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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Paris

I know, I know - Paris isn't technically in London, but if you have a good night out in King's Cross and get on the wrong train home then you'll be there in no time. I headed straight from work and met my host for the weekend, Tim "I'm actuary an actuary!" Henshaw, at Gare du Nord on Friday evening at 21:47. Tim has been eager to get involved in The List and we had a few planning sessions on Facebook throughout the week. A lot of thanks also has to go to Bar Chick and Timeout for their interesting bar suggestions. Will anyone make it through to the end of this epic post? There'll be a quiz.

Day 1 - Friday 22nd March - I dropped my stuff off and headed straight out with Tim and Shannon (An American in Paris) to visit a couple of their favourite odd places. First up was The Frog and Rosbif - one of five English microbrewery pubs in Paris serving up a range of amusingly named beers plus some interesting beer cocktails. Then we headed over the river to pop in to a really silly bar called Le Carré in Saint-Michel which is vaguely Star Wars themed - by that I mean they have put up three Star Wars posters, and named 5 of their drinks after Star Wars characters. We went for 3 shots of Yoda Is My Master and then left as quickly as possible! They do run retro gaming evenings which could be fun.  Head down the road to find a Sushi restaurant with a door that only hobbits can fit through.  We finished off our evening at The Lizard Lounge (sans Shannah Montana) - head downstairs to the cave bar for some amateur DJ entertainment. Tim ended up running the music for 10 minutes while the DJ went outside for a cigarette! We called it a night and went home to plan for the big day.


Day 2 - Saturday 23rd March - After an enormous "Turbichoc" pastry from Atelier Hure next to Tim's flat, we headed to Cave à Bulles - a specialist beer shop down the road from Dans Le Noir (a pitch black dining experience that has restaurants around the world, including one in London) near Rambuteau Metro. Cave à Bulles stands out because they brew their own beer in front of you.  The owner is also extremely knowledgeable and entertaining - he recommended us a low percentage beer to drink over breakfast, prior to telling us to get control of our hop addiction before we ended up running a hop shop like he does to fund his hoppy lifestyle. We bought a few bottles, including a cheeky breakfast beer, and headed back to the flat to fine tune our  day plan with Shannel Islands, who had joined us there with more pastries. First up was a pizza place called Grazie that turns into a cocktail bar in the evening with an exciting drinks menu masterminded by the mysterious pair of Oscar Q and Franck C.

Cave a Bulles
Turbichoc Pastry and Grazie
It was already extremely busy by 12.30 but we managed to grab three seats at the bar, giving us full access to the informative and friendly bartender Cyril. The pizzas are ridiculous - I don't think I've ever had one this tall! Thankfully they tasted as good as they looked.  We washed them down with a very refreshing beer called Loirette Touraine. Sadly we never made it back for cocktails - I particularly want to try the one entitled "Speakeasy" for obvious reasons, along with the "Suffering Bastard". The "Infused Negroni" made with walnut-infused gin and artichoke-soaked Campari also sounds great. I would book a table next time to be sure of a seat.


 
Next on La Liste were two different beer places. First we went to Académie de la Bière (near Port Royal RER or Raspail Metro) - a Belgian bar and restaurant serving a wide range of deadly draught beers (and beer cocktails) with a generous happy hour from 15.30-19.30. Here we introduced Shango Unchained to our favourite card game Big 2 (otherwise known as Presidents) to pass the time. We like to keep track of who is winning and losing (President or Bum?) by wearing a particular hat which you will see in some photos later on.  We moved swiftly on to the fantastic beer bar, La Fine Mousse.

 
Here we added some more Americans (Rawn, Sarah and Cameron) to the Big 2 game. Rawn blew our  tiny little English minds by giving away the best card of the game to Shannibal on purpose - he was President one round later. Every beer was delicious and great value - the setup reminds me slightly of the wonderful Euston Tap although it is nowhere near as cramped! It was very tempting to stay til closing (they serve from 17.00-02.00 every day) but we decided to press on to a few more standard List-style hidden bars in the Oberkampf/Republique area. We gained British Bill and Aussie Mike at this stage. Candelaria was our next stop - walk through a very ordinary looking taco bar and push on the unmarked door at the back and you are rewarded with a brilliant, atmospheric cocktail bar.  Tim and I went for their two special cocktails - one spicy, one smokey, both exceptional.  Bill and Mike stayed manly and had a bottle of Sol. It is also worth having a plate of their guacamole and tortilla chips. It looks like you can book on their website which is necessary if you want a table.

Can you spot the door?
 
We lost all of our Americans except for Shanna Karenina but kept Bill and Mike for two more bars. Next up was Little Red Door - Mike warned us that it could be hard to get in, so we called ahead to give ourselves more of a chance.  It is again unmarked so look out for the little red door set back from the street guarded by a giant bouncer (this slightly ruins the look of the entrance sadly!) - warning: the red door is not a door, the wall is the door, obviously. Mike talked the bouncer into letting us in and we packed inside for a quick drink. The atmosphere isn't as relaxed as Candelaria but if you book ahead then I'm sure you'll have a great evening. Their signature cocktails are €13-14 - pretty standard in Paris for the good stuff. Bill and Mike scrapped their manly image by ordering champagne cocktails.  


Don't mess with Tim
 
At this point we were joined by two Frenchies - Vahé and Simon. We tried and failed to get in to Andy Wahloo (run by the people behind Momo and Sketch in London) so we had to skip straight on to Experimental Cocktail Club - these guys have a place in London but also own Curio Parlour and Prescription Cocktail Club in Paris.  Tim made the basic error of not saying "Bonsoir" to the bouncer who then blanked him and talked to someone else - not quite as funny as the reverse situation I had the week before when Sam managed to get a bouncer at Kokos to say please to him.  Inside we met our favourite bartender of the weekend, Pierre - "I am French, I am a barman - I must be called Pierre!". We instructed him to make us whatever he wanted (except for Bill who, having completely given up on pretending to like beer, ordered a glass of champagne - to his credit, he did refuse a strawberry garnish).


 
Pierre whipped up lots of inventive cocktails for us, tempting us in to a second round (when we were joined by another Brit abroad, Polly). He was also very generous, giving me a free taster of some Velvet Falernum and Fernet Branca, and making Polly a new drink when she wasn't convinced by one of his creations. If you told him to make you a drink with anything except gin, then he would make you one with gin on purpose to change your mind. We also had the first of several flaming cocktails that evening - it never gets old! We eventually dragged ourselves away, losing Bill and Mike in the process, and we headed over to Le Ballroom Du Beef - a secret, underground bar beneath The Beef Club restaurant near Les Halles, again run by ECC. The entrance is outside the restaurant - look for an unmarked black door, probably being patrolled by a doorman (these guys really ruin the excitement of finding somewhere hidden!). Tim talked his way in by claiming that we had been here a few times before, and that we didn't need to sit down.




I joined Tim at the bar to find the bartender jumping up and down like a madman. "Did you do that, Tim?", I asked. "I think so - I just asked him to make 6 cocktails of whatever he wanted and he started jumping around with joy!". More flames and an absinthe mojito came our away amongst other drinks.  The atmosphere was fantastic - it's a fairly big venue for an underground bar and it was still completely packed so turn up early or be prepared to be turned away.



To complete our night we headed over to Le Fumoir - a relaxed restaurant bar where Shandbags knew the barman and a secret cocktail code! Ask for Le Dernier Métro (a Truffaut film title) and you are rewarded with a special drink.  He even gave us a few of them on the house which my wallet was very relieved about. They have happy hours from 18.00-20.00 and seem to take their Martinis very seriously. We said goodbye to Vahé, Simon and Polly and headed off in search of some crepes. For some reason, we found ourselves back at ECC where Tim's favourite bouncer greeted us with "Re-bonsoir!".

Stay!
Don't Go!
So wonewy
Pierre made us three final drinks which he described as a "descent into hell" ending with a potent Mezcal-based cocktail.  After a bizarre accidental camera-flash battle with a couple across the room, we headed off for a second crepe and some sleep. Douze points to Tim and Shanana for a top effort all day.


Day 3 - Sunday 24th March - We obviously didn't wake up too early but luckily it was still brunch o'clock so we headed straight for Breakfast in America - an American Diner in Paris serving up massive portions of bacon, eggs, pancakes etc with bottomless coffee and tasty milkshakes (go for the Oreo or Obama variations). We entertained ourselves with some more Big 2 in the queue - get there as early as you can to avoid a big wait.  The food was exactly what we needed and we particularly liked the fact that every table gets its own personal toaster! For a hearty meal, order CC's Big Mess and bring your expandable trousers.



Shansel (not Gretel) finally headed home to do some work (there were tears) after brunch so Tim and I made some more plans to visit some bars around Rambuteau and Bastille without her. First up was Mary Celeste (run by the Candelaria team) - an oyster/cocktail bar with Brooklyn beer on tap.  Head here for €1 oysters during their happy hour from 17.00-19.00.  We went for the tasty Brooklyn EIPA after too many cocktails the day before, but I'm sure they are excellent based on the Candelaria creations.  The free Mary Celeste postcard that comes with your bill is a nice touch.


We headed over Bastille way to try out Tape (a graffiti bar) and L'Entre Potes (a basement bar with quirky décor) but both were shut - it was a Sunday but Timeout did lead us to believe they would both be open. Shan Solo rejoined us sooner than we expected for a couple more drinks after giving up on her work due to a faulty computer and an unhealthy addiction to Big 2. Next we had some very ordinary beer in Bottle Shop - head there in happy hour for extremely cheap drinks.

Bum Wig - Trainers in Washing Machines - President Hat
Then we came to Bar 138 - a relaxed place with shabby chic décor and cheerful staff.  This is the kind of place you could spend the whole day in, especially with happy hour til 9 and food served til late as well. Shananarama abandoned us again at this point leaving us playing cards on our own.

Buddha the Bum
We headed over to Red House, another unmarked cocktail bar.  The drinks here are superb and we were very sad to have just missed happy hour. Thanks to the barman for getting us the last plate of nachos and giving me a taster of their Earl Grey syrup.



Finally, we went to try out Sherry Butt (guess what - unmarked door) after a strong recommendation from Pierre - he is definitely a big fan as we found him drinking at the end of the bar.  It was very empty as it was nearing the end of a Sunday night but the quality of the drinks was still there.  They offer Whiskey flights (try a few whiskeys from different countries) alongside an exciting cocktail list.  The barman was very engaging and gave us some tasters of pine nut syrup, byrrh and chicha morada after we asked about them. They are clearly very serious about their cocktails, keeping all of their glasses refrigerated between 3 and 4 degrees.


I think either everything was shutting or we ran out of money but we decided to stop there, go home to eat pasta and pesto, and watch some Green Wing.  As an added bonus, Shannover turned up for a final game of Big 2 to end the weekend perfectly.  An enormous performance from Tim and (George Frideric) Shandel has seen them rocket towards to the top of Team List with 17 and 15 visits respectively - Natalie is now floundering on 9 (Feast only counts as one!). Thanks also to Vahé and Simon (quatre points), Bill, Mike and Polly (trois points), and Rawn, Cameron and Sarah (deux points) for keeping us going on Day 2.

Quiz Time - can you name every variation on Shannon's name that is used throughout the blog? 

The winner gets mentioned on the next post and on twitter, and (if we ever meet) can have a sticker. Post your answer as a comment, tweet, facebook message, text etc.  Runners up might get stickers too. I have so many stickers. Bonus extra special sticker goes to anyone that comes up with a funnier one!

Please also leave comments if you have been to some other great places in Paris - Tim and Shannon would love to know about them!

3 comments:

  1. Matt! I love this blog! I love this post! I have bookmarked it extremely hard for whenever I go back to Paris! Exclamation points!!!

    Keep living the dream man, I'll see you on Triptease.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Mark, living the dream is expensive! Loving Triptease, much more communcation going on there - no one leaves comments on this blog!

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