Ages ago I went to NYC with a friend and we went to some new in spot – the kind of club where you stand outside and the doorman picks and chooses among the hopefuls, granting access to the lucky few. I won’t say just how many ages ago that was, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve stood outside a door waiting for someone else to decide if I was cool enough to give them money. When we buzzed at the locked door of le Magnifique and were told by the doorman that we could not come in, it momentarily took me back to those times. Fortunately they were not being intentionally exclusive. They changed their opening time from 7pm to 8pm, but didn’t update their website. So, an hour later, we had no problem gaining entry through the imposing big black door (still locked during opening hours) of this self-proclaimed Cocktail Club and Sushi Bar. I don’t necessarily think of sushi bars and cocktails as going hand in hand (well, except for that one night in Japan….) However, with a cocktail menu created with input from Colin Field of Hemingway Bar fame, you know from the git-go that someone had some serious cocktail ambition. The menu is vast, including a section of classics at 16 Euros and a section of Colin Field inspired drinks at 20 Euros. My Hendrick’s martini was spot on. The gin selection comprises Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Martin Miller’s (which I’ve not seen in Paris!), Bulldog and Tanqueray 10. Nicky’s Serindipity (Calvados, mint, apple juice, champagne) was refreshing. Wendy, visiting from Seattle, had a Merinquin Fiz (if I remember correctly?) which was topped off with thick egg whites and sprinkled with poppy seeds. A suspiciously hard-shake sounding ‘ticka–ticka–ticka” emanated from the bar area behind us. And, our server he told me they try and keep an eye on seasonal ingredients for the cocktails, which hopefully means fresher and better drinks.
Delicate looking glassware twinkles in the candlelight and dark corners and closed doors flirt suggestively with patrons leaving them to wonder just what this saucy little drinkery might offer. The extremely dim lighting, viewing box at the door, and the overall decor give this relatively large space a serious speakeasy feel. However, gaining entrance is easier than for elusive speakeasys. By simply filling out a form online you can become a “member” of le Magnifique. (which is not necessary to drop by, but apparently puts you on a mailing list for new information about the bar) Another thing I noticed is that for such a large space, they’ve got the music at just the right level so that it doesn’t overpower conversations at your own table, but blocks out the buzz of those around you. I expected something more along the lines of a Costes like playlist, but instead the night we were there, solid classics were playing (think U2). Once a member via the online registration, you can listen to their playlist for yourself on Deezer. A few final things of note: they have a fumoir (smoking area), which you find rarely now that France has gone no smoking and the service was pleasant and accommodating. However, we did wish they would have put out a few little bar snacks to nibble while sipping on 20 Euros cocktails! Le Magnifique is a large and minimalistically plush hideaway for modern day hepcats with dosh to spare. Fortunately, while it seems to take its drinks seriously, it doesn’t take itself too seriously just yet. The only drawback here is that there’s nothing less expensive on the menu for those who might want to check out the space without spending. With softs at 10 Euros and a simple glass of wine at 16 Euros, coming here is a commitment. But as long as they maintain the laid-back attitude of this week’s visit and ‘exclusivity’ remains tongue in cheek, it’s a committment I’m willing to make from time to time.