34 rue de Buci
Every day at 5pm, a Google Alert arrives in my inbox with links to French sites, news and blogs talking cocktails. Most of it isn’t very interesting, every once in a while there’s a worthy find and sometimes it slams me over the head with multiple links over several days all leading back to the same place. As was the case with Playtime Cocktails, which seems to be getting a lot of online play. So after a few weeks of receiving continuous alerts to it, the insistent interwebs convinced me to try it.
The recently revamped Artus boutique hotel is courting the cocktail crowd with its newly opened bar, Playtime. This bright and tiny space was designed under the inspiration of film and the fifties, resulting in a playfully retro feel. Electric blue walls serve as a backdrop for bright green furniture and vintage-type posters. The bar has a prominent separate entrance from the hotel, which seems a good move because with less than 30 rooms, they will likely want to pull in some foot traffic rather than relying solely on guests for business. The night we were there, the lights were cranked up, making it a good spot for our group of four friends – but maybe not the place to go for a romantic rendezvous.
The menu of 16 cocktails at 14 Euros each is divided by suits in a deck of cards. Spades offer up strong and flavorful choices like the Rittenhouse 100 based Brooklyn 29; Clubs go for something more floral and herbal with drinks like the vodka based Pretty in Green, which incorporates basil and elderflower syrup; Diamonds provide a bit more acidity with the likes of the Tommy’s Spicy Margarita; and Hearts have a sweeter and lighter touch incorporating more vodka choices and using a lot of fruit juice and syrups. The menu makes a good go of offering something for all tastes, but if you really can’t find something you want, the “Joker” option allows the barman to make you something according to your tastes.
The barman, Emeric, has done time in some high end Paris and London hotels, so he should be able to come up with something to please most patrons. His solid background and experience is also evident in his friendly and attentive service. I started with the “joker” and got a nicely made Tanqueray martini with a twist. Because we were four, we had the opportunity to taste many drinks from the menu. A few things of note: the Tommy’s Spicy Margarita was very good, but I didn’t feel there was enough heat to consider it “spicy.” The spiced sazarac seemed to be a table favorite along with the Spiced Rum OF (Gosling’s Bob’s Bitter ginger & homemade 5 spice syrup). In general the drinks are well balanced, properly prepared and incorporate some fresh or homemade ingredients. While you’ll find no real surprises, neither are there any let-downs. Plus, I’m always happy with a bit of snacking and really liked the olives and little snack crackers that come with the drinks.
As I’ve mentioned recently, it’s becoming increasingly more challenging for Paris cocktail bars to differentiate themselves. Five years ago, the basics that were harder to find here – ice, proper prep, fresh ingredients, bitters, more interesting choices – are becoming de rigor. So while the drinks here might not blow your mind, neither will they blow your budget, especially at their happy hour prices of 11 Euros. And, that’s where they hit their sweet spot. 11 Euros is a nice price in Paris for a good cocktail.
So will Playtime get as much play in real life as it seems to be online? Hard to say. I think it’s a good spot for a decent drink, and they’re making the extra effort with happy hour prices and solid service without attitude. So, I’m hoping they pull in a fun crowd of hotel guests and locals looking for something light hearted around Saint-Germain-des-Prés.