Coffee Stars at L’Etoile Cafe

Latte Art

Latte Art

Great coffee can be bought almost anywhere, a great coffee experience is priceless and requires that elusive balance of warmth, light, passion and a very genuine welcome to create the perfect ambiance. L’Etoile Cafe (The Star Cafe), on Owen Road, deep in Singapore’s Little India, brings everything together in a unique way.

L'Etoile Cafe, Singapore

L’Etoile Cafe, Singapore

L’Etoile is described by its owner, Yvonne Low, as ‘A French-Japanese café’ and that alone is enough to stop and make anyone think. Yvonne was inspired by her time in Nagoya and brought the best of that experience to bear when creating L’Etoile. You will find an old Singer typewriter converted to a coffee table and a host of other items that have been collected from Yvonne’s past to decorate what is a large, airy room. Yvonne says that all of the items represent a little piece of history and that everything has a story to tell. It is a charming way to project her personality and love of coffee. The decor combines with the large, light, open space to create an ambiance that would put a smile on anyone’s face and that is the key element to enjoying great coffee.

L'Etoile Cafe

L’Etoile Cafe

Now that we have set the scene, let’s talk about the coffee. Kent Wong, Chief Barista, says ‘We blend and roast all of our own coffee beans and that enables us to achieve a balance of rich, distinct flavours’. Kent is competing in the upcoming Cafe Asia competition and in FHA 2016. The fact he’s even competing at that level suggests he knows what he is talking about to us and then he dropped something completely different into the conversation, Chai Tea Latte. He say’s that it is all the rage, not just in Singapore but across Asia as people look for new taste experiences and adventurously combine different flavours and textures. Chai Tea Latte sounds an unlikely combination to this European so Kent explained further, ‘We use a precisely measured amount of Chai Tea Syrup and a cup of milk which we then froth together using the Barista machine. It is served in a latte cup with about half a centimetre of smooth foam topping’. ‘We have our own special frothing technique that we like to call Latte Art‘. And that’s just what it is, art. L’Etoile defines the art of coffee.

Kent Wong

Kent Wong

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Is this the Coolest New Cocktail Bar in Paris?

Le Hibou, 16 Carrefour de l'Odéon, Paris

Le Hibou, 16 Carrefour de l’Odéon, Paris

Over the last few years Paris has seen a drift toward the Right Bank so, when a new cocktail bar opens in Saint-Germain, one can only go and celebrate. Le Hibou (The Owl) is located bang on the crossroads of the Odeon and it really doesn’t get any cooler than that.

Snug cocktail bar at Hibou

Snug cocktail bar at Hibou

You can sense that there is something special about Le Hibou as you approach the enormous sun terrace. It surrounds the building on three sides and it is right on Carrefour de l’Odéon. This has to be one of the premier locations from which to enjoy a cocktail, a smile and casually observe the world passing by just a few feet away. Inside, the French might describe the decor as ‘Empire’ with its chandeliers, fireplaces, dark wood, blue tiled bar and numerous stuffed birds, animals and in particular, owls. In many ways, Le Hibou is reminiscent of an English country house and that made me feel instantly at home. Paris on the outside, the Cotswolds on the inside. What could be better? Much of the space is given over to dining but you can enjoy a cocktail anywhere and there is a dedicated cocktail bar upstairs along with a couple of rooms that might be used for private dining or accommodating a group of friends. Le Hibou is all about relaxed fun, bonhomie and laughter.

Owls everywhere!

Owls everywhere!

The cocktails more than lived up to expectation. The menu was not so large that it overwhelmed or spoilt for choice but large enough that there were good varieties on each of the major spirit bases. It was a warm, early evening when we were there and while my friend selected the French Iced Tea, I could not resist the Hiboujito – seven year old Havana rum, Liqueur de Tabac, menthe fraiche, citron vert, bitter vanille and ginger ale. Then I had another.

Le Hibou
16 Carrefour de l’Odéon
75006 Paris

Great place for groups of friends.

Great place for groups of friends.

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Where To Be In Paris When It Pours

Le Dôme de Villiers

Le Dôme de Villiers

The rain poured down outside as the cocktails slipped down inside. Le Dôme de Villiers is an excellent place to escape the rain or anything else for that matter. Located in the chic 17th Arrondissement of Paris, there is always a good crowd enjoying a warm welcome at Le Dôme, it’s worth a visit just for the ambiance. The bar enjoys an end of terrace aspect, jutting out into the market square, with open terraces on three sides. It is a pretty cool place to sit, smile and watch Parisians pass by. Once a tobacco shop the bar now boasts a ‘Boudoir’ styled room, a bakery and a good selection of cocktails.

Bakery - Le Dôme de Villiers

Bakery – Le Dôme de Villiers

On the list you will find a few of the usual suspects, Mojitos and Mai Tais but with some subtle house variations and done very, very well. Rum is a favourite of mine but it was time to go with a seasonal mix and the Summertime, gin, Aperol, sirup de vanilla and a touch of lemon juice, was a light and interesting mix of flavours. A quick switch of spirits and my second choice was pure indulgence, the Sweet Tini – vodka, Ginger of the Indies liqueur, nectar d’abricot and miel – a gorgeous way to start any evening.

Le Dôme de Villiers, 4 Avenue de Villiers, 75017 Paris

Menu - Le Dôme de Villiers

Menu – Le Dôme de Villiers

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Top London Cocktails & Views at Madison

St Paul's Cathedral from Madison's terrace

St Paul’s Cathedral from Madison’s terrace

Summer in London is my favourite time of the year. Usually it is confined to two or three days with a wet afternoon sandwiched in the middle but this year, summer has decided to stick around and mess with Londoner’s heads. Since the start of June until writing this review at the end of July it has been endless sunshine and relentless heat. So much so, that the search for an uber cool bar to enjoy one or two cocktails became more than an imperative and Madison, with its stunning views over the London skyline, has to make it on to anyone’s must visit list. Situated on the roof of 1 New Change, Madison has a whopping terrace serving up vistas stretching from the Shard in the south around past the London Eye and up to Hampstead to the North. Best of all, Madison is eyeball to eyeball with the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the aspect is simply spectacular!

Roof terrace at Madison

Roof terrace at Madison

It takes a long time for the sun to set over London at this time of the year and a good job too because that means plenty of opportunity to trial more than one sundowner. Heading straight for Madison Favourites section of the cocktail menu the Serendipity, with its mix of gin, vanilla liqueur and crème de mure, seemed the perfect way to ease into the evening and it was. For those drivers among us, the non-alcoholic Sunset cocktail (apple, passion fruit and grenadine) meant no one missed out on a full flavour experience. As the sun slowly dipped behind St Paul’s and darkness spread from the ground up, Madison’s delivered the perfect start to a night out in London.

http://www.madisonlondon.net

The bar at Madison

The bar at Madison

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Up A Cocktail Bar Without A Paddle

Situated in the Ménilmontant region of Paris is Gossima, the first true ping pong bar in Paris. Gossima’s owners were former world champions and they have married their adoration of sport with their love of cocktails.

Gossima

Gossima

As you might imagine this is a barn of place, housing 8 tables and two bars. Thoughtfully there is enough room around each table for the most expansive game of table tennis without danger of accidental spillage and that’s important. When you’re tired of dancing at one end of the table or the other, Gossima has some of the best guest DJs in Paris.

One of Gossima's two bars.

One of Gossima’s two bars.

The all-important cocktail list contains more than a few hat tips to the sport of ping pong. This is a very different bar to the speakeasies and clubs that we usually frequent so we stayed on theme, explored some of the specialist mixes and fell in love with the Smash and the Match. Definitely one to return to.

Gossima, 4 Rue Victor Gelez, 75011 Paris
gossima.fr

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Milan Shows Off Cocktail Fashion

Our tour of Europe’s cocktail bars continues with an easterly hop, up and over the Alps, to Milan, home to Italian fashion, two great soccer clubs and some jaw-droppingly good bars. Now you might think that bouncing around the world, sipping cocktails and reviewing top bars is a dream job and you’d be right. This week we found another three crackers and cannot recommend them highly enough.

The bar at Rita

The bar at Rita

We had heard about Rita before arriving in Milan so it was top of our list to visit and we were not disappointed. Situated in the fashionable Navigli district, Rita has an enviable reputation for amazing cocktails and a team of talented barkeepers, led by Edoardo Nono. The menu is always evolving as different flavour combinations are explored and if you fancy something off the menu, no problem, you can have that too. The ambiance is young and vibrant and there is a real energy to the bar that is as infectious as it is intoxicating. Rita is open every day, apart from Sunday, from 6pm until 1am and it is the perfect place to start, finish or spend the entire evening.

Rita, Via Angelo Fumagalli 1, Milan

Pinch's wide selection of spirits and liqueurs

Pinch’s wide selection of spirits and liqueurs

Staying in the Navigli district, Pinch is relatively new but it is becoming famous fast and for all the right reasons. One might say that it is a little bit English (never a bad thing) with burgers and fish and chips featuring strongly on the menu but it is the cocktails that we came for and they were wonderful.

Pinch is a classic Italian bar, very traditional and very familiar, with a high, solid wood bar and a broad range of spirits and liqueurs. Bartender owner, Mattia Lissoni is a master at blending old and new flavours to produce something new and exciting. While we were there he was playing with bitters to produce something dry and edgy for the approaching heat of summer. Try the Martelletti or the Magna Mater to start but whatever you chose you will be smiling.

Pinch, Ripa di Porta Ticinese 63, Milano

The Marc Jacobs Café

The Marc Jacobs Café

Strolling over to the Brera neighbourhood we found the Marc Jacobs Café. This is a big classy bar with a large terrace stretching out into the beautiful Piazza del Carmine. Could there be a better place to enjoy an aperitivo as the milanese sun hangs low in the sky? As you might expect of Marc Jacobs, the interior decor could be straight from a fashion show party with large layered lighting, a marble topped bar and a real sense of space. This is a super cool bar, favoured by the young, hip and beautifully turned out. In fact, they were razor sharp chic.

The bar at Marc Jacobs Café

The bar at Marc Jacobs Café

The cocktail list is in keeping with everything else at the Marc Jacobs Café. It is broad enough to offer choice but not so large that it overwhelms. The cocktails are equally well defined, created with passion and no small amount of Italian flare. This is a bar that knows what it is about and it keeps every promise it makes.

Marc Jacobs Café, Piazza del Carmine 6, Milano

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Loving Lyon’s Cocktails

After all the fun in Paris, this week we headed down to Lyon, the gateway to the glorious South of France.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Our first port of call was Le Comptoir de la Bourse, an outstanding bar that stands out for more reasons than its solid crimson exterior in a typical ‘off white’French street. This bar is all about fun. There is a great selection of high grade spirits, bartenders who know their business and an ambiance that demands a smile. The on-street furniture is relaxed and reminiscent of a beach club, while the interior is retro chic at its most flamboyant. There are crushed velvet thrones, sweeping sofas and a mix of bold ‘60s colours. The only thing missing was Austin Powers.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, Lyon

There are very few bars in the world that can list their whiskies by region as well as country. There are over 50 different types of Scotch alone and just wait until you see the list of rums! As you can imagine, with that ample selection of spirits and liqueurs, the cocktail menu is extensive with tremendous opportunities for subtle twists on flavours. If you have the time, go for the €38 Luxury Experience, a selection of cocktails by the Chef Barman, that depends on your tastes and his inspiration on the day.

Le Comptoir de la Bourse, 33 Rue de la Bourse, 69002, Lyon
http://www.comptoirdelabourse.fr

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Could Lyon be any further from Ayers Rock, that large lump of stone that sits in the middle of the Aussie Outback? A few blokes from down under have been partying in Lyon since 1997 and may just challenge your thinking. The Ayers Rock Cafe is a small piece of Australia right in the heart of France. In fact there are two Ayers Rocks in Lyon, Ayers Rock Downtown and the Ayers Rock Boat. We opted for a night downtown and we were not disappointed.

Ayers Rock, Lyon

Ayers Rock, Lyon

This is a real Aussie experience, loud, brash and a lot of high energy fun. It is unashamedly Anglo Saxon from the bartenders to the beer. Yes you can get a VB but there is more than a little French in there to take the edge off. The bar is well stocked with liqueurs and spirits and the classic cocktails are as good as you will find anywhere. Many of our companions that evening were experimenting with a variety of liqueurs; sipping straight up, over ice or as shots between beers. On more than one occasion that night, memories of happy evenings in Sydney came flooding back. This is a real party bar.

Ayers Rock, 4 Rue Desiree, 69001, Lyon
http://www.ayersrocklyon.com

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

Our final bar on this visit was L’Antiquaire, another great find and totally different to the other two. This is a 20s style speakeasy with more than a little Gallic flare and the emphasis is back on cocktails. There are barrel aged cocktails on the bar and some unique specials on the menu, it’s a tough choice only eased by some smooth jazz playing in the background. If you can’t make a decision just ask the guys behind the bar for what you really fancy and the chances are they’ll make it for you, just the way you like.

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

L’Antiquaire, Lyon

This is a cosy, relaxed, intimate bar. It is not hung up on the speakeasy theme, rather it sets the stage for a sophisticated evening of sheer indulgence. We loved it!

L’Antiquaire, 20 Rue Hippolyte Flandrin, 69001, Lyon

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