Le Bar du Bristol is a favourite haunt among stylish Parisians and clued-up visitors for a chic apéritif or an evening of creative cocktails.
Opened at the end of 2012, the bar is an intimate, cosy hideaway within the luxurious five star palace hotel Le Bristol, in Paris’ prestigious eighth arrondissement. It has Le Bristol’s signature friendly, unpretentious atmosphere and attracts a well-heeled crowd – perfect for a bit of civilised people-watching.
I had a memorable stay at Le Bristol a few years ago and was thrilled to be invited back for two nights to attend a special masterclass and cocktail tour of Paris hosted by award-winning Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth.
We travelled to Paris by Eurostar and enjoyed the delights of Standard Premier – spacious seating, generous luggage allowance and a tasty meal with drinks and plenty of tea or coffee, plus a selection of complimentary glossy magazines to pass the time.
On arrival, I found that the lovely people at Le Bristol had kindly assigned me the very same Junior Suite that I stayed in last time as a surprise. It was wonderful to feel like a regular and I was touched that they had planned this even though the hotel was busy. After checking in, we were granted a private audience with Fa-Raon, the hotel’s famous Birman cat (he is the hotel’s real VIP, after all).
The highlight of the trip was a private cocktail masterclass at Le Bar du Bristol with Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth. After a leisurely lunch in Le Jardin Français, we spent a few hours learning all about Le Bristol’s approach to the art of cocktails, even getting behind the bar ourselves.
Designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon and Maja Oetker, Le Bar du Bristol is a chic yet homely space with exquisite frescoes and tapestries, plus quirky touches such as leopard print stools and taxidermy birds and peacocks. There is even a cosy open fireplace where guests can curl up with a fine whisky – that’s if Fa-Raon hasn’t claimed the space for himself.
Head Bartender Maxime Hoerth is a well-known personality on the Paris cocktail scene and was awarded the title of ‘Best Craftsman in France 2011′. Not only is he France’s top mixologist (and a really cool, friendly guy), but he knows Paris inside out and is happy to share tips on where to go.
Maxime’s favourite cocktail is an Old Fashioned, so he demonstrated how to make six different versions of the classic drink, including a special Christmas Old Fashion made with a home-made spice syrup, an Irish Old Fashioned using Kahlua and a Bourbon Old Fashioned.
Maxime offered to create a special cocktail for each of our websites, based on the types of drinks that we like. I reeled off a number of favourite ingredients and within a matter of moments, the Chérie Club was born.
Based on a classic Clover Club, my new signature drink includes No.3 London Dry Gin, St Germain liqueur, muddled raspberries, lychee flavours, rose syrup, lemon juice and egg white. I loved the fresh, fragrant taste and the romantic presentation with dried rosebuds and a touch of sugar on the rim.
An exciting new project from Le Bar du Bristol is the Spirited Cocktails Collection, a collaboration between Maxime Hoerth and La Maison du Chocolat Master Chef Nicolas Cloiseau. The limited edition chocolates are based on Le Bar du Bristol’s unique cocktails flavours, marrying the finest juices, fruits and tea with sumptuous dark and milk chocolate.
The five chocolate flavours include MOF2, Bellini, Faubourg, So Bristol and Peacock and come in coffets of 8 or 27 chocolates bearing the signature colours of Le Bristol.
Our first stop on the cocktail tour was Le Mary Celeste, a hip nautical-inspired bar in the Marais. Created by the team behind Candelaria and Glass, Le Mary Celeste is a popular spot among Paris’ creative crowd – it even hosted a pop-up raw juice bar during Paris Fashion Week.
Over drinks and bites, Maxime Hoerth introduced us to the Paris cocktail scene, explaining that the arrival of the Experimental Cocktail Club kicked off a trend for artisanal cocktails served in low-key bars in the city’s coolest neighbourhoods.
The well-edited selection of cocktails are exciting and innovative, plus the bar offers a tempting menu of small plates and has a daily oyster happy hour. My chosen cocktail was Valentina – Plantation 3 Stars Rum, violet liqueur, fino sherry and lime (€12). Served in a coupe, the fragrant and tangy cocktail had an attractive pale pink colour and was finished with a sprig of lavender.
We grazed on a selection of gourmet small plates including the most delicious Gratin Japonais (€9), Spiced Cauliflower with almonds and pickled red onions (€8), Crudo of Pollack with with soya sauce, orange and fennel (€11), Aubrac Beef Tartare with rice, pork rinds, fresh herbs and a spicy sauce (€12) and Devilled Eggs with ginger, fried rice and spring onions (€7).
Dishes on the constantly changing menu are so tasty and inventive that it’s worth visiting Le Mary Celeste for dinner rather than just drinks, to experience as many as possible. The bar is also well-placed for a hip bar crawl with neighbours such as Candelaria, Little Red Door, Grazie and wine bar Au Passage.
Just a short walk away from Le Mary Celeste, is Sherry Butt, a laid-back, spacious bar that specialises in rare and interesting whiskies. It has a hidden, discreet feel and is designed in a cool industrial loft style with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and leather banquettes.
Cathleen McGarry and Amaury Guyot opened Sherry Butt after honing their skills at Curio Parlour and Prescription Cocktail Club. We were lucky enough to have a large table to ourselves when we visited on a chilled out Wednesday evening, but the bar can get much busier when DJs play on weekends.
Sherry Butt is known for its excellent Whiskey Flights, but we were keen to try the cocktails, all of which are priced between 12 and 13 Euros. After the delicious small plates at Le Mary Celeste, I was in the mood for something sweet, so I tried a Banana Rose – Calvados, Tawny Port, banana flambee syrup, lemon juice and chocolate bitters (€13).
The bar bites at Sherry Butt are simple, delicious and ideal for sharing. We grazed on moreish Pata Negra ham (€20), Taramasolata with Truffle and toasted sourdough (€13), cool and creamy Burrata Tartines with pistachio pesto (€14) and some tasty Sausage Rolls with tomato and Pedro Ximinez chutney (€12).
Sherry Butt is a cool, chilled out place to catch up with friends or bring a date, plus it’s close to the bars of the Marais and within stumbling distance of Saint Paul to catch a cab.
The next evening, Maxime took us to Jefrey’s, a small but sophisticated bar in the fashionable Montorgueil neighbourhood, on the same cobbled street as Experimental Cocktail Club (and hipster burger joint Big Fernand for pre or post-cocktail munchies).
The speakeasy bar takes inspiration from the Prohibition era and is furnished with comfy purple velvet and and brown leather armchairs, silver tray tables and dimmed lighting. The mezzanine level features a vintage gramophone and a cabinet storing premium bottles bought by regulars.
Mixing at the bar is Guillaume Bisiaux, formerly at the Prince de Galles and Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme. His innovative cocktails (many with American-inspired names) include the the gin-based Colline de Portland, an El Rey made with Tio Pepe sherry and a Bubble Cup made with Mamont vodka, Pimms Cup, raspberry cordial, rose and Champagne.
Another cool touch is Jefrey’s DIY Martini, offering a wide selection of spirits and mixers for a custom drink.
I loved the refreshing, smooth Bonne Poire – Grey Goose La Poire vodka, liqueur de Poire Bierce, Alain Milliat Summer Pear Nectar, lime juice and home-made vanilla syrup. We accompanied our drinks with some light bar plates of scrumptious Pata Negra ham, Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella and Cheese Straws.
To round off a splendid evening in Paris, it was then back ‘home’ to Le Bar du Bristol. By night, the bar has a warm glow and buzzing atmosphere with well-heeled guests sipping cocktails on the plush sofas. A cool Parisienne DJ plays sexy French disco and soul and the enormous screen behind the bar shows contemporary art videos by a different artist each month (during our visit, Corsican artist Ange Leccia’s work was shown).
On arrival we were presented with a sweet and fruity welcome cocktail while Maxime talked us through the bar menu. I started with a zingy, aptly aptly named So British – Earl Grey infused Beefeater 24 gin, Monin elderflower syrup, freshly squeezed lime and and fresh grapefruit juice.
The cocktails are creatively presented, particularly the 365 – a limited edition cocktail made to celebrate the bar’s first birthday – served in a tall, elegant coupe and finished with a colourful peacock feather. I also loved the warm, spicy Hot Punch, which was an excellent night cap.
Tapas are by the hotel’s Executive Chef Eric Frechon and we munched on a luxurious selection of Gambas Tempura with ginger and coriander mayonnaise, Maki Rolls with king crab and vegetables in spicy ketchup, Pata Negra ham and Crudités. To end the night on a sweet note, we enjoyed a plate of exquisite mini pastries, a selection of macarons and hand-made chocolates.
Le Bar du Bristol is open until 1.30am and it is a rare luxury to simply wander back upstairs after a night out in Paris – hotel bars are perfect for that.
The next morning, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of Eggs Benedict with shaved black truffle, viennoiserie by Laurent Jeannin, fresh apple juice and a pot of English breakfast tea, served in my room. A stay at Le Bristol isn’t complete without a relaxing swim in the hotel’s glorious rooftop pool with a great view over Paris.
We finished our stay with an indulgent lunch in the hotel’s Michelin star brasserie de luxe, 114 Faubourg. I took a reflective pause in the hotel’s beautiful, peaceful garden before we headed back to Gare du Nord to take the Eurostar back to London without even the slightest hint of a sore head – it must be the magic of Le Bristol.
Rates at Le Bristol start from €830 per night on a room only basis. For more information and booking, visit: www.lebristolparis.com
The Spirited Cocktails Collection is available at La Maison du Chocolat stores and online from 5th May 2014.
Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with return fares from £69. Eurostar also offers connecting fares from more than 300 stations in the UK. Fastest London-Paris journey time is 2hr 15 minutes. Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 08432 186 186.
Eurostar travellers to Paris can also take advantage of 2 for 1 entry into paying exhibitions and permanent collections at some of the city’s most popular galleries including; Musée d’Orsay, les Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Le musée du quai Branly and le Jeu de Paume – all by simply showing their Eurostar tickets at entry.
With the option of flexible fares, Standard Premier offers the freedom to work, think, or simply unwind. You will be presented with calm, spacious surroundings with on-board staff offering a light meal and a selection of magazines. Standard Premier fares start from £189 return.
Chérie City was a guest of Le Bristol and Eurostar
Photos by Chérie City, Le Bristol, Le Mary Celeste & Jefrey’s