Les Grands Verres: A much needed update for Palais Tokyo’s bar and restaurant

After the successes of Candelaria, Glass, Mary Celeste and Hero, we’ve come to expect a certain level of both coolness and quality from Quixotic Projects. Fortunately, their latest venture, Les Grands Verres, doesn’t disappoint. Located in the Palais Tokyo, LGV brings a much-needed update to the museum’s restaurant and bar with their Mediterranean inspired food and drinks menu.

Ten original cocktails are numbered sequentially with an accompanying list of ingredients and a few quoted words, presumably to express the feeling evoked by the cocktail. You can enjoy an espresso martini (No. 02) that, in the pithy words of Daft Punk, brings it “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” Or throw back a Bloody Mary variation (No. 07) described in the delightfully cringe-y words of Dave Skylard from the cancelled/uncancelled The Interview: “Same-same, but different. But still same.” There is no priced indicated on the menu for the cocktails, leaving one to wonder if they’re still soft on that, but the ones we ordered were 12 Euros.

Overall the menu comprises well-conceived cocktails that work for a venue of this size and type that will pull in a large slice of the general public who may want to be challenged by the modern art, but maybe not by the drinks. As such, simple and easygoing options like gin and soda are a necessity. But what’s really interesting is the interplay between kitchen and bar and some of the more unique drinks that result.

No. 03 is a combo of Plantation rhum, verjus and “aubergine” shaken with aquafaba. The aubergine (eggplant) portion of the cocktail was an accidental discovery in the kitchen that, if left alone for a long enough period after roasting, this veggie will express liquid. So why not work that into a cocktail? The aquafaba (chickpea brine) not only further compliments the Mediterranean cuisine, but also offers the additional advantage of replacing egg white as a texture booster. While I’m neither vegan nor fearful of raw eggs, they often leave an unpleasant smell in the glass, so, I’m very happy to see the use of aquafaba here, as well as elsewhere in Paris.

Another interesting aspect of the bar is its simplicity in spirits choice, which is something I predict will soon be a particularly prevalent trend for cocktail bars. In a natural progression of the craft cocktail planning and execution, we’ll begin to see hundreds of references behind a bar being pared down to a well-curated shortlist. Here, they’ve simplified both in terms of stock and visually. While the one or two brands per spirits category offered are indicated on the menu’s drink descriptions, not one bottle is on display behind the bar.

In addition to cocktails, they offer a few local beers, including their eponymous Quixotic Lager from Deck & Donahue as well as a great selection of French wine at nice prices plus a couple of California options. As with their other venues, the focus is on natural wine and features some prominent players like the Loire-based Puzelat brothers’ Clos du Tue-Boeuf.

Though we’re here to dish on the drinks, it’s worth noting that the food is fresh, both literally and conceptually. While modern takes on Middle Eastern menus seem to be gaining traction, here Quixotic has taken that flavor but added their own spin with a more Mediterranean focus. So, we’re not talking hummus and falafel but more seasonal fair with appropriate accents like pomegranate seeds or sumac (also used to rim one of the cocktails.) The menu includes a handful of starters or sharing plates plus another 4 to 5 mains and desserts. Quite simply, it’s good stuff.

When weather permits, restaurant seating is on the roomy terrace with its Eiffel Tower view. Otherwise, its inside where the décor is sleek and modern with industrial chic lighting fixture hanging from high ceilings over the cool compacted earth bar and functionally simple wooden tables. The design of both the space and the glassware evokes a Japanese or Scandinavian aesthetic: natural, practical, stylish, clean and effectively understated.

Another positive: they’re environmentally minded. They employ sustainable practices and make efforts to reduce packaging waste, grow their own edible flowers, compost, recycle all waste…and they even keep bees!

Something else that makes this collaboration special is the fact that the Palais Tokyo museum is open until midnight, making LGV a full package of drinks, dinner plus something to do before or after.

I’ve heard that during the summer they’re in sort of a soft-start phase. And while they’ve nailed the food, they may still be perfecting other things. On the night of our visit the food and drinks and the service at the bar and table were top. But, the hostess seemed a little stressed and the sommelier seemed a little pressed. Presumably that all goes with the territory of stepping up to a 170-seat space, and I’ve no doubt they’ll fall into a good rhythm.

Bill Gates once wrote “An old business joke says that if the railroads had understood they were in the transportation business instead of the steel-rail business, we’d all be flying on Union Pacific Airlines.” Not only is this quote particularly apt when it comes to business, but it succinctly sums up the continued success of Quixotic Projects. They are a smart and talented, business minded team who realize they’re not in the business of slinging cocktails, but of building a better experience.

Les Grands Verres
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
75016 Paris