Based on his wife and her equally comely sisters, published in Life magazine from the late 1890s onwards, artist Charles Dana Gibson’s i...
Saturday, 1 August 2015
one two two, Mayfair
Will new cocktail lounge, one two two, be overflowing with filles de joie, I wonder? For wasn't Le Chabanais - the name of the bistro above whose chef is Inaki Aizpitarte (or not, according to Twitter gossips a mere two weeks after I visit) - once Paris's most infamous bordello? From his Pigalle garret, my ancient syphilitic artiste copain confirms it was...untilspoilsport French politicians - many of whom had happily enthusiastically embraced its inmates - closed all 'maisons closes' in 1946, branding them cesspits of bourgeois degeneracy. Pre-War, Le Chab accommodated painters, poets, hommes d'affaires, vaudeville vedettes, gangsters, dandies, breast-fondling barons and c***-licking counts - not to mention the odd Hollywood star who dared to swing bi' (bonjour Marlene Dietrich!)Grainy photos reveal décor as outrageously baroque as the appetites of its roué regulars. Not so, one two two, a ferociously chic, dark, Bauhaus-inspired bunker where streamlined Art Deco ousts frills and furbelows. Its handsome focal point is a priapic prow-like counter, its back bar's sleek metal shelves stacked with high-end hooch and classic French apéritifs Byrrh, Picon, Lillet, Dolin and Gentiane. Run byone of the restaurant's co-owners, Franck Audoux - a concombre-cool, (or gratingly Gallic, depending on your take on cocky French coqs) beau gosse - the bar heroes retro rinses that reference recipes popularised by hot-shot bartenders of the 1920’s/ 30’s - e.g. Frank Meier, for over 25 years in charge at The Paris Ritz. Try Tunnel, a negroni made with No.3 gin and both French and Italian vermouths; pineapple-infused Mezan rum sour, Barbaresque; or La Vie En Rose - a tequila and cherry liqueur fix named after the Edith Piaf chanson, the angsty warbler whose grand'mère (like nine out of ten of her contemporaries, it seems) reportedly also ran a knocking shop. Here, £14.50 - a price that would get you a blow-job down a cold Calais alley - secures Bertie, a cider brandy and Bénédictine Champagne cocktail named after the future Edward VII who, as Prince of Wales, had a penchant for bathing in Champagne at Le Chab' owner Madame Kelly's tub, a fantastical vision in the form of a sphinx (pictured). As a teenager on the loose à Paris, some of my more educative soirées began over kirs royales paid for by kindly grandes horizontales, Brassaï-esquebrasses off-duty in Montparnasse brasseries.Given the parade of high class hoops-for-hire (or 'celebrities' as some glossy mags euphemistically refer to some of their number) who feather their fannies at the appropriately named Mount Street's designer boutiques, I'd hoped to be in debauched good company tonight. Few in number, my fellow tipplers appear to be of upstanding moral character. One two two? Tasty 'tails, but tame if you're drawn to wanton women on the game. 8 Mount Street, W1 7491 7078 http://www.lechabanaislondon.com/