One of the fun aspects of writing a cocktail blog is getting invites for launch parties and the like. Last night, I made a stop into an event organized for press and interested parties by newly opened The Club. Antoni Pascual and Stephane Bilard have paired cocktails with club sandwiches in this ‘chaotic chic’ two floor space designed by master milliner turned shoe maker, Philippe Model.
Two specific cocktails were planned for the event, so I forwent my usual martini order and let Stephane (who previously has worked such big names as Pershing Hall, le Meurice and Plaza Athenee) mix me up The Club (42 Below vodka, lime, Fever Tree ginger beer and Angostura bitters) With its vodka base, this wouldn’t be a typical order for me, but it does highlight something they’re doing right: fresh and well chosen, good quality ingredients. [I’m a fan of Fever Tree] Downstairs, Stephane Verga of la Maison du Whisky was mixing up a St Germain cocktail (St Germain, Bottle Green cordial & champagne) which is an interesting choice considering St Germain is not in any of their cocktails listed on the menu. But, I’m a St Germain fan as well, so I shan’t complain.
Reasonably priced at 10 Euros a drink, their regular cocktail menu features 14 choices based on a range of spirits, only three of which are vodka based, which is a good sign that they are avoiding the lazy route of a mainly vodka menu. I predict that their more easily accessible options like the Red Mojito or the Berrie Breeze will be their biggest sellers – which is a shame because they’ve got some respectably better options on offer like manhattans, old fashioneds or a white lady with egg white.
As for the stock, they’re working with la Maison du Whisky, and take pride in the fact that it’s a small but well thought out selection. Hendrick’s and Tanqueray are the listed gins and seem to be good choices if you’re going with just two. And, although not listed on the menu, I also saw a bottle of Bombay Sapphire on the shelves.
While cocktails were being shaken and stirred, plates of grilled cheese and club sandwiches were circulating. Their 9 clubs on offer (15 to 18 Euros and served with veggies or potatoes) range from the classic to the luxe (roast beef, foie gras maison, roquette and piment d’Espelette) I tried their salmon (from Petrossian) version and also the magret de canard/dried tomato sandwich. And for the Berko fans, that’s who’s providing the cheesecakes on their menu.
While cocktal bars like the ECC trio, la Conserverie and le Forum are now Paris standards in superior cocktails, the Club belongs to what I consider Paris’ second wave of noteable cocktail activity. After a taste for a better crafted cocktail has been instilled by the forerunners on the cocktail scene, we’re beginning to see existing or new bars who are reaching for something more than just a basic mojito and giving more thought to ingredients and methods. No bones about it: the Club is not another craft cocktail lounge or haven for hardcore cocktail geeks – but they’re not trying to be. Their aim seems to be a focus on a smaller and simpler selection and injecting a bit of fun with food and cocktails into an area that is a notorious cocktail dead zone. If the service remains as accommodating and friendly as it was last night and they maintain the quality of their ingredients, I’d say this will be a valid option for a decent drink in the area with a good price/quality ratio.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to objectively review a place when you attend an event that removes you from the normal customer experience. So, readers, I encourage you to report back on your own experiences there. And that reminds me of another fun aspect of writing a cocktail blog: great readers. You ask good questions, give good information and are generally just pleasant to interact with. So, I’ll take this opportunity to say “Thank you, Readers. You’re a good lot!”