16, avenue de Friedland
With new and emerging cocktail scenes, it’s sometimes the bartender more than the bar itself that makes a place. At least a few Paris cocktail spots have shown a downhill slide after losing some star bar power (Mama Shelter, l’Hotel, to name a few…) So, it’s interesting to keep an eye on not just bars, but the staff movements too. I’ve seen Greg Hazac’s work as he’s gone through various positions at le Secret, Royal Monceau, le 29, and, most currently, the Bistrologist.
The Bistrologist is the new incarnation of le Secret after its temporary closure. The same sexy and seductive décor remain with its dark wooden walls, soft chairs, and crisp white cloths on tables topped with a single flower. The airy, comfortable terrace also remains for sophisticated sipping with a side of pretty people watching.
While the deco may have stayed the same, there have been some positive tweaks to the original that improve the overall experience. Greg has successfully incorporated aspects of his own recent venture, le 29, with those of le Secret from the sleek silver picks to bespoke cocktails offered on the new menu “comme au 29.”
The menu offers just short of twenty house creations at 15 Euros each, based on a range of spirits and focusing on fresh herbs, house syrups, teas and a few surprises such as crème de marron (chestnut puree) or peanut butter. There’s enough range to please palates seeking something easygoing (think gins, vodkas, elderflower, cucumbers, etc.) to those wanting a more forceful flavor profile (think browns and bitters.) The one option that makes me laugh is the tic tac martini (vodka, citrus and tic tac syrup), which seems pretty much like a slightly more mature version of a Jet 27 drink.
For more convivial cocktail options, they do them in a larger format for sharing (60 Euros.) For longer nights or larger crowds, you can also order them by the bottle at 190+ Euros, served in heavy cut-glass decanters with a side of ice for an indulgent DIY drinking experience.
On the night of my visit, there was no dry vermouth, so Greg made a variation of a smoky martini with No. 3, Laphroaig, Noilly Pratt Ambré, and syrup. I know some bar folks who refuse to make smoky martinis on the grounds that gin and whisky shouldn’t mix. But, I find it an interesting change from time to time as the gin makes for a cleaner delivery of the peat smoke up front (as opposed to it hiding in the back as it might with a straight glass of the Laphroaig in this case.) Next I tried the mescal-based Baiser d’Iki with tea syrup and bitters, which was a good follow up to a smoky martini.
Of course, I’m hoping for some dry behind bar soon to accompany the selection of gins on the menu: Bombay Sapphire, Broker’s, Tanqueray (TLD and 10), Beefeater, Hayman’s Old Tom, Hendrick’s, Sipsmith, No. 3, Plymouth Navy, Monkey 47 and Junipero.
They are looking to kick up the food quality a notch with more attentive sourcing and homemade dishes. I tried a burger which was oozing plenty of toppings and just messy enough to verify its made-on-site cred. For more bar snacking options, they’ve got caviar d’aubergine (8 Euros), caviar Osceittre (130 Euros) and plenty of choice in between (with most prices in the low teens). For those seeking something beyond cocktails, as with many of the current new places, they are focusing on natural as well as biodynamic wines.
Overall, it’s a seductive spot with the potential to charm with its personalized cocktails. Given the location, ambiance and prices, I imagine that it could easily pull in a crowd of young professionals and in-the-know tourists off the Champs.
And, as for Greg, he’s an interesting barman to follow. He’s content to march to the beat of his own drum and focusing on his bespoke creations rather than chasing too many cocktail trends. He appreciates an element of elegance and class and strives to bring that to the customer drinking experience without snobbish affectations. Basically, he’s just a really nice guy trying to make drinks that please his patrons, so I hope his re-installation in this space pull in an equally nice crowd who appreciate it.