Special Edition: Sublim Eiffel
94 Boulevard Garibaldi
Tel. +33 1 40 65 95 95
Black toilet paper kind of freaks me out. Okay, now that we have that out of the way....
It's August in Paris. And, no one works during August in Paris. However, I seem to be working like a maniac these days, so I'm taking a well deserved week off in the south of France right now. I'm far away from any note-worthy cocktail bars and looking at several days of lounging by the pool, reading some good reads and drinking tasty local wine. That means no Wednesday Cocktail Adventures this week. But, for the entertainment those of you who are not poolside right now, I'm posting on a non-Wednesday visit I made before heading down here. [although I'm fully aware that a 52 martinis post is in no way equivalent to a vacation...if you are working right now, my sincere sympathies because we all need to be MIA from time to time!]
I'm diverging and rambling as only someone in a holiday frame of mind can, so onto the matter at hand: cocktail visits. Last week, I met up with Tara for a quick apero at the Sublim Eiffel. Being on one of my regular routes, I have passed the Sublim's black awning - proclaiming cocktails! - many times and often thought about making a pit stop there. Something about the cheesy neon splashes of their logo against the black canvas backdrop of the awning recall for me the packaging of cheap, glitzy makeup I might have (okay, did) buy as a teen.
Taking a look at their website, the Sublim Eiffel is a "saucy and sophisticated" full service hotel with spa and lounge. Beyond the tacky black awning, the lounge inside is more interesting. It's a small, funky, metallic space with an almost retro-modern feel. Rather than bad makeup, it conjures up memories of late night loft parties in industrial art spaces where the 'cool' people live. Chain mail curtains, neon lights and whimsical metal furniture make for a fun and, yes, in fact I might agree "saucy" look. I particularly enjoyed the table tops covered in multiple square mirrors. After only 1/2 a drink, the barman probably thought Tara and I were both sauced up ourselves as we attempted to capture our dozens of tiny distorted faces reflected on the surface, leaning very close and taking pictures with our noses practically against the table top.
Their hot pink menu features a range of "avants" "pendants" and "apres" (before, during, and afters) for around 4 to 10 Euros. There was nothing really of note here: some typical french aperatifs and digestives and a list of cocktails including the usual caipis, cosmos and vodka based drinks. I asked the nice hot pink tie adorned man behind the bar if he could make me a martini.
After staring blankly for a few moments, he asked me to come up to the bar and show him how to make it. No problem. I explained what I wanted and he seemed suspicious, as if I was just randomly pointing at bottles and asking him to mix them together. Then he realized "Ah! It's the James Bond drink." He poured the Hendricks and Martini into the shaker in my requested proportions, gave the shaker a few swirls and then asked what to do next. I told him to strain it into the martini glass. The glass wasn't chilled and he let the drink sit for about ten minutes while making Tara's americano. So by the time I got it, even with the nice proportions, it was a bit too warm to be super sippable.
Tara's americano was below par. The taste was okay, but there were two dismally small ice cubes bobbing at the top. I looked at it and told her "There's nothing sadder than a cocktail who's lonely little ice cubes are just weeping away into the drink" Those things were gone in minutes leaving her with a warmish and watery Americano.
However, I can't bring myself to be too harsh with our sweet little bar boy ingenue. I don't feel like it's his fault that he doesn't know what he's doing on a serious cocktail level. Clearly, this place is hyper-designed. The proprietors have put a lot of thought into the presentation of the physical space and had a solid idea in designing the bar concept. They just fall short when it came to designing their cocktail concept.
So, their strong point - which has nothing to do with the drinks - is that they have gone out of their way for a really slicked up showfront that still falls within a reasonable budget. (rooms run around 120 - 140 Euros) Lights, mirrors, murals and unconventional touches are all employed to bring you the most eye popping of modern sleeping spaces. The bar bathrooms, not forgotten in this design frenzy, are worth a visit. Unless you have a problem with black toilet paper. I don't know. Is this hip and edgy? Or is it just weird to dry your delicates with something that looks like it should be in Marilyn Manson's house?
If I were the neighboring bar, I'd be looking over at Sublim, snapping my fingers, giving a hip wiggle, cockily shaking my hair and saying "Work it, girl! You work that deco! But, honey, you have got to do something about those cocktails!" Apparently, in my mind, the neighboring bar would be a campy drag queen. And the Sublim is the pretty small town girl who's moved to the big city, put on a cheap and racy, sexy pink dress and still doesn't know quite how to get her makeup right.
Notwithstanding sub-par cocktails, they'll do just fine in Paris if the space alone is enough to please the night-crawling public. There are not a lot of seriously demanding cocktail drinkers, so most people will probably stumble across this offbeat little bar and be perfectly happy with their pretty pink potions. While I won't go back for cocktails, I did find myself strangely partial to it, so I'd possibly drop in for something else.