20, rue vignon
I’m in awe of technology and how it has altered our perception of time and space in such a short span. I’m also aware of what the Internet has brought to global cocktail culture: a larger more accessible pool of collective information meaning a quicker trickle-down effect from cosmopolitan cities and cocktail gurus to all corners of the world. Now, the recently opened Touch’in Paris is further capitalizing on the combination of cocktails and computers by taking the iPad-as-menu concept one step further with tactile table tops. So, I stopped into the city’s latest concept bar to see if techno-tipples are the way forward.
I arrived at this Madeleine area address to find a bistro more traditional than technological and wondered if I had been misinformed, until I was directed to the bar downstairs. What I expected to be a blinged out and buzzing arcade of gimmicky gadgets and flashing lights, turned out to be a much more appealing understated mix of old and new with sleek tabletops glowing in dim lighting beneath a vaulted stone ceiling. The barman gave me an introduction to the tactile screens, but my first technological glitch was the absence of a martini on the menu. So, I reverted back to old-fashioned ordering. As I sipped a nicely made Noilly Prat/Tanqueray 10 martini stirred and with a twist, I explored the electronic options.
These new-fangled tables do more than just offer cocktail options. Customers can play games, order cabs, call for a barman or connect to Facebook. (Apparently – I didn’t have much luck with this option) Languages are available in both French and English, which is handy for timid travellers. You’ll spend 12 Euros for the pleasure of sliding a drink from one of the four categories into the order line.
“Tendence” cocktails offer choices like the Porn Star martini and Zombie; “Ladies’ Drinks” offer four sweet, fruit or light options; “Old School” includes variations on the likes of juleps, side cars, or horse’s necks and the “Inclassable” suggest creations like the Ballade en Provence with its “mystery ingredients.” It looks like they are incorporating a lot of fresh ingredients into the mix and not shying away from a variety of base ingredients or interesting additions, which makes it seem as if they are trying to develop a menu that can stand on its own without relying solely on the concept to attract clients. Gin selection is rather slim with Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray 10 and Beefeater on hand. But, with a total of 17 choices of catchy names and classic variations, Touch’in will have enough options for the majority of customers to find a viable option. My gut reaction is that they will pull in a crowd of more concept curious than cocktail connoisseurs.
The touch screens do bring a couple of advantages to the experience. Presumably they mean a first ordered, first served policy as orders go directly to the bar once completed. So, no milling about trying to catch the staff’s attention. And, the connectivity they provide for information and cabs could be useful considering I was getting no reception on my iPhone. But for this modern technology to really bring something “to the table,” I think more could be done. A “build your own drink” option allowing for selection of spirits, preparation and proportions would appeal to those who want to be a bit more specific about what’s going into their glass. Also, adding more beyond just French and English options could help in breaking down language barriers. And speaking of breaking down barriers, the ability to message other tables (as was already instated by Lo Sushi ages ago) for a bit of geeky flirting could be fun. And, finally the piece de resistance would be a system of payment that could be made directly at the table.
I applaud Touch’in for trying to stay ahead of the curve and I dig that it’s hidden beneath the more traditional bistro. Also, the bars I enjoy in this neighborhood (le Forum, L’Etage, Baudelaire, …) are all on the pricier side. So, this is a good option for something more reasonably priced but still drinkable in the area. But, while the drinks are decent and the service and decor quite nice, the tactile novelty isn’t enough for me to make this a regular destination personally. But, if this is your thing, go for it. In the meantime, I’ll just be waiting for the machines take over the world. And, when they do, I hope they can make a good martini.