Au Caveau Montpensier
15-17 rue de Montpensier
I’m so easy. Give me a nice bartender with a cute Scottish accent, a handful of fun cocktails, and pleasant, friendly service and I’m much less critical. While not on par with a couple of craft bars in Paris, it’s a damn good spot to stop for a cocktail.
Au Caveau Montpensier (affiliated with Suba tapas bar in New York) is tucked off on a bit of a side street with a clean, simple entrance. You descend a few steps into the small stone-wall room where you find one high table and a few barstools pressed up against the minimal bar. (You may have to step over a large, friendly dog while entering.) Off to the side is a larger room, with several tables and cozy cushions. On this visit and a subsequent one, I stayed at the bar, but this second room has a laid-back and comfortable feel which would make it a fun place to meet a handful of friends early in the evening for a quiet cocktail before the nighttime crowds converge there.
Upon my arrival, I asked Robert, the bartender, for a martini (specifying a good measure of vermouth.) I got Bombay Sapphire with a good splash of Nouilly Pratt shaken slowly a few times with a lemon twist. A couple of things I would have preferred: If the glass had been chilled first and if I’d been given a choice of shaken vs. stirred. (and had it either more vigorously shaken or stirred). However, Robert seemed genuinely concerned about whether or not I liked my martini & I have no doubt that had I specified these two things he would have done them.
With the arrival of Matt and Violaine, more drinks were ordered and between us, we sampled nearly all they offer on their specialty cocktail menu. And, I think this is the way to order: off the specialty menu. I had the strawberry-chili margarita, which was refreshing, not too sweet and with a good chili bite. (this reminded me a bit of the very tasty Experimental Bar’s Death & Co Fresa Brava with – among other things – strawberry juice and jalapeno infused tequila) Other drinks ordered at our table included the Martini Framboise (our least favorite of the specialty cocktails), Tamarind & Cucumber (a favorite of mine, but less pleasing to the rest of the crowd who didn’t like cucumber as much) & the Ginger Smash Mojito (also a favorite of the group).
Based on the bottles behind the bar, the selection of various liquors isn’t huge. However, in addition, to the typical Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray, they also have Bulldog gin, which is a little more unusual for most of the bars I’ve been to around here.
While a few in my group were not wowed by the place (wanting either the impressive delivery of liquid nitrous inspired drinks at La Famille or the funky, loungey ambience of the Experimental), considering the location, the friendly service and the drinks, I would definitely stop back in (and did) for a very fairly priced cocktail (10 Euros) off their specialty menu.
NOTE: 8/1/13 cocktails are still good here and they’re expanding the space, put in a pool table and introducing charcuterie and cheese plates.