hotel bars partly being high to keep out the hoi polloi. So, did we feel like we were among the most elite and refined of the city? No. We were sitting across from a cleavage-tastic woman with a gropy old man who were putting on a suckface and grab show worthy of the back seat of a football player’s car on homecoming, while a group of scruffy teenage boys in baggy pants roamed the hallway.

Now, I should have just stopped here, but Matt arrived and ordered a side car (a bit light on the cointreau, but okay) and we were still waiting for Violaine. Their menu featured a handful of house creations, none of which looked interesting. However, with the unknown (to me) ingredient of Pisang Ambon in the Raphealite, I thought perhaps this was the one. I went up to the bartender and asked what this was. I was told that they did not know and they believed it to be either some kind of fruit juice or something “herbal”. Now given that the bottle had to be within arm’s reach from them, I’m unimpressed – and shocked – that they didn’t take it off the shelf and show it to me. Instead, they asked me “Why do you want to know? Do you want to order that cocktail?” I answered “Well, I don’t want to order it until I know what it is.” Unapologetically, she said “Sorry, I don’t know what that ingrediant is.” Forget it. I’ll just take a glass of red wine.

I returned to the table and waited for both Violaine and my wine. The server came back and asked me what I’d like. I, again, ordered a glass of red wine. Awhile later she came back with a glass of white wine. Once more, I told her I had ordered red. Violaine had just arrived and offered to take the white. With no appreciation for our saving of her foible, she left, presumably to get my red wine. I saw her taking out several orders and finally 35 minutes and 3 requests later, I got my glass of 11 Euros red wine.

Now, just to make things clear. Not only do I have no desire to be a snob, I couldn’t afford to be one if I wanted to. I have nothing in particular against tacky glassware, shmarmy sugar daddy dates, or sloppily dressed teens. I just don’t want to pay 23 Euros to see all these things while I’m drinking an unimpressive cocktail accompanied by bad service. I care what I spend my money on. And, apparently, I’m just the kind of client that the Bar Anglais doesn’t feel the need to bother with.

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: La Gare

la Gare
19, Chaussée de la Muette
75016 Paris

This one’s too warm. This one’s too big. Sometimes I feel like the Goldilocks of martinis. Except I’m not blond and hopefully I won’t be mauled by a family of angry bears as a result of my drinking habits. And, unfortunately, there was definitely nothing “just right” about La Gare’s martini.

The old Passy La Muette train station in Paris serves as the location for the appropriately named “La Gare” (which means train station.) Two things made me think this place might be suspect from the get go: their website proclaiming they were voted “most trendy” restaurant of 2008 and the fact they had recently been bought out by a large corporate group. But, nevertheless, I soldier on. I enjoy eating and drinking spots that have been converted from different types of venues. This transformation has resulted in an immense dining area on the lower level with artfully lit tables and a friendly, upbeat noisy hum of chatting dinners and sprinting waiters. However, the sheer number of tables was overwhelming to me from a dining standpoint. No matter – my destination was the bar.

The dimly lit bar area with its many low tables and booths is rescued from claustrophobia by the comfortably high ceilings. We sat at the small bar facing a featured bottle of Bombay gin encased in a clear plastic cube lit with tiny white/blue fairy lights, which mildly reminded me of kitschy religious artwork such as neon lit sculptures of Jesus or the virgin Mary found in Mexican flea markets. I ordered the usual and got a large measure of Gordons shaken with much too much dry Martini vermouth. The – now infamous – large Parisian plastic martini straw joined several sizable chunks of lime in my cocktail. After fishing out the unnecessary citrus, my first taste was disappointingly warm and poorly balanced. At any price, this was a bad martini. At 13 Euros, this was a total disappointment. I used it to wash down several baskets of blue potato chips. Matt washed his chips down with a watery cosmopolitan.

For our second round, he and I ordered the Cocktail Station (Grey Goose, Dekuyper Passion Strawberry Schnapps and grenadine) and La Gare (Bombay Sapphire, citrus and cranberry juice and 7 up) respectively. I didn’t love either of these decent sized cocktails, so gave up the Cocktail Station to Matt who thought it was the better of the two. The winners for the evening were our friends who simply ordered a glass of white wine and a whiskey. With prices appropriate to a bar like this (9 Euros for a shot of Jameson), they could enjoy the relaxed atmosphere without unexpected disappointment.

The prices, overall, seem in line for this type of bar. Pints are served up at 8.50 Euros and non alcoholic drinks are 5 to 6 Euros. The 5:30 to 7:30 happy hour gives customers a two for one option on a limited selection of drinks. The menu features several mojito variations, although none of us tried any of them. The terrace looks like potential summer fun. And, for drinkers who are more concerned about who’s pouring the cocktails rather than what they are pouring, this is a fine spot. As Matt pointed out, the bartender was exceptionally cute (and also friendly). As with many places I try, I’m not saying I won’t go back. But, I definitely wouldn’t go back for a martini.