14, rue Bochart de Saron
Brought to you by the Maison Mere team, Artisan is the latest addition to the growing list of interesting places around Pigalle. However, unlike Maison Mere, which swings from sad quasi-quesadillas to surprisingly good mini-burgers, Artisan is consistently very good. I can comfortably attest to this after several successful visits.
Artisan’s understated décor is charming and relaxed. Dim industrial lighting and flickering votive candles reflecting in distressed mirrors shine through the large bay windows giving off a warm glow that beckons passersby. The rest of the street feels a little dreary in comparison to the simple yet inviting ambience.
Once inside, patrons pull up a stool at the U shaped bar or grab a table to enjoy something from the short, but solid selection of cocktails under the direction of Frédéric Le Bordays. The last time we saw Fred here on the blog, he was doing cocktail classes at la Cuisine. But it’s always a pleasure to see him either here or in real life, so I’m happy that he’s currently involved in this enterprise. Running his own cocktail consulting business and having just published his first cocktail book, he brings a good level of experience to the table.
There’s a quiet confidence to both his comportment and his cocktails. While Artisan has incorporated some successful trends like small plates, large format drinks (their punch serves four) or bottled cocktails, nothing feels gimmicky or risky. It’s quite simply a well-put together cocktail program that is as nicely balances as Fred’s drinks.
The cocktail menu is expected to change every two weeks. While I feel like that’s rather ambitious and not really necessary, it doesn’t detract from the bar’s appeal either. But due to ever-changing choice, I won’t focus so much on specific drinks I’ve tried (of which there have been several) but more the overall impression. The 8 cocktails remain in the typical price range of 11 to 13 Euros. The menu covers a nice selection of spirits and incorporates high quality, fresh ingredients. Fred neither shies away from dark and bitter ingredients nor intentionally pushes demanding or precious options. Syrups made with such things as yellow beetroot or mulled wine work well in his recipes. In short: cocktails, as they should be.
For more choice, straying from the menu poses no problem. The staff working with Fred have skills and experience to handle these requests. On my first visit, I was happy to see Keltoum at the bar. Considering her training with the Experimental Cocktail Club group and her work that I’d seen while judging the Abuelo cocktail competition, I was comfortable starting off with my standard martini, which was well made.
And, if you want something beyond the (excellent!) olives served alongside the cocktails, move on to the tapas-like menu for a snack or meal. In the kitchen, Vanessa Krycève (who has previously worked with the likes of Pierre Herme, Guy Savoy and Laduree) makes magic happen on small plates with her takes on French classics like country terrines, mushroom veloute, or brandade. And bonus: the kitchen stays open late.
Given its positive reception and the reputations of those involved, Artisan pulls in the food and drinks folks along with a crowd of fashionable, bed-headed and bespectacled locals. There are no reservations so go early evening, mid-week, if you want to snag a seat and get more focused service.
In short: I’m a fan of Artisan.