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Friday, May 1, 2009

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: le Tarmac

Le Tarmac
33 rue de Lyon
Paris 12ème
Tél : 01 43 41 97 70

Is Big Brother watching us? Even while we're drinking cocktails?

When I arrived at le Tarmac and found Ritu already there, she showed me her receipt for her monthly metro pass. She pointed out that the receipt shows the activity for this month and last month and felt it is a bit "big brother" to have all of her movements recorded. I agreed, but we both conceded that there is probably much more information about our private lives "out there" and accessible to others. But, onto more important matters at hand, I asked the barman if he could make a "dry martini." He said of course and moments later came back with a long glass, filled with plenty of ice, a lemon chunk and liquid that had a slight yellow tinge. He left. I suspiciously sipped. Ritu could tell from my facial expression alone after that first sip that I was not loving my 'martini' and I told her it was nothing but a glass full of dry vermouth. A few minutes later the barman returned to our table and asked me if there was something wrong with my martini. Now the bartender was nowhere nearby when I tasted, my back was him so he couldn't see my expression, we weren't speaking loudly and there were plenty of other people thronged around the bar to prevent the drifting of my conversation to his ears. Were the tables bugged? Was big brother really watching?

Fear not, 52 martinis readers! As far as I know Parisian bars are not wired. A waitress had seen my expression when I took the first drink and went to the tell the barman that it didn't look like I had gotten what I expected. I explained to the very nice and accommodating gentleman that I had wanted dry vermouth and gin mixed together. This is the point where he tells me that they do not have dry vermouth. (now, remember, I am drinking a glass of nothing but dry vermouth.) I explain to him that the stuff in that bottled labeled Martini is in fact vermouth. I find this funny, because this is the 3rd bar in Paris where I've had this exact same conversation with the bartender.

Matt and Violaine arrived and ordered off the menu, which offers a dozen or so cocktails such as margaritas, bloody marys and americanos at 6 - 9 Euros. Matt had a daiquiri, Violaine a mojito and I had a margarita for my 2nd round. While none of these very average drinks dazzled, we were impressed by the friendly and helpful service. And, fortunately, it was happy hour, so the drinks turned out to be only 3 - 4 Euros each. The bar munchies are little plates of snacky crackers and dried fruit. They also do tapas plates at 2 - 3 Euros, so we ordered a few of these, which ranged from fine to good.

The atmosphere at le Tarmac is brightly lit and clean. Matt commented that the decor felt a bit cheap and I have to agree. In a nod to the name, pictures of airplanes adorned the walls. However, I'm not sure what the pictures of the double decker bus or the bunch of bananas are a nod to. I do like a bar with a terrace, so they have that going for them. Overall, this place should be a hit with a younger crowd who are swayed more by happy hour prices than high end cocktails. But, just so Big Brother knows, I probably won't be going back there anytime soon.

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Wednesday Cocktail Adventures Part II: 4 Elements

4 Elements
149, Rue Amelot
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 47 00 34 11

In search of something positive from last Wednesday's Cocktail Adventures, I'm posting on our follow up bar to Hotel du Nord. After our hasty and coerced departure, we followed Jodie to a place recently opened by friends of hers.

Not surprisingly, considering one of our group knows the owners, the atmosphere at 4 Elements was more welcoming and the bar staff friendlier. Even better - they seemed to be upbeat and friendly with all of the clientele, friends or not. The deco at 4 Elements is affordable-modern stippled with brightly colored illuminated plastic bits and pieces & video screens. I had a potently drinkable ti punch. While not the best of the cocktails I've sampled in Paris, their drinks are acceptable and affordable at 8 - 9 Euros/drink. In addition to the drinks, 4 Elements has a few offerings which might be of interest to Parisian barflys.

The concept here is - not surprisingly - the four elements. We were given a tour of the place and shown each section corresponding with an element. "Fire" is represented by the main part of the bar, where DJ's play different types of music each night, hot dogs are occasionally served (but not this night), and a small bar is lined with what appeared to be friendly regulars. Presumably things get hot here. Beyond the bar, you enter a calm, cool and quiet room with comfy chairs with a spot to rest your drink. This is the "Earth" space and serves as their "chill out" room. If this bar got a bit too hectic, I'd happily kick back in this space and enjoy the zen atmosphere. Water was represented by the restrooms, but the only really outstanding part about this "element" was the communal wash basin. And, finally, which may be of some interest to a few, we checked out "Air." Since the smoking ban, 4 Elements is one of the few bars in Paris which has an actual authorized indoor smoking area. This small space is decorated in light blues and invokes a bit of a fairy tale feeling. For a smoking space, it wasn't overwhelmingly smokey, however with only a handful of people in there, it was hard to know what it's like when it gets busier.

Overall, the drinks were average at around 8 - 9 Euros a piece. However, the chill out space & the smoking area do give 4 Elements a bit of a something extra over the average Paris bar. If you're thinking about stopping by, you might want to check out what music night it is beforehand. I probably wouldn't make a trip back here for just the drinks, but I think this nice bunch deserves a shout out for their interesting concept and friendly vibe.

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