1 rue Commines
I’ve been talking a lot lately about Paris turning a new cocktail page and coming out ahead of trends rather than bowing to them. And once again, the group behind the Candelaria provides a very fine example of just that with their third venture, a restaurant and bar, which showcases their ability to come up with fresh fare.
While I love a low-light lounge or a dark divey bar, the open, airy and light space that is the Mary Celeste brightens the bar scene with something new. Large windows let in plenty of light to the main floor, which features a friendly island bar. A downstairs area, where the tiny kitchen is located, handles the runoff from the main floor.
Owners, Josh, Adam & Carina, have put together a topnotch international team, including notable barman Carlos Madriz (previously of l’Hotel) and Chef Haan Palcu-Chang (previously of Le Verre Volé as well as Europe’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant.) Palcu-Chang’s creative small plates -including offerings like homemade Kimchee which demonstrate his passion for Asian cuisine – are available from 7pm onwards. But, from 5pm to 7pm, it’s “Oyster Happy Hour” with fresh terroir-focused oysters at a buck a bivalve! The oysters, served alongside tasty, crisp flat bread and Palcu-Chang’s mignonette, which incorporates coriander and a bit of heat, were delicious enough to convince me to indulge in them two nights in a row. I’m digging both the oyster concept and the fact that they open earlier than most bars. But, we’re here to talk cocktails…
My first experience was an opening night event, and the place was packed with friends and fans of the group enjoying free Brooklyn pours, beer cocktails and oysters at happy hour prices. My Oliver’s Twist exemplifies Carlos’ innate talent for creating well balanced cocktails with the Brooklyn lager, Rabarbaro, lemon and Tabasco bringing a successful combination of sweet, bitter, sour and heat that stands up to the oysters and their accompanying mignonette. As I sipped and slurped, the sounds of the Steve Miller band on vinyl filled the air thanks to the vintage Lenco turntable. Sweet!
I returned the following night for Oyster Happy Hour to see how some of their cocktails stacked up to the tasty sea creatures. Carlos suggested a Dear Apollonia (grappa, Manzanilla sherry & crème de peche) as something that would please a martini-loving palette. Not only does that describe my palette, but a martini can be an ideal pairing with oysters. I know that just the mention of grappa can make the un-initiated tremble. However, the quality of the spirit and the addition of the crème de peche make for a lighter more approachable drink that works for newbies as well as more experienced cocktail drinkers. Plus, considering the mignonette, it’s a better pairing with these oysters than a straightforward martini.
I progressed to a Nord Sud, which was eliciting praise from a fellow drinker and shows off a nice balance of apple brandy, sherry fino, homemade grenadine and citrus. I finished with the Dottore Cipriano, made with herby vermouth, mescal and enough amero to make it interesting without overpowering. And the smokey touch of the mescal made it a perfect and somehow comforting finish to this trio.
While plenty of people will go for the Single Ladies (Absolut, muscadet syrup and lemon), the menu of 10 or so cocktails at 12 Euros proves a nice vehicle for introducing customers to less common ingredients like ameros, vermouths and sherries. Carlos explained that they are going for more aperitif-style cocktails that veer more towards something delicate than in-your-face. They also feature beers from Brooklyn Brewery and a selection of natural wines. And I hear that Simon will be heading over to cover on Carlos’ days off, which means the Mary Celeste packs serious talent behind the stick seven nights a week.
I suspect that the combination of the more lighthearted approach to the decor and drinks and the trust-inspiring integrity of this group when it comes to scrutinizing the quality of ingredients, means this venture will appeal to a wider audience without compromising the quality that hardcore foodies and cocktillians demand. The Mary Celeste is a breath of fresh air, well worth a detour and I look forward to many more Happy Hours at the bar.