Quicktake: Enter this hidden Paris cocktail bar through a public laundromat washing machine.
Long before the modern-day speakeasy overtook the cocktail scene, smart business were combining washing machines with bars and cafes. Paris bar, Lavomatic, does both by hiding the entrance to its little cocktail lounge within a coin operated laundry. Locate the right machine, push a particular button and find the doorway to a dark stairway that leads upstairs to a colorful little cocktail bar. It’s an updated take on the hidden entry trend that’s both fun and practical. And everyone loves to be in on a little secret!
The upstairs bar area is playful, light and bright with faux detergent box stools or swing-seats suspended from the ceiling. The minds behind this hidden bar are part of the Vgroup, which is an architectural and design firm specializing in restaurant and bar space that is soon to add a component offering bar staff for private events. Knowing it’s from a design group makes one think that it’s more formula than one man’s madcap idea. But it’s a formula that works: cool design and consistent offerings (much like the wildly popular Big Mamma group in Paris).
Either way, it’s a design that is fun. That fun is also reflected in the fabulously illustrated and colorful cocktail menu offering drinks from 11 to 14 Euros, including 6 interesting cocktail creations. The Pop Art includes popcorn syrup, Maker’s Mark, smoked hickory spray and paprika filments. It’s creative while still being a solid pairing (popcorn and bourbon are a great combo). It’s a touch on the sweet side, which isn’t surprising given that clientele here are likely looking for something more lighthearted than challenging.
Other original ingredients include red bean puree or sesame oil honey. For each house creation, the menu indicates what kind of flavor profile to expect, i.e. “fruity and sweet” or “strong and fresh”, which is something I appreciate on a cocktail list.
Their selection of classics includes many that will appeal to the wider drinking population, and work well in Paris, like the mojito, spritz, and cosmo. They’ve pulled out the Long Island Iced tea which I haven’t seen on a menu for awhile. But, fret not, cocktail connoisseurs, you can still get an old fashioned, negroni or a bespoke drink.
Glassware is interesting and specific to the drink, with the sake based Sakura coming in a japanese-style porcelain cup. Cocktails come with a tiny snack dish, in this case pickled lupini beans (which I love!) And, the menu also offers a nice selection of small plates ranging from a meat and cheese platter to shrimp dim sum or bananas tempura nicely priced at 6 to 12 Euros.
On my last visit the staff seemed to have a subtle attitude and I don’t know if that’s just a little fatigue as a result of working in a small space and having to shift people around to accommodate new comers or dealing with patrons newly excited or confused having entered through the spin cycle. Either way, let’s hope it was a one-off.
In addition to the clean clothes and fun drinks, they also offer up cocktail classes for private events, which seem reasonably priced at 49 Euros per person with minimum of 6 people. Bonus: they have a second location called L’Epicier where you can find the hidden entrance while doing a little grocery shopping.
30 rue René Boulanger