43 avenue Bugeaud
Tel: 01 44 05 81 81
Tucked discretely away in the quiet 16th, the insouciantly elegant Hotel Saint James radiates cheeky chic thanks to a makeover a la Bambi Sloan who manages to marry the traditional with the trendy in its bold and breathtaking decor. In addition to being a dreamy spot to lay your head for a night or two, this hotel and private club features two very different and drop dead gorge drinking spaces: the library and the terrace. This summer has been a bit hit and miss weather-wise in Paris, so when the blue skies broke through, I made a beeline for the fairytale-like terrace for a bit of al fresco imbibing.
While waiting for Matt, Vio, Mel and Thibault, I gave the drinks menu the once over. It begins with 15 mojito variations including a USA mojito made with bourbon. Otherwise, one can choose from somewhat pedestrian ‘classics’ like cosmos and sex on the beach or – possibly more appropriate in this setting – a dozen or so champagne cocktails. They also invite you to ‘ask the barman for your classic cocktail of choice’, which I did. Unfortunately, my martini was a wash. It was served warm, with sweet vermouth and over-enthusiastically boasting a twist, an olive and a straw.
The others were more successful in their orders of caipis or mojito variations which were iced up and refreshing and a good choice for some summer sipping if that type of drink is your thing. Based on their limited spirits selection and uninspired ‘classics’ offerings, they seem to sway towards the fruity summer drinks and focus on pleasing the mojito crowd, but fall a bit short when it comes to the classic cocktail capabilities.
Service was friendly enough, cocktail nibbles were replenished regularly and the surroundings are undoubtedly luxe. Yet, even so, at 18 – 25 Euros a drink, I’d love to see a tiny bit more attention paid to the classics and ingredients. That said, I am quite simply enamoured with this place. So much so that I briefly flirted with becoming a member. Apparently, benefits include preferential booking policies, exclusive access to club events and entry to a network of some 200+ private clubs worldwide…for a price. But, if you’re not flush enough to enjoy the privileges of membership, non-members can still stop into both the bar or restaurant from 19h00 onwards in the evenings.
While it’s unlikely I’ll order another martini at the Saint James, I will surely return. In summer months, I’ll partake in its delicately feminine side on the terrace with a girlfriend or two, a (surprisingly reasonably priced) bottle of wine and a cheese plate. When winter rolls around I’ll indluge in its more masculine side and while away a chilly evening in the splendid library bar with something straight and strong (and I am still talking about the drinks.)