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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bakara Lounge

Bakara Lounge
61, Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 48 07 17 04

The closest you'll get to a real martini from the Bakara Lounge is their website, which features a prominent photo of a martini complete with appropriate glass and olive. However, their bartender now knows how to make one. Sort of. After explaining to the unconvinced barman what I wanted, I got this with 4 parts gin and one part Martini vermouth.

Definitely in the lower rungs of my martini tests, but regardless of the state of my first round, I always manage to have a good time on Wednesdays.

Bakara Lounge is a large restaurant & bar full of red tones and friendly staff. The many tables and chairs were convenient as we had more people than usual for this week's taste testing and it's a place where it's easy to pack in a slightly larger group. We've been trying to track down some decent happy hour cocktails lately, so I wanted to give their 4.50 Euros/cocktail happy hour (from 5 to 8pm) a try.

Their cocktail menu offers a range of so-so cocktails (Sea Breeze, White Russians, Bloody Mary's, etc) at 6 Euros for non Happy Hour prices. Red Bull fans might enjoy one of their five specialty Red Bull cocktails such as the Bad Bull (Vodka, Amaretto, Pineapple juice & Red Bull). However, one of our group tried to order one of these featured cocktails and they were out of enough of the key ingredient to make it. Perhaps since the legalization of Red Bull in France a year or so ago, there's been on a run on this hyper-caffeinated beverage making it scarce? They suggested substituting Perrier, which - presumably - does not "give you wings", so our friend passed.

Following first orders, most of the group stuck with the mojitos which were of decent quality. Little dishes of peanuts eventually arrived on the table. And, although I didn't try one myself, another member of last night's group is a big fan of caipirinhas and passed a pretty mediocre judgement on those that were served here. We spent a couple of fun hours here chatting and sipping. However, there's just not a lot that would get me back to Bakara anytime soon. The drinks were average to below average and the general quality level pretty typical for Paris. But, in the bar-laden Oberkampf area there are just too many places to choose from and you'd have to have a serious draw to get the crowds away from the multitude of other choices.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Wednesday Cocktail Adventure: Hotel de Sers

Hotel de Sers
41, Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
75008 Paris
Réservations : 01 53 23 75 75

The glowing bar at the svelte and swanky Hotel des Sers beckons as you walk through the long entry way, past trendy arm chairs and off-beat interior decor (think rainbow striped faux animal skin rug & foam boulders). The bar lighting slowly changes color, illuminating the small selection of pretty bottles in green, then red, then blue....while an ironically hip lounge version of the Rolling Stones' Emotional Rescue plays in the background. The marble tables are each adorned with a single Gerber in a simple glass vase. This seems like it could be trendy fun.

However, the first glitch was ordering my martini. I'm always surprised when bars that offer a typical dry martini on their menu seem confused when it's ordered. I managed to get the idea across, but - Martini purists, beware! - my Tanqueray/Nouilly Pratt combo came in a warm rounded, stemless glass and boasted lots of ice and lemon wedges. I had better luck with my second round which was a Summit** (congac, lime, ginger, cucumber & soda). With chunks of ginger and lime, it was spicy, refreshing and enjoyable.

The menu offers up a dozen or so 'short classics' at 16 Euros and about the same number of 'long classics' at 19 Euros. With these kind of prices, I considered the Happy Hour cocktail. However, Rose wine & Grapefruit syrup* at 12 Euros didn't really appeal. The service was very good and they refilled our bar munchies (tasty olives & potato chips) a few time since we (me?) seemed to consume them all in record time each time they arrived on the table.

I don't know what their normal crowd is like, but during our 2 hours there from 7 to 9, the bar was quiet and the few customers seemed to be anglophone business men. So, unless this was an unusual night, I'd say this is a better stop for quiet conversations among friends than a rowdy, loud, buzzing crowd.

Overall, I liked this space but I think on my next visit I might stick with the more reasonable glasses of wine (at 9 Euros) rather than the more expensive cocktails, which don't seem to be a guaranteed sure bet.

*just as a quick update/sidenote. I was in Marseilles this weekend and someone was telling me that a really popular apero down there is rose wine & grapefruit syrup and that the two seem to go really well together. I still didn't try it, but I guess this suggestion at Hotel de Sers isn't coming totally out of the blue.

**another update: I was just reading in the recent issue of Top Drinks (French publication) that the Summit is tapped as one of their top cocktail possibilities for 2009

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