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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures Part I: Hotel du Nord

Hotel du Nord
102, Quai de Jemmapes
75010 Paris
Tel : 01 40 40 78 78

I hate writing negative reviews. But, I hate arsey bartenders even more.

Hotel du Nord seemed to have potential. Renovated not long ago and located on the Canal St Martin, it's a pleasant little locale that has managed to squeeze a few tables out front to create a small sidewalk terrace. Inside you'll find a large restaurant area and a nice looking bar with a few tables for drinks. We arrived around 7 and the server who took our drink orders was friendly, pleasant and chatty. No complaints so far. Their cocktail menu offers up a selection of about 15 to 20 cocktails at around 8 or 9 Euros. Seeing the dirty martini listed, I asked the server if I could have a traditional martini with just the gin and vermouth. "Of course!" he says.

At around 10 minutes to 8:00 our drinks arrived. (yes, that means we were sitting at the table for almost an hour before the drinks came). Visually, my cloudy, ice filled cocktail in a snifter did not appear to be a dry martini. One taste confirmed my eyeballs' suspicion. Wondering what I had been served, I went up to the bar and asked what was in my martini. The bartender told me it was a litchitini, with vodka and litchi syrup. I explained I had asked for a regular martini. At this point, he began scolding me for not ordering off the menu! I was a bit surprised. I (pretty nicely) explained, that I had asked the server for something particular, he said "of course", 50 minutes later I got something else, so it didn't seem to be entirely out of the realm of possibilities that I might ask what I got in lieu of my actual order. Over his grumbling, winging, whining and complaining, I said I didn't realize it was a strictly "order off the menu" bar. I told him not to worry about changing, that this was fine and I'd drink what I'd been given. He then started yelling at the server across the bar, for the handful of clients to hear, that he should take better orders.

As I returned to my table with my super sweet litchitini in hand, he started calling after me loudly that if I wanted a different drink I had to stop drinking the one I was holding. I told him (again) not to bother. The manager (or owner?) had seen this and came over and said my litchi martini would be 4 euros instead of 8. He then asked us to pay up immediately because they needed this table for the restaurant. We finished our round of cocktails, which were all fine but not outstanding. The bartender seems to have a grasp on how to make the drinks on their list, but overall favors form over function. His drinks are visually impressive enough - not outstanding, but just enough - so that less demanding cocktail drinkers might be convinced they are getting better drinks than they really are.

Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he was tired. Maybe his girlfriend just dumped him. (and if not, maybe she should) But, as much as I wanted to like the Hotel du Nord, the bartender left a bad taste in my mouth - figuratively & literally.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wedensday Cocktail Adventure: Baxo

21, rue Juliette Dodu
75010 Paris
01 42 02 99 71

Baxo does not stock any gin. I think that means we pretty much know where this post is going already.

In anticipation of sunny skies and warm evenings, I'm on the hunt for lovely little terraces where I can enjoy my tipples! Having read on their website that they have a terrace, I made this my latest visit. The website version and the real version of this place are not exactly mirror images. Looking online I thought it might be a bit too loungey-chi-chi-neon-glam for my taste. But it also looked sort of cool and I figured - hey! - it might be even better in real life. It's not.

In the light of day, the clear plastic wanna be stylish orange chairs look cheapish and potentially not very sturdy. The handful of tables on the sidewalk in front of the Baxo looked uninviting and cold. The menu features only vodka, rum & tequila based cocktails at around 8 Euros each.

I ordered the closest thing they had to my standard martini and got a dirty vodka martini off the menu. I was afraid to deviate from the menu because this place already struck me as a spot where the bartenders weren't going too be too apt with free-styling things. And, I got the worst cocktail of my life. The warm and vile concoction was served in a martini glass complete with two little chips on the lip and finished off with the famous Paris plastic martini straw - even getting excessive and putting in two! WAY too much olive juice. I have no idea who might order this and enjoy it. Granted, I don't usually order dirty martinis, so just maybe they are supposed to taste this way. (In which case, those of you who DO order them are crazy!) My two drinking partners for the night simply stuck with a glass of wine - one red, the other white. Neither raved about that, either, but, at 4 Euros a glass, there was slightly less financial damage done there.

Seriously, I like to remain positive, but the only good thing I can come up with for this place was the bartender was kind of nice and gave me directions to get to the nearest taxi stand where I could get to a dinner date and eat something to get the taste of that horrid drink out of my mouth!

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