Two Nights In Paris…
When hotel Le Bristol invited a group of journalists and bloggers over to Paris for two nights (and days!) of cocktail drinking and fine dining…well, it would be rude not to. Guest journalist Amy Golding reports on the experience.
Only in Paris have I ever drunk a cocktail from a conch. Since the Experimental Cocktail Club took on the mission of reviving the city’s cocktail scene some years ago, speakeasy-inspired bars have been springing up across France’s capital, confidently putting it back on the cocktail map. And so, because of this, when invited on a Paris bar trail by Maxime Hoerth, the head barman at palace-status hotel Le Bristol, I was sure to quickly accept the offer.
After whizzing over from London to Paris on the Eurostar, with a group of other journalists and bloggers, the first stop was the hotel itself. Here we checked into our luxurious suites, and met resident glamour-puss Faron, a white Persian cat as beautiful as Le Bristol’s marble entrance and spiralled staircases.
Shortly after arriving, we were then greeted by the quietly confident 27-year-old Maixme – a recent winner of the Best Barman and Craftsman in France. He was keen to showcase his favourite drinking spots in town, and how the hotel’s year-old Le Bar du Bristol is now matching up. The trip also coincided with the recent announcement of his collaboration with La Maison du Chocolat, and the coming launch of a new range of cocktail-inspired chocolates this summer. Yummy.
First stop on his tour was the Mary Celeste, a relaxed, light-hearted hangout, with brightly coloured stained-glass windows and an octagonal central bar.
It also has a tapas menu as notable as its drinks. Served by waiters in denim aprons, I drank the tastiest of cocktails, an El Curado – a mix of mescal, pineapple and lime (among other things). This was then, perhaps too swiftly, followed by a Marquee Moon, made from gin, lemon, vanilla syrup and pear cider.
Following an evening of delicious drinks, and feeling slightly lightheaded, we all returned to hotel for a good night’s sleep ahead of our second day and night of cocktail sampling.
To kick-start day two we were treated to a fantastic lunch in the hotel’s Le Jardin Francais restaurant, where I ate a mouth-watering and beautifully dressed plate of seared Carpaccio of tuna, followed by a gold-leaf-decorated raspberry tart.
We then headed to the boutique and charming Jefrey’s bar, a dimly lit establishment, tucked away on the same quiet and cobbled alley as the ECC. It was here that I encountered the delightful cocktail-filled conch. Similar to Mary Celeste, this unassuming yet alluring find is a perfect place to spend hours of an evening swallowing down fabulous drinks and side plates.
For the spirits connoisseurs among us, upstairs, in an antique cabinet and surrounded by worn leather sofas and soft lighting, the bar also displays an eclectic collection of unusual spirits. Next to the bottles are handwritten notes stating the names of the customers who have purchased them – a simple and thoughtful personal touch applied by many of the top bars in Paris for their customers.
After Jefery’s, we returned to Maxime’s own stomping ground of the glamorous Le Bar du Bristol – which he’s hoping to firmly position on the Parisian cocktail map. Although this hotel bar might have carefully timed its arrival onto Paris’s cocktail scene, it has carefully avoided the obvious temptation to style itself on a speakeasy. Instead it has favoured a classical décor of rich tapestries, original oil paintings and handpicked antiques, much more suited to it. After all, this is the bar of an elite hotel, recently awarded its fourth Michelin star thanks to the superb efforts of chefs Eric Desbordes and Eric Frechon.
Similarly, Maxime isn’t trying to follow current cocktail-menu trends either. Instead his focus is on the classics – rather bravely putting imaginative twists on the most famous of cocktails. Due to this, the bar is quickly becoming known for its take on the Old Fashioned, one of the oldest, and most revered of cocktails.
To celebrate it, each season Maxime creates a new and inventive version. Currently he’s on number five. And as one replaces another on the menu, a back catalogue of unique Old Fashioneds grows. But for customers who have fallen in love with a previous recipe, Maxime makes sure they can always return to it. As he says, if it is good enough for them to remember, he’ll make sure they can find it.
But my favourite of the night was the 365 – a limited edition cocktail created for the bar’s first birthday. Decorated with a peacock feather, ingredients include wildflower honey syrup (from the first batch of honey produced by Le Bristol’s own hives, no less), walnut bitters and champagne.
The travesty is that only 365 of these delightful limited edition cocktails will ever be made, and mine was number 361. So I had three! Drinks were served with tapas prepared to the hotel’s Michelin-starred standard, and colourful macaroons. With that, I was off to bed, to sleep off another night of fine cocktails, made by the crème del la crème of Paris’ barmen.
Luckily for me, there are not many places in Paris better than Le Bristol to wake up with a hangover. To ease our self-induced pain, we ended our stay with lunch at the hotel’s Michelin-stared restaurant, 114 Faubourg. The menu included a starter of king crab eggs, with ginger and lemon mayonnaise, a main of roasted scallops, with green lentils and black truffles, and a dessert of vanilla Bourbon millefeuille, accompanied by salted butter caramel. And with that my headache was cured.
FashionBite was a guest of Le Bristol Paris. For more information, visit their website www.lebristolparis.com.