Grand Pigalle Hotel
29 rue Victor Massé
Given that craft cocktails are currently as fashionable as boutique or designer hotels, the two seem like a natural partnership for pulling in crowds in search of a la mode beds or beverages worth bragging about. Several years ago, Mama Shelter hit Paris with affordably chic sleeping options plus a bar with a more serious mixology bent. It’s hard to say if Mama Shelter has truly kept up their cocktail cred considering we hear so little about their drinks and their better-known bar staff have left for other projects. However, we now have a hip new hotel stepping in with a trendy “Bed & Beverage” concept in Paris’ coolest enclave, affectionately – or annoyingly depending on who you ask – known as SoPi.
With the Grand Pigalle Hotel, the group behind the Experimental Cocktail Club finalizes their transition from groundbreaking, grassroots bar to global brand. The hotel features 37 rooms overlooking the cocktail hotbed that is Avenue Frochot and a private estate that was once the home of Toulouse-Lautrec. At current rates, basic rooms start around 175 Euros with the suites coming in at just under 300 Euros. The midrange room that I viewed was chicly simple and comfortable and predictably small – typical for a Parisian hotel.
But the ground floor is where the drinking and dining happens. Here, it’s open and casual with plenty of windows letting in light over the wooden counters and blue velour booths and smart barstools. The cocktail menu features 10 drinks at 13/14 Euros and includes some ECC classics (Experience 1 or the Old Cuban) as well as a other choices included to reflect the “Bohemian spirit of Pigalle.” The house booze is a nice selection with cocktails including brands like Citadelle gin, El Dorado rum and Nikka Whisky.
Other drink options include the classic Blood and Sand, which was nicely done or the Panamerican Clipper (Calvados Drouin Sélection, homemade red fruit syrup, lemon juice and absinthe) and was my preferred of my taste tests. Although with so many well thought out concept cocktail menus happening in Paris at the moment, I am left wondering how this particular collection really reflects a coherent SoPi inspired theme as they suggest. It’s a nice menu of old hits and new winners, but not one that overall embraces a Pigallian spirit in an obvious way that I can discern.
On my visit, the friendly barman (who did a short stint at Experimental Cocktail Club before coming here and made my martini with no problem) was Italian. I only note this because the wine list (with over 200 references) also focuses on Italian wines.
In addition to drinks, there is a range of food options. All day and night you can snack at the bar with small plates like tarama, burrata or truffled prosciutto at prices from 8 to 16 Euros. From 7pm to midnight the evening menu is available with options such as the 12 hour lamb or foie gras in the same price range. I appreciate the fact that the menu doesn’t offer up too many choices, as I often wonder if too lengthy of a menu can be competently handled. I also appreciate the fact that they serve late, meaning there are more options for decent food for night owls. And of note: the Terrine de Quercy was excellent.
In the rooms, the minibars offer something more impressive than your standard Ibis with tiny bottles of Monkey Shoulder, Hendricks or Blanton’s. Although experience has taught me that it usually takes more than one trial size to make a martini. They also include a couple of bottled cocktails. Word has it that they’ll be kitting out a few rooms with a private bar cart, from which guests can make like a mixologist and create their own cocktails. From what I understand, they’ll start this off when they decide how to monitor consumption from what is basically an open, rolling bar in the bedroom. I’m sure they’ve considering this, but I’m thinking weighing the bottles before and after might do the trick.
The fact that they have advanced so far and expanded so much in a relatively short time shows their foresight and business acumen. And, overall, I can’t fault the well-made drinks. So if, like me, you’re an original fan of the ECC and appreciate its role in the city’s cocktail culture, you should stop in to form your own opinion. But, like me, you might also be hoping to be a bit more wowed by something from this group.