Saturday, 18 January 2014

Mes Amis de l'apéro

What makes for a good night out in Paris? The options are more or less endless: there are thousands of great restaurants, clubs for every musical taste, and so many shows, films and concerts that you could spend your entire evening just reading the listings and never go out at all. But in my Parisian life, if there's one thing that makes up more than anything else for the early starts long hours spent in the tunnels and corridors of the metro, it's the abundance of evenings spent in a friendly bar with a nice bottle of wine or a good mojito or two, putting the world to rights in the company of good friends. In my old age, my requirements also include a place to sit down, music that isn't so loud you lose your voice and good selection of planches or assiettes to nibble on.*

Luckily, I have a wonderful group of friends with similar preferences, so the only thing left to find once we've chosen the night of the week is a suitable location. And this is where comes in. This site containing bar listings and user ratings has been the origin of many a great find ... as well as a few somewhat quirky experiences. Here are a few that we've tried:

Le Barav is one of the highest rated on the site, and with good reason. This little bar is connected to a wine shop, where you go and choose your bottle. For an extra five euros, you can take the bottle next door and have it served to you at your table by friendly bar staff who haven't used their commercial successes as an excuse to get snooty. There's a good selection of food as well, with one of my favourites being St Marcellin au miel. My only regret is that I didn't discover this place before it became so well-known, as you now have to book your table in advance if you want to stay much beyond 8pm or go out on a busy night. (Tip: In Paris, Thursday is going-out night and Fridays are actually quieter.)

Another gem is L'Imprévu Café. Hidden away from the bustle of Châtelet down a little back street, it's a cosy little place in an area where the bars tend to be loud, crowded and occasionally violent. Seating ranges from comfy sofas to tippy-up cinema seats and the cocktail list is just as creative, but I have also occasionally regretted not forgoing alcohol for one of their delicious spiced hot chocolates. 

If it's interesting cocktails you're after, I can also recommend the Royal Beaubourg, near Arts et Métiers metro. It has fabulous wallpaper, a baby grand piano, and a long happy hour where the drinks don't mysteriously shrink just because they happen to be cheaper. It's more of a restaurant than just a bar and, although I've never eaten there, the food I've seen going past to other tables has always looked good.

More towards the quirky end of the scale, Understanding Frenchman and I have had a couple of nice apéritifs at Au Petit Moulin  up in the 9th. It's not a place to go with a big group of friends because the main upstairs bar area is tiny (apparently there is a cellar that you can rent, but otherwise it's not normally open). Nice drinks, tasty nibbles ... It's all so normal until you read the list of tariffs for a 19th century prostitute on these windowsill, which includes a detailed explanation of why certain services, although appearing to be expensive, are actually very good value because many women don't like to provide them.

The prize for quirkiness, however, actually goes to a bar that my friends and I tried out just this week: Le Lèche-Vin at Bastille. Friendly service, small but potent happy hour cocktails ... And walls entirely covered with the kind of religious images and statues, ranging from pictures of Jesus himself to postcards of Jean-Paul II. The description on these website recommends going to the toilets for further surprises, but I have to admit that the one real drawback of the place was an unpleasant smell emanating from behind the WC door, which was presumably not what was being referred to on the he site.

This list only just begins to scratch the surface of the fun places my apéro buddies and I have discovered over the past few months, never mind the places that are still on our list to try.

What about you, readers? What are your favourite places to go out, in Paris or wherever you are?
* Actually, this has probably been my ideal night out for my whole adult life, but not I have the chronological age to match my tastes.


  1. The decor at L'Imprévu Café is interesting, isn't it? I seem to remember sitting under a plaster derrière...

  2. Yep - I've got some great pictures of that but I didn't publish them in order to protect my friends' anonymity!