First Customer Cocktail Adventures: Wildrik
20 rue de Picardie
I hold more stock in being right than being first. Even so, I was (unintentionally) the very first costumer to hit Minibar, the newly opened venture from Bakhtiar/España duo who both already have several well-known night spots under their belts. I was later joined by Matt, Vio and Alannah.
The (as of yet?) unmarked entrance was easy to miss and the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air of this industrial chic little space. Shiny silver animal cages serve as tables, artsy metal lamps provide ambient light, and interestingly off beat touches adorn the walls (horns, suit jackets, a framed collage of actual toy cars...) In the small seating area with high ceilings, each wall is painted a different rich color.
The friendly staff informed me that they couldn't do a dry martini because they hadn't yet received their dry vermouth. Minibar offers "classic cocktails" and a selection of house creations. Prices range from 10 to 15 Euros, with 12 Euros the most common. I ran through the fruit, sweet and vodka heavy list and settled on a Black Label Sour (Black Label, egg white, grapefruit juice, Angostura and lime juice.) The drink arrived with a tiny leaf full of piment d'Espelette, the addition of which upped the interest factor for me.
Violaine had the Best Mojito - a bartender's creation that was voted best mojito (by whom I didn't ask). I found it heavy on vanilla and she found it too sweet. Alannah had a Bourbon New Fashioned which masked the bourbon (in this case Jack Daniels) with heavy red fruits. A Tomato Blitz (tequila, cherry tomatoes, passionfruit juice and peppercorns) was the only other option that didn't seem like it would be too sweet, so I gave it a try and found it my preferred drink of the evening.
Basically, this is a menu that will satisfy a certain portion of the drinking public. Pleasing presentation with 'exotic' fruit garnishes and easily quaffable drinks that tend to taste more pretty than high-proof will pull in patrons who like their drink to look nice but not necessarily pack a potent punch. I do like that some of them featured the piment d'Espelette, giving a kick as well as a French touch. I think they could easily drop the prices by a few Euros, considering I can find bars in the same range with a more serious selection of ingredients and more interesting cocktails.
As a side note: while they didn't have any dry vermouth, they did have Dolce & Gabbana Martini Gold. Cointreau may have Dita, but Martini has hottie Monica Bellucci to push the newest addition to their collection, which seems to target a more (wanna be perceived as?) lux market.
And, there definitely seems to be a market. Soon, the comfy cowhide covered stools and love seats spilled over with chatty patrons. Lots of low-riding designer jeans exposed boxer briefs and a tight white tanks hugged well-toned arms. As the crowd grew, so did the noise level. This is a space that amplifies the din, so don't head here for a quiet conversation during the busy hours.
Overall, my initial reaction upon entering was smitten. After settling in, I realized it wasn't really working it on a cocktail level for my personal tastes. But, I think they will garner a loyal crowd of locals looking for this particular brand of nightlife - especially if they drop the prices slightly or institute a happy hour. So, am I right on this one? Hard to say. First impressions can be deceiving.