19, Chaussée de la Muette
This one’s too warm. This one’s too big. Sometimes I feel like the Goldilocks of martinis. Except I’m not blond and hopefully I won’t be mauled by a family of angry bears as a result of my drinking habits. And, unfortunately, there was definitely nothing “just right” about La Gare’s martini.
The old Passy La Muette train station in Paris serves as the location for the appropriately named “La Gare” (which means train station.) Two things made me think this place might be suspect from the get go: their website proclaiming they were voted “most trendy” restaurant of 2008 and the fact they had recently been bought out by a large corporate group. But, nevertheless, I soldier on. I enjoy eating and drinking spots that have been converted from different types of venues. This transformation has resulted in an immense dining area on the lower level with artfully lit tables and a friendly, upbeat noisy hum of chatting dinners and sprinting waiters. However, the sheer number of tables was overwhelming to me from a dining standpoint. No matter – my destination was the bar.
The dimly lit bar area with its many low tables and booths is rescued from claustrophobia by the comfortably high ceilings. We sat at the small bar facing a featured bottle of Bombay gin encased in a clear plastic cube lit with tiny white/blue fairy lights, which mildly reminded me of kitschy religious artwork such as neon lit sculptures of Jesus or the virgin Mary found in Mexican flea markets. I ordered the usual and got a large measure of Gordons shaken with much too much dry Martini vermouth. The – now infamous – large Parisian plastic martini straw joined several sizable chunks of lime in my cocktail. After fishing out the unnecessary citrus, my first taste was disappointingly warm and poorly balanced. At any price, this was a bad martini. At 13 Euros, this was a total disappointment. I used it to wash down several baskets of blue potato chips. Matt washed his chips down with a watery cosmopolitan.
For our second round, he and I ordered the Cocktail Station (Grey Goose, Dekuyper Passion Strawberry Schnapps and grenadine) and La Gare (Bombay Sapphire, citrus and cranberry juice and 7 up) respectively. I didn’t love either of these decent sized cocktails, so gave up the Cocktail Station to Matt who thought it was the better of the two. The winners for the evening were our friends who simply ordered a glass of white wine and a whiskey. With prices appropriate to a bar like this (9 Euros for a shot of Jameson), they could enjoy the relaxed atmosphere without unexpected disappointment.
The prices, overall, seem in line for this type of bar. Pints are served up at 8.50 Euros and non alcoholic drinks are 5 to 6 Euros. The 5:30 to 7:30 happy hour gives customers a two for one option on a limited selection of drinks. The menu features several mojito variations, although none of us tried any of them. The terrace looks like potential summer fun. And, for drinkers who are more concerned about who’s pouring the cocktails rather than what they are pouring, this is a fine spot. As Matt pointed out, the bartender was exceptionally cute (and also friendly). As with many places I try, I’m not saying I won’t go back. But, I definitely wouldn’t go back for a martini.