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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Cocktail Adventures: La Cigale

Cafe La Cigale
124, boulevard Rochechouart
Paris 75018
+33. 1 55 79 10 10

I love my neighborhood: a few steps to the left of my front door is the perpetually white Sacre Coeur and a few steps to the right lies the seedy strip of Pigalle. While this juxtaposition sates my craving for both typically touristy Paris as well a bit of city-underbelly, it's not the finest area for cocktailing. So, I was looking forward to trying the nearby and relatively new Café Cigale with Kim of I Heart Paris and usual Wednesday company, Matt, Vio & Mel.

I was curious to see how formidable Paris names such as Starck and Costes would handle this NoPi venture. (still not sure I'm on board with the trend of NY-style naming of Parisian neighborhoods, but anyway....) This self-proclaimed rock pub is flanked by music venue la Cigale and the lively and well-established cafe, La Fourmi.

I didn't immediately warm to the space. The high ceilings made it feel empty, the post-industrial decor made it feel cold, the chalked-up walls made it feel wannabe-edgy and the hard wooden chairs made it feel uncomfortable. I am, however, a sucker for the dining nooks along the wall, which were a warm respite in an otherwise, hard and cool environment.

Café Cigale is unwilling to stray off menu for drinks, leaving clients with a choice of 13 or so mainly vodka based house creations at 10 to 12 Euros each. Without my option of the usual martini, I took one of two gin-based drinks on offer, the Mr (rum, raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants and ginger ale.) While I can see how it would appeal to a certain crowd, it lacked the finesse of a finely tuned cocktail. These drinks will appeal to a crowd that likes their mixed drinks fruit forward and spirit subtle (and if that's your stick - and I won't hold it against you if it is- go give 'em a sip) Mel had an Amour (vodka, ginger, apple juice and red fruits) which came with the shaker alongside for top ups.

They seem to excel at those little touches meant to impress. I followed my Mr with a rum and coke which was delivered 'deconstructed' with the coke in a pretty glass pitcher. Amongst us we only tried a few of the cocktails and agreed that they were only impressive in terms of size and strength by Paris standards. Spirits seems to be limited with 1 - 3 choices in each category (e.g. Gordon's and Tanqueray Gin) No one ventured the eponymous Cigale with energy drink as one of the ingredients. (energy drink cocktail….sigh....)

One sure thing they have going on is the large terrace. Maybe the best way to enjoy this space is to hit it in sunny weather for a beer and a bite from their small but nice-looking brunch, light snack or full course menu.

We, on the other hand, decided to move on to SoPi for beer and wine consumption at the nearby Sans Souci where a heaving mass of regulars spills out onto the streets and doesn’t bother with cocktails at this neighborhood bar lacking airs and pretention. And, that’s basically the type of bar that I find works in my neighborhood: laid-back locals. Yet I won’t give up the search for excellent cocktails on my doorstep!

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Anonymous Sweet Freak said...

I think your post hit it on the head: while I'm thrilled to have the cocktail/loungey options (and thank goodness for Experimental), at the end of the day (or night, as the case may be), it's still all about the neighorhood boites, holes in the wall and cafes in Paris, non??

October 20, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

indeed! some of my favorite spots to hang out in wouldn't be found on my blog because they're just local haunts with cool regulars and nary a good cocktail to be found! :)

October 20, 2010 at 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I don't know what to make of the deconstructed drink. It's just rum and coke, non? And the decor from the photo reminds me of breakfast rooms in chain hotels.

I think we're all thankful for our local haunts and favourites so cheers to that!

I surely hope that NoPi business turns into a NoNo or a NoGo!

October 21, 2010 at 3:27 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

NoNo or a NoGo...love it. there are already so many ways to name paris neighborhoods, that i'm not sure what to do with the new ones....

and I think i was being generous and fancy calling it 'deconstructed' i think either they gave us a no-brand cola (thus in a pitcher) or pouring it into the pitcher just served to flatten it. reminds me of a time in S Africa where they tried to get all fancy with the diet coke I ordered. the waiter poured it out kind of moroccan tea style (i.e. from a great height) and all i could think was "Dude, you're totally making my diet coke flat now,thanks!" :)

October 21, 2010 at 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Kasia Dietz said...

Great review! I myself would have tried the Amour, if not for the concoction than simply for the name!

As for 'NoPi', NY-style naming of neighborhoods only works in NYC, as does the high price of fancy cocktails.

I too am a fan of local haunts lacking the air of pretention. Will try Sans Souci! In my hood there's Le Progres, though a bit on the 'bobo' side (indicative of the Marais) still a great local spot.

October 22, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

I find it silly that they don't offer a martini on the menu and can't/won't make one???? bizarre!

October 22, 2010 at 9:55 AM  
Anonymous directline-hotels said...

How about the prices? I take it they were a bit steep? - I think I'll stick to a nice cool beer...

October 25, 2010 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger I Heart Paris said...

I went back again last night to give La Cigale a second chance. But I walked in and walked straight out again because there was NO ONE in there. Not one client, at 7.30pm, slap bang in the middle of apero time. As a consequence there was no atmosphere, so we decamped and went to the old neighbourhood favourite, La Fourmi, just nextdoor, which was buzzing!

November 16, 2010 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

kim - thanks for updating. I agree - I walk by there almost every day on my way home & they just aren't pulling in any people. Maybe summer with that nice terrace - but I'd choose la fourmi over them, too!

November 16, 2010 at 3:01 AM  

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