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.