This classic Parisian Bistro, cunningly recreated in the base of a modern office block, works tres, tres bien.
With the sun shining, thoughts turn to eating and drinking outside particularly after work. Hearing that Chez Antoinette not only had a terrace but also a happy hour, we headed down to St James.
Actually I suppose it’s more Victoria as it’s just off Victoria Street, but still just a short step from St James tube. Hidden between tall blocks of offices, it offers outside dining with no cars and a view of Greggs. The latter is optional, just face the other way.
We love the terrace tables and chairs, straight out of the Paris playbook. The windows have those little bits of lace you find in Paris bars and cafes too, while glancing inside we can see a loving homage to the Bistro and there are good wafts of garlic drifting out.
It’s as if Cafe Rouge were back, but this time doing it right.
Staff are the real deal too; French accents you could cut with a baguette, but none of that Parisian attitude. Some things are best left unexported.
So it’s Happy Hour Again. Don’t believe me? Then here are the details – Happy Hour is between 4.30pm-6.30pm Monday to Friday, with a selection of French-themed cocktails from just £7 and mocktails at £5.
So happily sat down in a puddle of sunshine, and enjoying the absence of traffic noise and fumes, we first had an Expresso Martini made with Fair Quinoa Vodka, Fair Coffee Liqueur and of course an Expresso.
Fair work with small producers and French distillers, for example the quinoa comes from Bolivia and is brewed in Cognac. It makes a very distinctive, excellent martini.
My French Negroni clanks cheerfully with big ice cubes, this uses G’Vine Floraison gin again made in Cognac and infused with the Ugni Blanc grape, La Quintinye Royal red vermouth and Campari.
Mindful it’s only 5pm, we order a plate of charcuterie and cheese to share, plenty of good things in it, but I am not sure of the bread – it’s very nice bread but it doesn’t lend itself to supporting meat and cheese and falls apart when buttered.
Back on the cocktails, now feeling a warm glow that is as much from the patio heaters as the drink, S has a St Germain Spritz – prosecco, St Germain and soda water that he deems ‘refreshing’ while I tuck into a French Connection.
It seems to have no connection with Gene Hackman, but it’s got his determination and power. A meaty mix of Hine Cognac, VSOP and Amaretto it goes down a treat. We grudgingly lever ourselves out from our chairs and head a little unsteadily to the station.
Our two hours spent on Chez Antoinette’s terrace felt like two hours well spent, and it’s easy to see why this charming little place is so popular with locals. As the sunshine builds over the coming months, the happy hour is going to make a lot of people very cheerful.
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